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There are many folklore tales of animals being used to predict weather. Just a few examples from the Old Farmers Almanac:

  • When cats sneeze, it is a sign of rain.

  • If the mole digs its hole 2½ feet deep, expect severe weather; if two feet deep, not so severe; if one foot deep, a mild winter.

  • Bats flying late in the evening indicates fair weather.

I have not been able to find much evidence to back these tales that I have come across. However, although not necessarily a prediction, the relationship of a cricket's chirp to temperature does seem to show how in tune animals can be with weather conditions. In fact, this relationship is also known as Dolbear's law, named after the American physicist Amos Dolbear, who published an article on the subject called The Cricket as a Thermometer. It is expressed as:

Tf=50+(N60-40/4)

where Tf is degrees in Fahrenheit and N60 is chirps per minute

It is generally believed that Dolbear observed the snowy tree cricket to come up with his equation. The formula is believed to be accurate to within a degree or so for the field cricket. Generally speaking, the relationship is believed to hold true because as temperature rises, the cold blooded cricket's metabolism will also rise, providing more energy for muscle contractions and thus for chirping.

Are there observable behaviors to look for in animals that can be a harbinger of changing weather conditions? For example, say you are on a 2-3 day hike with no way to access weather forecasts and somehow you forgot to check the forecast before leaving.

  • 1
    In the UK we used to always say cows laying down would be a sign of rain, but actually, cows just like to lay down. – Aravona Jun 11 '18 at 10:11
  • Any is very broad. Are you asking about scientific research in general (in which case I would vote too close as too broad) or do you want observable phenomena that you can use 'outdoors' as a guide? If so, for what period (tomorrow, or 'this summer')? – user15958 Jul 28 '18 at 11:24
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    My own experience: If our cat comes home with a wet fur, it’s most likely raining. – Br2 Jul 28 '18 at 14:39
  • @Jan Doggen - Good points. I'm looking for observable phenomena while outdoors for conditions within the next 24 hours or so. Say you're out on a two or three day hike with no modern conveniences and you somehow forgot to check the forecast before you left. – wanderweeer Jul 28 '18 at 14:50
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    @Br2 - I think that might be considered a postdiction. – wanderweeer Jul 28 '18 at 14:52
3

Two of my three dogs hate thunderstorms. (The third dog is a bit simple.) I can tell by their behaviour one to three hours before a storm hits that they want to go back to the house and stay inside. Given canine hearing I suspect that they are hearing distant thunder. They are discriminating. Rumbling from the local coal mine, jets flying overhead don't bother them.

2

Kind of. Most things associated with animals end up being old wives tales. The phenomena don't really have anything to do with weather or the climate at all. i.e. Cows laying down in fields means rain, the width of the strip on woolly bear caterpillers predicts the severity of the winter.

Other things can give an indication of current conditions. For example, birds flying low means that a storm is coming. This is due to the changing pressure of storm systems. https://phys.org/news/2013-11-birds-weather-adjust-behaviour-barometric.html

Here are links to other proverbs on animal behavior in relation to the weather:

https://www.almanac.com/content/how-birds-predict-weather#

https://www.almanac.com/content/can-animals-predict-weather-animal-proverbs

So animal observations can provide some extra information, so that along with other observations can give a small sense of weather. Many of the proverbs came about through observation before we had good weather forecasts.

  • In addition to the barometric birds in your link, we learned in school as the reason for the "high/low flying swallows -> good/bad weather" that in persistent good (hot + dry) weather moskitos get up quite high, and so do the birds that feed on them, while conditions that are likely to lead to rain and/or thunderstorm (e.g. wind) moskitos will stay closer down. Unfortunately, your 2nd and 3rd link don't give any indication whether the proverbs work in a useful way. – cbeleites supports Monica Nov 17 '18 at 15:37
  • @cbeleites I wouldn't count on them if my life depended on it. – user16724 Nov 27 '18 at 14:44
  • neither would I. I'd say knowing why animals behave in a certain way is a totally different question from deciding whether this behaviour should be used for prediction. In the case of swallows and moskitos, I'd say it is unnecessary: after all it isn't that difficult for humans to recognize, say, thunderstorm-prone weather conditions directly themselves. – cbeleites supports Monica Nov 28 '18 at 13:22
  • My point was more that these proverbs existed before we had the ability to really forecast weather and should be taken with quite a few grains of salt. – user16724 Nov 28 '18 at 15:42

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