We've begun the year with some pretty changeable weather, from below freezing temperatures over the holiday season to near-seventy degrees later in January, so we got to wondering about some of the forecasting folklore peculiar to the Lowcountry.
There's the "twelve days of January" for starters, related to the Lowcountry's agricultural history and the farmer's need to time preparations for the spring growing season. The first twelve days of January are said to predict the weather for the rest of the year, with the weather on each of the twelve days indicating what to expect meteorologically for each of the year's months. So checking our local weather for these first twelve days of the year, we can expect above average temperatures for most of 2023. This month bears this belief out; January 1st saw warming temperatures after the Christmas cold snap, and we've had temperatures this month some five degrees above average. Keep tabs on the rest of the year to see if it all holds up!
Lowcountry natives have always held that the temperature during warmer months can be determined from the chirping of crickets, and this folk belief actually has a scientific basis, formulated by one Amos Dolbear in 1897. Warmer temperatures make it easier for crickets to rub their wings together to produce the chirps, and Dolbear discovered that counting the number of chirps over fifteen seconds, and than adding 40, will produce a rough estimate of the outdoor temperature. We'll have to wait until late spring to test this one out, when crickets begin their annual concert.
"Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning" isn't peculiar to the Lowcountry but this, too, has a factual basis for coastal communities. Weather systems generally move from west to east, following the jet stream, so if clouds bank up to the east but a clear red sunset is to the west, drier and clear weather can be expected the next day; if the eastern sky is red at sunrise, but with clouds arriving from the west, rain may be on the way. So those spectacular sunsets over the marshes we love to see actually can be harbingers of good weather.
You can test another folk belief at the coming spring equinox on March 20th. The spring and fall equinoxes are said to be the only time of the year when you can balance an egg on its end. The (faulty) reasoning is that since the sun is directly over the equator at each equinox, the earth's gravity is in balance. This isn't true, of course, at least as far as balancing an egg is concerned. But give it a go on March 20th and see what happens.
Thanks to our weather watching friends at Charleston's Channel 2 for the lowdown on Lowcountry forecasting.