4 Bizarre Ways You Can Predict The Weather (That Work)
If you grew up out in the country, you were surrounded by old-timers insisting they could magically predict the weather, usually based on some ancient rhyming phrase like "Red sky in morning, sailors take warning" or "If small is the dick, the snow will be thick." This folksy rural wisdom dates back to a time before we had things like "science" to tell us what was coming. But sometimes the science just confirmed what those old-timers already knew. For example ...
You Can Determine The Exact Temperature By Listening To Crickets
The Farmers' Almanac was first published in 1818, and has a weather-predicting algorithm based on tides, astrology, and other assorted not-science. It claims that crickets can tell you how hot it is. The insects are so precise, they say, that there's even a formula: "To figure out the exact temperature in degrees Fahrenheit, count the number of chirps in 14 seconds and add 40." Well that's obviously nuts. Crickets are about as good at math as they are at keeping wooden schoolboys out of the bellies of whales. How the hell would a cricket even understand the concept of a numbered and quantified temperature?
The Arrhenius equation, that's how. Yep, this absolutely works. The guiding science behind turtle heartbeats and firefly butt glows, the Arrhenius equation states that the rate of a chemical reaction "depends on the exponential of a constant quantity, - Ea/R, divided by the absolute temperature." Which, for anyone who doesn't speak goddamn nerd, means that the warmer it gets, the more crickets chirp, down to the exact degree.
This cricket math is so exact, in fact, that it's straight up science law. First proposed in 1897, Dolbear's law laid down the formula above. Also, let's give credit to the first man or woman who got bored enough to notice this.
Low-Flying Birds Mean Bad Weather Is Coming
Maybe, if you happen to moonlight as an old-timey prospector, you've heard the saying "If birds fly low, expect rain and a blow." Assuming you understand that in this particular context, "blow" refers to strong winds and not a rail of cocaine, it seems pretty self-explanatory. So now we've escalated from "Bugs know the weather" to "Birds can predict the weather"? Yes. And once again, they totally can.
In an effort to conserve energy while flying, birds tend to settle into "sweet spots" of thinner air, which give less resistance. When the weather's good and air pressure is high, these sweet spots tend to be way up in the heavens, hence birds soaring majestically overhead. When low-pressure systems move in (the kind that traditionally bring rain and wind and terrible drivers), these sweet spots drop, and the birds follow along.
Birds, having learned that this change in the air is a precursor to worse things, have a tendency to forage more before a storm -- which, conveniently for the grizzled poets of yore, also brings them lower to the ground. You see, once it actually starts raining or snowing or squalling, birds make themselves scarce. But before something wicked their way comes, birds are known to absolutely go to town on the insect buffet, storing up enough fat and energy to get them through their impending bout of inactivity. Because even sparrows have the decency to call the pizza guy drive before it gets gross out.
A Lot Of Animal Behavior Can Predict Rain
If you've noticed a marked uptick in wolves howling in your neighborhood, or frogs croaking more than usual, or ants marching with their eggs on their back, you should probably get back inside. But it's not because the animal kingdom is finally organizing a revolt. All three are ancient methods of divining an incoming rain storm, and all occur for basically the same reason: a drop in barometric pressure.
Unlike the birds, who are reacting to how flying just got a lot harder, wolves (and dogs, generally) are reacting to a change in the way that smells reach them. As air pressure changes, the way odors travel changes too -- something a canine's superpowered sniffer can pick up on. Add in some possible static buildup in their fur, and they'll start acting weird before you can detect any atmospheric changes yourself.
Ants, too, are so loaded with seemingly extrasensory abilities that it would almost be weirder if they didn't twig to an incoming storm. Their antennae are capable of picking up on minute chemical changes, pressure changes, and temperature changes, all of which give them a head's up about a potential drowning. That, according to some entomologists, is why you'll sometimes see entire ant colonies moving as one, eggs in the air, looking for a new part of your lawn for you to tell your kids to stay away from.
Frogs, meanwhile, just want to fuck. Since they need standing water to breed, frogs are "very much cued into" any incoming rainstorm, in much the same way you're "very much cued into" your partner walking around in their underthings. Frogs pick up on a change in humidity and barometric pressure, realize the rain's a-comin', and let loose with mating croaks. So if you happen to hear a bunch of amphibians losing their shit before a storm, congrats. You just crashed the local frog orgy.
Rats Can Warn About Impending Earthquakes (Maybe)
The folklore of animals predicting earthquakes goes back at least as far as the ancient Romans. But ask a seismologist in the United States if dogs or snakes or horses can predict a seismic event, and you'll be laughed right out of the Arby's. But while the U.S. is still very much against trusting animals as seismic shamans, Japan and China would, understandably, like to be able to sense an earthquake as early as possible, technology be damned.
The Nanjing Seismological Bureau even set up seismological monitoring stations at zoos in 2015. And really, why not? China already successfully evacuated one city in 1975 with the help of animals freaking the hell out, so why not see if there's more to it?
Weirdly, it seems like those ancient Romans were the closest to being right. Way back when, Pliny the Elder and his natural science bros suggested that earthquakes were caused by a gaseous "pneuma" leaking out from underground. And while this "pneuma" doesn't actually cause earthquakes -- sorry, Pliny -- recent science suggests that there are in fact escaping gasses and electrically charged "leaks" prior to the ground shaking and quaking.
The idea goes like this: When those subterranean rocks first start doing their thing, they create an ionic imbalance in the air above them. A strong enough imbalance can cause something called "serotonin syndrome" in humans, resulting in nausea, anxiety, and restlessness, among other symptoms. While primarily brought on by mismatched drugs in us, animals (and rats especially), with their heightened senses, are believed to be naturally sensing that imbalance in the air and then getting the hell out of Dodge.
Obviously, more research needs to be done. But stories of rats fleeing cities, or pets disappearing, or George Clooneys getting saved by their pigs, have persisted for centuries. And those stories are, in a very broad sense, a form of data collection. Or as biologist Rupert Sheldrake said: "I cannot believe that they could all have made up such similar stories or that they all suffered from tricks of memory."
So the next time you seen an animal acting strangely, maybe think twice about what that might mean. Unless it's a groundhog, as they have no ability to predict the duration of winter, despite that being the only thing they're famous for.
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