Weather Folklore Around the World


African Continent

Africa

Folklore: People hit by lightning were thought by many ancient Africans to have incurred the anger of the gods. Lightning bolts were considered bolts of justice.

Science: Lightning occurs when electricity travels between areas of opposite electrical charge within a cloud, between clouds, or from a cloud to the ground. Lightning bolts between cloud and ground ("bolts of justice") start with electrons (negatively charged particles) zig-zagging downward from the cloud, drawing a streamer of positively charged ions up from the ground. When they meet, an intense wave of positive charge travels upward at about 96,000 kilometers (about 60,000 miles) per second! This process may repeat several times in less than half a second, making the lightning seem to flicker.

Ethiopia

Folklore: Many tribesmen believed evil spirits dwelt in whirlwinds, so they would chase the wind with knives.

Science: The wind is caused by a complex collection of forces. Warming and cooling of the air causes changes in density, or pressure. Air tends to move from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. Even very small differences in pressure from one area to another can cause very strong winds. Friction from obstacles like trees, mountains, and buildings affect winds, slowing it down, or creating updrafts, bottlenecks, and so on. Also, Earth's rotation creates what is called the Coriolis effect, causing winds north of the equator to tend to curve to the right and winds south of the equator to curve to the left.

Egypt

Folklore: Ancient Egyptians, boating on the Nile, believed that the Sun sailed across the sky in a shallow boat.

Science: While the Sun may seem to be sailing across the sky, it is we who are moving on Earth's surface as Earth rotates on its axis and orbits the Sun. One rotation takes 23 hours 56 minutes, or one day, and one orbit takes 365.26 days, or one calendar year.

Kenya

Folklore: The god of thunder, Mkunga Mburu, is believed by some to travel the heavens on a huge black bull with a spear in each hand, ready to hurl them at the clouds to make the loud noises.

Science: The noise we call "thunder"-a distinct crack, loud clap, or gentle rumbling-is caused when air that has been heated to more than 43,000 degrees Fahrenheit along a lightning stroke expands and then suddenly cools and contracts when the lightning stops.

Nigeria

Folklore: The Yorubas are said to have believed that lightning was a storm spirit who carried powerful magic. That spirit scolded them with fiery bolts of light shot from his mouth. He was believed to punish people for their wrongdoings by destroying things on the ground or by hitting someone with his bolts of light.

Science: Lightning occurs when there is an imbalance of the positive and negative electrical charges carried in dark clouds that form during thunderstorms. One charged area will "seek" an area of the opposite charge and when the attraction is great enough that it overcomes normal air resistance, an electrical current begins to flow. We see this discharge as a brilliant flash of light. Lightening also produces more ozone in the atmosphere and provides the "fresh and clean" smell sometimes noticed after a thunderstorm.

Southeast Africa

Folklore: Many of the ancient Zulus thought of rainbows as snakes that drank from pools of water on the ground. According to legend, a rainbow would inhabit whatever pool it was drinking from and devour anyone who happened to be bathing there.

Science: Rainbows are byproducts of rain. Raindrops act as tiny prisms when lit by the Sun, bending light and separating it into its different colors. A rainbow's arch, made up of long colorful streamers, appears to dip down from the sky to meet Earth's surface. To see a rainbow, you must be standing with the Sun behind you, looking at rain falling in another part of the sky. A rainbow may mean the rain is nearly over, since the Sun must be peeping through the clouds to make the rainbow appear.


Asian Continent

Burma

Folklore: One sect, the Karens, once considered rainbows to be dangerous demonic spirits that devoured the souls of humans and caused sudden or violent deaths. They thought that such activity made the rainbow thirsty enough to appear in the sky and dip down to Earth to drink water.

Science: Rainbows are by products of rain. Raindrops act as tiny prisms when lit by the Sun, bending light and separating it into its different colors. A rainbow's arch, made up of long colorful streamers, appears to dip down from the sky to meet Earth's surface.

China

Folklore: Round buns filled with spicy bean paste, called "mooncakes," are eaten in celebration of the moon's birthday, on the eighth day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar.

Science: The Chinese calendar is partly based on the phases of the moon. The Moon gives off no light of its own, but instead reflects sunlight. As the Moon orbits Earth each 27.3 days, its position relative to the Sun and Earth continuously changes. For example, when Earth is between the sun and the moon, we see the full sunlit side of the Moon (a full moon). When the Moon is between the Sun and Earth, we do not see the sunlit side of the moon at all (this is a New Moon). So, the shape of the moon appears to change from day to day (or night to night), depending on Earth's position relative to the sunlit side of the Moon.

India-Drought

Folklore: In ancient India, it was said that a dragon stood guard over the clouds to hoard the rain and prevent it from falling to Earth, causing dry spells. The people cheered for the storm god to lure the dragon away from the cloud, allowing rain to fall.

Science: Water actually recycles from Earth's surface to the atmosphere and back again in a process called the hydrologic cycle, or water cycle. Water gets from Earth's surface into the air through the processes of evaporation (transferred from rivers, lakes, and oceans) or transpiration (transferred from plants). And it gets back to Earth by the process of precipitation. Water vapor in the air rises and cools, condenses into water droplets, and collects to form clouds. Rain develops when cloud droplets become too heavy to stay in the cloud and fall to Earth. The GOES environmental satellites keep watch over the comings and goings of clouds in the atmosphere.

