2011-07-03

Survival Guide: Predict the weather

In previous Survival Guides, I've mentioned the importance of finding shelter when weather conditions are not in a state allowing you to employ other survival techniques. In this article I'm going to present some ideas on how to try to predict the weather using only an observation of your surroundings. Much of the information I present below is found in a WikiHow article on "How to Predict the Weather Without a Forecast". I will attempt to summarize some of the information presented there, but I encourage you to read the original article.

OBSERVE THE PLANTS
- Take a deep breath. Plants release more particle matter in low pressure, which means that their scent is stronger. (e.g. flowers smell better, trees are more pungent, etc.) Low pressure systems indicate the approach of moisture soon.
- Look for signs of humidity. Leaves will curl and pine cones will be closed in high humidity. Humidity tends to precede heavy rain.

NOTE THE COLOR OF THE SKY
- "Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning." Fronts tend to move West to East, so a red sky at sunset (looking West) indicates dry air moving toward you. Therefore, a red sky at sunrise (looking East) would indicate dry air moving away (moist air moving in).
- Look for a rainbow at sunrise or sunset. A rainbow might indicate the location of moisture. A rainbow in the West at sunrise likely means moisture is on the way (remember, West to East). A rainbow in the East at sunset means moisture is moving away from you.

FEEL THE WIND AND WATCH THE CLOUDS
This area of observation might take some preparatory study. (More information on "Forecasting the Weather using the Clouds" [WikiHow])
- Feel which way the wind is blowing. Winds pulling in from the East may indicate an approaching low pressure system coming from the West. Winds pushing out from the West may indicate a low pressure system moving away toward the East.
- Clouds going in different directions show signs of circular air currents which might produce hail.
- Towering fluffy clouds (Cumulonimbus) play a significant role in severe weather. Watch for their development and location in the sky.
- Streamers in the high sky (Cirrus) indicate bad weather within the next 2 days.
- Scaly clouds (Altocumulus) also indicate bad weather within the next 2 days.
- Heavy cloud cover on a Winter night keeps in the heat, so you can expect warm weather the next day.

OBSERVE THE OTHER ANIMALS
Some animals change their behavior with the weather. Here are some of the most notable.
- How high are the birds flying? If they're staying close to the ground, it could indicate a storm is coming.
- Bees and butterflies take refuge when foul weather is approaching.
- Ants like to reinforce their hills before a rain.
- Livestock (e.g. cows, sheep, etc.) tends to huddle together before severe weather.
- Frogs get louder as rain is coming into the area.

It is important for your survival that you ALWAYS be wary of your surroundings. Find shelter as soon as possible, when you suspect bad weather. A bad situation will only get worse, even life-threatening, if you "get caught in the rain".
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