Weather Lore: An alternative to long range forecasting?

  • Frozen water around the UK persisted into March last winter. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Archive/Press Association Images

    Will ducks slide or swim this Christmas? Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Archive/Press Association Images

    A late-flowering poppy in the Northamptonshire countryside. Photo: John Lee, MeteoGroup UK

  • Weather Lore: An alternative to long range forecasting?
    07.11.2013 16:28

    “If the wind is in the south-west at Martinmas, it keeps there till after Candlemas, with a mild winter up to then and no snow to speak of”…

    …One of the many nuggets of wisdom found in a series of Weather Lore books here at the MeteoGroup office in London, which states that when a mild south-westerly airflow dominates the country on 11th November, the weather will remain similarly mild and unsettled through to early February.

    Most meteorologists will argue that despite the technological advances in weather forecasting over the past few decades, it remains difficult to forecast just three weeks ahead, let alone three months! However, after flicking through the Weather Lore books today, it was interesting to see what November-themed rhymes and sayings once formed the foundation of weather prediction and to try to interpret a couple of them for modern day use.

    “If ducks do slide at Hollantide,
    At Christmas they will swim;
    If ducks to swim at Hollantide,
    At Christmas they will slide.”

    Now we all know what date Christmas falls on, but Hollantide is not quite as commonly known. Traditionally celebrated as October transitioned into November, Hollantide (sometimes knows as Allantide) is a feast which marked the eve of winter. According to the rhyme, if cold and icy weather prevails at this time, the weather will have turned somewhat milder by late December. If the opposite were true, it implies that the fairly mild and unsettled weather we have been experiencing during the first week of November 2013 is sign of some considerably colder weather to come.

    “Flowers in bloom late in autumn indicate a bad winter.”

    This concept doesn’t need much of an explanation. Essentially, if the autumn has been mild enough to sustain the blooms of summer, i.e. through a lack of harsh frosts, the rule states that the approaching winter will be ‘bad’. While we do not tend to use subjective words such as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ in our weather forecasts, we assume that in this case, ‘bad’ is used to describe unusually cold and prolonged.

    The current weather prospects for the next few days indicate that the fairly mild and unsettled weather is set to continue, with winds coming mainly from a westerly direction, thereby bringing the heaviest precipitation to western parts of the UK. However, a transient ridge of high pressure on Saturday night will allow many areas to become cold with the first widespread frost of Winter 2013/14.

    By: John Lee