When I was a child, my mum taught me that, ‘A red sky at night is a Shepherd’s delight, a red sky in the morning is a Shepherd’s warning.’ She has a lot to answer for.

Forecasting the weather is a serious business. Every year, huge amounts of money are spent on satellites and computer models to predict everything from the path and severity of hurricanes, to the probability of sunshine so that supermarkets can order in extra salads.

There’s nothing new about predicting the weather; it was just as important before the advent of today’s technology. But back then, all people could rely on was their instincts and experience. Every culture has its own set of weather prophecies, and some, like the Shepherds’ saying, are still commonly used today.

In 1995 I founded the Centre for Alternative Meteorology on the premise that these old sayings wouldn’t have lasted so long if they never worked. Our aim is to collect, collate and – if possible – test, as many prophecies as our limited resources allow.

Projects currently underway include:

  • Forecasting the Weather using your cat
  • Field trials of low-cost seaweed barometers
  • Psychological profiling of sheep-herding personnel to ascertain whether a coloured sky at the end of their working day produces any noticeable feelings of well being (red skies in the morning are being used as a control in this study)
  • Analysis of the stance of domestic bovine in relation to incoming weather fronts.

We are always keen to hear from members of the public who would like to share their weather prophecies or help us with our fieldwork.

Looking for a weather forecast you can rely on? Best visit the Met Office.

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