How to Forecast Weather Without Gadgets

Our planet is an amazing place! It’s full of plants, animals, geographic anomalies and thousands of other variables that combine to create a perfect space for life.

Even with all this amazing uniqueness, people have begun to notice patterns. Many times, these patterns are helpful when predicting the weather. You can look to clouds, rainbows, colors, animals or even your salt shaker for help with predicting the weather.

Local Geography
While high-pressure and low-pressure systems can create storms, local geography can have a major effect too. Most weather conditions in the United States move west to east. Keep an eye on what is happening to the west of you.


ecuador-774617_1280Large bodies of water can have an effect on the weather. Oceans and lakes can keep the temperature more constant. You’ll notice that coastline will be hotter and cool down as you move inland. Many times, lakes can hold in cooler temperatures and you’ll notice cooler air as you get closer to the lakes.

Hills and mountains can also change the weather patterns. For example, the Sierra Nevadas stop most moist clouds from reaching the east side of the slope. Most of the moisture falls on the western side.

While you’re imagining what those clouds in the sky resemble, take a moment to notice what type of clouds you’re looking at.


If you see long streamer-like clouds (cirrus clouds) or scale clouds (altocumulus clouds) that typically means that a storm is on its way. Expect a storm within 36 hours.

If you see a lot of cloud cover at night, it typically means that you’ll have a warm night. Heat radiation will be forced to stay underneath the clouds and warm the atmosphere during the night.

If clouds are going two different directions, that typically means that there is a storm coming your way. You’ll notice that one layer of clouds is going right and another layer is going left. This is typical before a hail storm.

Most storms in the United States travel from west to east. Therefore, a rainbow in the west means that moisture is coming your way. If a rainbow is in the east, it typically means that a storm is leaving your area and you can expect some sun.

Remember the adage, “Rainbow in the morning, need for a warning.”

Sky Color
Speaking of adages, most of us have heard “Red sky at night, sailors delight; Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.”

If you see a red sky during sunset (when the sun is in the west), that means that there is a high-pressure system stirring up dust particles in that area. Since prevailing front movements typically move from west to east, that means that the dry air is moving your direction.

red sky warning

If the sky is red in the morning (when the sun is in the east), it means that the high-pressure system has already moved past you. This typically means that a low-pressure system is following close behind and that typically means a storm is coming.

Look for rings around the moon. These rings are caused from light shining through cirrostratus clouds that are typical of warm fronts. These clouds mean that rain is probable within three days.


If the moon is a pale or red hue, it means there is a lot of dust in the air. Sometimes these colors mean there is a lot of pollution in the air too. However, if the moon looks more sharp and brighter than normal, it typically means that there is a low-pressure system moving through the area that has cleared out the dust and dirt. Low-pressure systems are also associated with rain.

Humid air typically means that there is a heavy rain on its way. You can notice humidity from people’s hair. People’s hair will typically curl up or get frizzy.

Pine cones are a great way to determine humidity too. If a pine cone’s scales remain closed it means that the humidity is high. If they are open, the air is dry.

Wood usually swells when it gets humid too. You’ll notice that wood doors will get a little tighter and won’t open as easily.

Scents are typically stronger in moist air. You’ll notice a compost smell that plants release in the atmosphere. Swamps typically release gases just before a storm too. If smells are stronger, it typically means that there is a low-pressure system in place and that leads to rainy weather.

You’ll notice that birds won’t go out as much. If the weather is good, you’ll see birds flying high in the sky. If the pressure is dropping, a lot of birds will be on power lines. If you live on the coast, you’ll notice that seagulls tend to take refuge right before a storm.

animals fleeing storm

Cows are another animal to look to. Cows will typically lay down before a thunderstorm. They will also gather close together to protect themselves. If you notice the cows doing this, a storm might be on its way.

You can even look to insects for help. Ants will usually build their hills a little steeper just before it rains. This helps against the corroding effects of the rain water.

Trees. Deciduous trees often show the undersides of their leaves when there are unusual winds. This is supposedly because they grow their leaves to face right-side up during typical winds. If you see the wind blowing the underside of deciduous tree’s leaves, you know that something is different.

You can also look at the leaves of an oak or maple tree. Their leaves tend to curl when there is high humidity.

Campfires. Watch the smoke from your campfire. If the smoke swirling or is being pushed down, it means there is a low-pressure system in place. If it rises steadily, you should be fine.

Dew. In the morning, check to see if there is dew. If the grass is dry, it typically means that there are clouds and strong breezes. If there is dew on the leaves in the morning, it probably won’t rain that day.

Your Recommendations
So we’ve covered a few points here, but what do you think? Let us know your superb outdoor tricks to predicting the weather!

One thought on “How to Forecast Weather Without Gadgets”

  • Rick

    Mostly good information, but out here in CA things are a little differenet. Since a major portion of Southern CA is desert, the weather is usually cooler along the coasts, remains cool somewhat inland and gets hot as you move further away from the coast. The dew in the morning is also not correct for the deserts of CA; sometimes there is dew and sometimes not, but you can't judge the rain by the amount or lack of dew. Also, the rings around the moon out here mean snow is on the way, it usually doesn't mean rain is forthcoming.

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