18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Thursday, May 22, 1913: Went to Watsontown this afternoon. It was rather muddy, and my shoes were a sight.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
It must have recently rained. A hundred years ago, you couldn’t instantly get good weather information via the internet or television—but accurately predicting the weather was important for farm families.
Did Grandma use old weather proverbs and sayings to forecast the weather?
Here’s what a 1913 article in her local newspaper had to say about weather proverbs:
OLD PROVERBS ON WEATHER ARE TRUE
Ancient Sayings Based on Experience Are Approved by Uncle Sam’s Scientific Investigators
The idea that old weather proverbs and traditional natural signs are of no value in these days of scientific weather forecasting is not sustained by such an eminent authority as W.J. Humphreys, professor of meteorological physics in the United States Bureau.
He gives credit to the weather prescience of farmers, fishermen, woodsmen and others who make a practice of depending on natural signs to give them knowledge of impending weather changes.
Quoting the jingle about a sailor’s warning and a sailor’s delight, Professor Humphreys says:
“If the evening sky, not far up but near the western horizon, is yellow, greenish, or some other sort wave-length color, then all the greater the chance for clear weather, for these colors indicate ever less condensation and therefore drier air than does red.”
Professor Humphreys says a good word for such old-time proverbs as:
Frost year, fruit year
Year of snow, fruit will grow
A year of snow, a year of plenty
“That these and similar statements commonly are true,” he writes, “is evident from the fact that a more or less continuous covering of snow, incident to a cold winter, not only delays the blossoming of fruit trees until after the probable season of killing frosts but also prevents that alternate thawing and freezing so ruinous in fruit. In short, as another proverb puts it, a late spring never deceives.
The appearance of the moon depends upon the conditions of the atmosphere. Clear moon, frost soon, and moonlit night has the heaviest frosts and others of this class are true enough he says, because on the clearest nights the cooling of the earth’s surface by radiation is greatest, and hence most likely to cause, through the low temperature reached, precipitation in the form of dew or frost.
Milton Evening Standard (June 21, 1913)