Weather Myths and Folklore: Sarah and Kaiti sort out what’s real in Whatever the Weather video podcast

Episode 4 is all about common weather myths and folklore

Watch the Whatever the Weather video podcast with Sarah Spivey and Kaiti Blake

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Sarah and Kaiti tackle a few different weather myths and some folklore in Episode 4 of their Whatever the Weather podcast. Here’s a preview of the topics they ponder and discuss this week:

1. “It never rains at my house! The storms always go around me!” - SARAH

Sometimes you’re looking at the radar or watching the news from home, anticipating rain. Then you miss out, and it may feel like the rain always goes around you or misses your house.

In reality, our physical location is very, very tiny compared to the scale of the world, Texas, or even San Antonio. A person only covers a couple feet of space, and a house only covers a few hundreds of feet. In contrast, when looking at the radar, we’re seeing our surroundings on a large scale -- miles!

It is totally true that during an event, a storm may pass to the south or north of you. But this is often by a few miles from your location if you’re looking at radar. Odds are if you were to put a pin on another part of the map, that location would have just as many “misses” as you. In fact, below is a picture of actual rainfall in the last year around San Antonio. At least 2 ft of rain has fallen in every location around San Antonio!

Rainfall around San Antonio courtesy of NWS/NOAA (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

2. Tornadoes can’t happen in a valley and/or they don’t cross geographic boundaries - KAITI

Tornadoes are one of nature’s most dangerous and awe-inspiring occurrences. For this reason, there are a number of myths around them. One of the most common is the myth that tornadoes can’t cross certain geographic boundaries. For example: “Tornadoes can’t move over valleys, so I’ll always be safe as long as I live in the valley.”

The truth is, tornadoes can happen anywhere - as long as the right atmospheric conditions are in place. Those conditions include a lot of buoyancy and spin in the atmosphere.

There are certain parts of the United States that experience the right conditions for tornadoes more often, though. What’s more, many of them happen to be more flat - like the Great Plains. So, that could be a reason why some people believe tornadoes can’t happen in places like valleys. They can happen there. It’s just not as common.

A map showing the number of tornadoes per county across the U.S. from 1955 to 2014. (NOAA)

3. Cows lay down before it’s going to rain - SARAH

This is one that I heard growing up! Theories range from the idea that cows can sense air pressure/moisture increase ahead of storms. However, there is no scientific proof definitively correlating cows sitting down ahead of a storm.

Cows are herd animals, and they often do what each other do. So if one cow lays down, many will join -- sometimes all of the cows will lay down.

Cows also lay down often - not just when it storms. It helps them digest their food and preserve energy!

4. Green sky during severe weather - KAITI

When I think about a green sky during severe weather, I think about that scene from the movie Twister. Every. Single. Time. 🌪️

The thing about this phenomenon is that the sky does take on a green hue when a thunderstorm is around...sometimes. However, it definitely doesn’t happen every time.

According to NOAA, there is a theory that the green color can develop when there is large hail in a thunderstorm. This would be caused by the scattering of green light off the hailstones being tossed around in the storm.

Overall, there seem to be more questions than answers when it comes to this one. 🤔

5. Farmers’ Almanac - SARAH

Sarah did a whole article and explainer about the Farmers’ Almanac. Check it out here!

6. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning - KAITI

My grandpa would say this all the time! I never really knew the origin, though. So, I’m glad I looked into it.

The first idea to establish here is that major, large scale weather systems move from west to east across the country. With that in mind, let’s simplify things and stick to the assumption that:

  • clouds on the western horizon mean active weather is approaching
  • clouds on the eastern horizon mean active weather is departing

PS: “active weather” in this case would be things like rain, thunderstorms, a cold front, etc.

So, when the sun sets at night, the sunlight would reflect off of clouds on the eastern horizon as active weather departs the area. This would suggest calm, quiet weather overnight - a good thing for sailors!

On the flip side: when the sun rises in the morning, the sunlight would reflect off of clouds on the western horizon as active weather approaches the area. This would suggest active weather ahead that day. That wouldn’t be ideal for sailors stuck on a boat. Actually, I don’t think anyone would enjoy being on a boat that’s being tossed around by a thunderstorm. 🤢

7. “The devil is beating his wife” - SARAH

This is an idiom that I grew up hearing, and it represents a sunshower. The origins of this phrase come from the 1700s in France. Basically, the sun’s rays represent the devil’s rage and the raindrops represent his wife’s tears -- kinda messed up, if you ask me!

8. ‘An acorn on the windowsill lay, this will keep all lightning away’ - KAITI

I had never heard this saying before. However, after doing some research, I think it has become my favorite piece of weather folklore.

This saying has origins in Norse or Scandinavian mythology. Enter: Thor. Apparently, the God of Thunder really liked oak trees and they were seen as his ‘tree of life.’

Oak = Acorn = Thunder = Lightning

Long story short: the originators of this saying seemed to believe that placing an acorn on a windowsill in their home would keep it from being struck by lightning.

I actually learned more than I ever thought I would about acorns, thanks to this website. Interesting stuff!

As it turns out, there's an interesting connection between acorns and the God of Thunder. (Pixabay)

About the podcast

Whatever the weather, Meteorologists Kaiti Blake and Sarah Spivey have it covered on the local news – for about three minutes, in between commercial breaks.

Rarely, though, do they have time to explain weather phenomena in depth. On “Whatever the Weather”, Kaiti and Sarah dig deeper and tell you all you want to know about Mother Nature – from tornadoes, to freezing rain, to climate change. They also chat about what it’s like to be broadcast meteorologists, and the challenges they sometimes face in day-to-day TV life.

So put on your nerdiest glasses, pop on your best headphones, and enjoy...Whatever the Weather!


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About the Authors:

Sarah Spivey is a San Antonio native who grew up watching KSAT long before she began to think about a career in television.

Kaiti Blake is a child weather-geek-turned-meteorologist. A member of the KSAT Weather Authority, Kaiti is a co-host of the Whatever the Weather video podcast. After graduating from Texas Tech University, Kaiti worked at WJTV 12 in Jackson, Mississippi and KTAB in Abilene.