Weather Forecasting

For thousands of years our ancestors relied on the following wisdom to forecast the weather. Even today our attention to the weather patterns can swiftly become an invaluable asset creating a circuit between us and the law of nature.


The following tips are easy to learn and can be a necessary tool for anyone spending time outdoors.


Clouds are the most reliable active message of weather forecasting.


There are ten main types of cloud formation and also `the higher the clouds the finer the weather will be.





They look like rippled sand, an omen of fair weather, sometimes they appear after a storm and dissipate to leave a clear blue sky.  

altitude:  5 - 8 km, (3 - 5 miles)






Fair weather clouds, on a larger scale than cirrocumulus,

a bit thicker and not so white with slight shadows in them, they often appear after a storm and drift around

altitude:  1.5 - 6 km   (1 - 4 miles).



Low forming thunder clouds, often growing and transforming in size fast.

Quite often these towering clouds can look rather Dark and Menacing with the top flattening into an anvil shape. These clouds are the bringers of thunder and lightning, hail and strong wind. False cirrus often appears above them and false nimbostratus below.



Can form at 1.5km and rise to a staggering height of 10 km (1-8m)





Easily recognisable fluffy white clouds with flat bottoms, usually indicate fair weather when widely separated, but if they appear quite large they are capable of producing sudden heavy showers. When seen out at sea in an otherwise cloudless sky, they often indicate land beneath.


altitude: 2.5km or less. (2 miles or less)






High wispy clouds formed from ice crystals which gives them the white appearance, an indicator of fine weather.


altitude: 5 - 9 km (3 - 5.5 miles)







Made up of I've particles and look a bit like white veins. These clouds can also produce a halo around the sun or moon.


altitude: above 6km  (4.5 miles)






These clouds form a greyish veil over the sun or moon. if wet weather is approaching the cloud will darken and thicken obscuring the sun or moon until it begins to rain.


altitude: 2.5 - 6 km (1.6 - 3.7 miles)




These clouds form low dark blankets, they signal rain or snow within 4-5 hours, the rainfall or snowfall usually lasts several hours.  


altitude: 1.5 - 5 km (1 - 3 miles)





These beautiful clouds form a low lumpy rolling mass, usually covering the whole sky, though often thin enough for the sun to filter through, light showers may precipitate from them, but these clouds usually dissipate in the afternoon, leaving a clear night sky.


altitude:  2.5 km or less (1.6 mile or less)




These are the lowest of all clouds and form a uniform layer like high fog, they are often described as hill fog, not a normal rain cloud but they can produce drizzle, when they form quickly overnight and cover the morning with mist, often they clear in the morning sun and lovely sunny day follows on.


altitude: Less than 2.5km (1.6 miles)

Observing the local Nature

The animal kingdom can also give us some clues on the weather, although probably not as reliable as the clouds,

  • Birds singing in the rain indicates fair weather approaching.
  • When seagulls fly inland expect a storm.
  • When the swallows nest high, the summer will be dry.
  • When the swallow builds low you can safely reap and sow.
  • Cows sitting down in a field during daytime, expect rain.



  • Red sky at night shepherds delight.
  • Red sky at morning shepherds warning.
  • No weather is ill if the wind is still
  • Clear Moon, frost soon.
  • If the swallows fly low, then rain we shall know.
  • If the swallows fly high, the weather shall be dry.
  • Rain before seven, fine before eleven.
  • A ring around the sun or moon means rain or snow is coming soon.
  • The more different types of cloud present the greater the chance of rain.
  • When the wind blows from the west fish bite best, when wind blows from the east fish bite least.
  • When leaves fall early, Autumn and Winter will be mild
  • When leaves fall late, winter will be severe.
  • A warm November is the sign of a cold winter. 

Do it yourself weather forecasting opens up a whole new natural perspective to life outdoors.

Its also interesting to see if the observation techniques really hold true.

Peter Carvello

February 2024