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Forecasting by Mari and Lindsey

We wondered how people predicted the weather in the days before Doppler radar and computers. We've heard folklore about "homemade" or natural ways of predicting the weather and we were curious if some of those tales were actually true. Our question: Can you use folklore to predict the weather?

What did we do?
We chose four folk legends to explore:

  • Cows lie down when bad weather is coming;
  • Bees are more active when good weather approaches;
  • Some people's bones or joints ache when a storm is coming;
  • Hair loses its curl when the humidity increases.
We found some cows and bees to observe, asked Mari's grandmother for a daily report on the condition of her toe and curled our hair to see how long it would hold. We also watched the sky conditions and made a homemade barometer. Finally, we charted our observations for nine days in a row.

What did we find out?
We discovered that in our nine-day observation, the bees were a fairly good predictor of the next day's weather, as was the sky condition just before sunset. The other indicators, including the cows and Grandma's toe, weren't so reliable. We concluded that nine days may not be a long enough period of time to test out such folktales. However, it did leave us wondering about how such tales become popular.

What can you do?
  • What weather folk tales have you heard of? How would you test them to see if they're true?
  • Compare folk methods of weather prediction to modern methods. In what ways has forecasting the weather improved? In what ways is the weather still a mystery?
  • Have you built your own weather station? What did you learn about the weather? If you are doing a cool weather investigation, we want to know about it.
  • Use this weather investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
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whiz quiz
On average, what U.S. city has the most annual snowfall?

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