Insights / Photography

Weather: The biggest show on earth

rainbow, weather, marion owen, alaska, nature photography

The weather is the biggest show on earth. It engages everyone. Best of all, admission is free and good seats are plentiful. Plus, no commercials. And it runs 24/7.  To some though, the weather is just something to be tolerated. Clouds are only noted when rain threatens inconvenience. And winds observed only when their chill or strength means discomfort or a change in plans. Turn off your devices and let’s learn some easy–and real–ways to predict the weather, no matter where you live…

Rhymes to Predict the Weather

We live in houses. We study in schools. We work in buildings. We vacation in hotels. And we travel in cars, boats, planes and trains. We spend so much time inside, we grow numb to the beauty outside.

At the close of the day,
Pull your wits together:
Put aside the TV,
And watch the weather.

Don Haggerty published that little ditty in his book, Rhymes to Predict the Weather. It’s a modest paperback that’s bursting with delightful weather tidbits. I’d forgotten about it until I watched fluffy white clouds tickle the treetops by the house, and I got to wondering…

Alaska nature photography

“If those clouds could talk,” I thought “I wonder what they’d tell me.” So, I looked up a few of Don’s rhymes.

Predicting weather is like a puzzle, says Don. Since I enjoy photographing the night sky, this is one of my favorites:

Sharp moon, stars bright,
Go to sleep in peace tonight.
Dull moon, stars pale
Dreams of sun will not prevail.

Don says that sharp, bright stars and moon indicate dry air, which spells clear skies for a while at least. On the other hand, high-level moisture has a tendency to obscure the moon and stars, making them hazy and indistinct.

What does the color of the moon tell us?

The color of the moon varies with the amount of moisture present in the atmosphere overhead. “A stark white moon, with a clean, sharp outline means very little moisture is present and clear weather should continue,” he says. “If its outline turns dull, however, and its face a bit pale, start looking around for other signs of approaching stormy weather.”

Speaking of stormy weather, the following poem emphasizes the value of having a barometer close at hand to refer to:

Wind up, barometer down,
Unpleasant weather is coming to town.
The higher the breeze and slower the fall,
The tougher the storm ‘twill be for all.

To explain: A rising wind and a falling barometer says Don, “is just like having a two-headed town crier shouting, ‘Here comes a storm’.”

Staying in tune with the weather can alert you to precautions to take in your orchard or garden. For example, when autumn mornings start to feel chilly, keep those frost covers handy.

Cold, calm and clear,
Jack Frost is passing near.

Rainbows and bees help forecast the weather

Finally, there’s nothing like a rainbow to get us excitedly reaching for our cameras and smartphones. Yes, even rainbows can forecast the weather. Wherever you see a rainbow, you can be sure you’re looking at a mass of moist air. This is, of course, a general statement admits Don, but…

  • If the rainbow appears to the west, rain may very well be dropping in your neighborhood soon.
  • If the rainbow should make its appearance in the east, chances are things will be clearing for a while.

Here’s the rhyme that pulls it all together:

Rainbow in the morning.
Picnicker take warning.
Rainbow in the afternoon,
An evening stroll is opportune.

Let’s say you wake up Saturday morning and you’re raring to go for a long walk. But it looks like rain. Put your worries aside and go out to the flower garden. If you see bees buzzing around the flowers, then start packing your picnic lunch. (See photo at the bottom).

If a bee’s in the flower,
There won’t be a shower.

What’s cool about learning how to forecast the weather?

Don Haggerty says that learning how to forecast the weather, even a little bit, is to understand a thing of great vastness and beauty. The key is to be in the moment. Or as he puts it: the “putting of his mind to the wonders before him.”

The challenge is to “capture meaning in apparently meaningless events. Then once grasped, the pleasure comes of understanding, of comprehending, the forces at work in his world, and the powers that move amidst the inner depths of his soul.”

Okay, maybe that’s a little heavy. At the very least though, the weather, as the biggest show on earth, invites us to just get outside and be.

Oh, hey, thanks for visiting,

More reading you might enjoy:

One of my blog articles: Anatomy of a snowflake: Science, Art, and a Little Magic

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

Marion Owen is a “Jill of all trades,” with 30 years of experience as a teacher and columnist. She’s on a mission to help busy people enhance their daily lives, condensing topics such as photography, cooking, and organic gardening into bite-size pieces.  Get her free 4-page “In Good Light: Photo Tips for Busy People” and feel newly recharged when taking pictures.



  • Catherine
    February 6, 2019 at 10:11 PM

    Thank you for your tips! These are fun. I have taken note and will most definitely observe and practice. Catherine

    • marionowen
      February 6, 2019 at 10:49 PM

      Cool, Catherine… once you start observing the weather, even just a little bit, your world expands.


Leave a Reply