India-Moon

Folklore: People in long-ago India saw a silhouette of a hare on the moon. According to tradition, it got there when Indra, the all-knowing god of the sky, overheard a rabbit declare that he would sacrifice himself so a beggar could eat. Declaring that such selflessness would not go unrewarded, Indra etched the outline of a rabbit, also called a "hare," on the moon.

Science: When we look at the moon from Earth, we see dark regions and light regions. The dark regions are mostly flat and are called maria (Latin for seas). They are covered with a dark-colored rock similar to the basalts from volcanoes here on Earth. The light regions are heavily cratered highlands, and are covered with light-colored rock called anorthosite. The surface of the highlands is older than the surface of the maria.

Japan

Folklore: In ancient times, it was believed that a spirit called Snow Woman caused men traveling in snowstorms to sleep, ultimately causing their deaths.

Science: People who are exposed to very cold conditions can develop hypothermia, with their body temperature dropping several degrees below normal. They often lose their ability to think clearly and may remove clothing, get sleepy, and lie down in the snow to rest, never to wake up. The GOES environmental satellites, in addition to gathering data for weather forecasting, are part of the Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system. If a person lost in a storm had a personal locator signaling device, they would have a good chance to be found and rescued.

Turkey

Folklore: In olden days, some Turkish people tried to capture the moon when it "fell" into bodies of water or into a well filled with water. They believed the moon had fallen out of the sky when they saw its reflection in the water.

Science: The moon is the source of the strongest of the three gravitational forces that create ocean tides here on Earth. The other two are the Sun and Earth's own rotation. The moon's gravity creates a high tide every 12 hours and 25 minutes. Low tide occurs midway between each of these two high tides. These tides are highest and lowest just after the moon is full and after its new phase. When the sun and moon are on the same side of the Earth (new moon) or the opposite side (full moon), their bulges add together to make larger tides called "spring tides", which happens about twice a month. When the sun and moon are 90 degrees apart (first quarter or last quarter moon), the bulges interfere and cancel each other creating the unusually small "neap tides".


Australian Continent

Australia

Folklore: An aboriginal myth says that frost comes from the seven stars of the Pleiades, also called the Seven Sisters. The sisters once lived on Earth but were so cold they sparkled with icicles. They flew up into the sky and once each year they pull off their icicles and hurl them down to Earth.

Science: Frost is an accumulation of ice crystals on cold surfaces. When the air cools at night, water vapor condenses out of the air, coating surfaces with water. The temperature at which this happens is called the dew point. If the temperature drops below freezing (32 F or 0 C), this condensed water freezes, making frost. If the dew point is below freezing, water vapor in the air may change directly to ice without going through the liquid state first.

New Guinea

Folklore: It is said that in olden times, there was a woman who had power to make fire. Wanting to learn her secret, two children sneaked into her hut when she went out. When they lifted the lid of one of her pots, they released the moon that was trapped inside. It began floating away. The children tried to grab it, but it was too slippery and floated up into the sky. This is how the moon got its markings.

Science: When we look at the moon from Earth, we see dark regions and light regions. The dark regions are mostly flat and are called maria (Latin for seas). They are covered with a dark-colored rock similar to the basalts from volcanoes here on Earth. The light regions are heavily cratered highlands, and are covered with light-colored rock called anorthosite. The surface of the highlands is older than the surface of the maria.

Polynesia-Rainbow

Folklore: There was a belief among ancient Polynesians that a rainbow was a ladder that their heroes climbed to reach heaven.

Science: Rainbows are byproducts of rain. Raindrops act as tiny prisms when lit by the Sun, bending light and separating it into its different colors. A rainbow's arch, made up of long colorful streamers, appears to dip down from the sky to meet Earth's surface. To see a rainbow, you must be standing with the Sun behind you, looking at rain falling in another part of the sky. A rainbow may mean the rain is nearly over, since the Sun must be peeping through the clouds to make it appear.

Polynesia-Sun

Folklore: According to Polynesian folklore, the Sun used to race across the sky each day, giving barely any light. People didn't have much time to finish their chores before darkness came. The half-god, half-man Maui became annoyed and snared the Sun in an enormous net made from braided coconut fiber. He threatened to cut off the Sun's legs if it refused to slow down. Being terrified, the Sun agreed and to this day has kept its promise to move slowly across the sky.

Science: The Earth rotates on its axis every 23 hours 56 minutes, creating almost equal periods of light and darkness. The Sun shines on the side of Earth that is turned towards it, causing day time. At the same time, the side of Earth that is turned away from the Sun is in darkness. The GOES environmental satellites orbit at 35,800 kilometers (22,300 miles) above Earth, directly over the equator. The GOES make only one orbit each day. Thus, they seem always to be hovering over a single point on Earth's surface.


European Continent

England-Rain

Folklore: People in early England recited charms to make the rain stop. "Raine, raine, goe to Spain; faire weather come againe." You may have chanted another version of this when you were younger: "Rain, rain, go away; come again another day." Such charms were thought to be more powerful if recited while staring at a rainbow.

Science: A rainbow is a fairly accurate sign that rain is ending, because it appears when the sun starts to shine through the clouds. That may explain why people believed that the charm worked when you stared at the colorful arches in the sky.

England-Lightning

Folklore: St. Elmo was the patron saint of sailors. English sailors in the nineteenth century called the apparent lightning they saw in the rigging of the ship "the body of the saint." It was considered a good omen by mariners.

Science: Some unusual forms of lightning are bead lightning, ball lightning, and St. Elmo's Fire. Bead lightning is composed of a string of luminous balls similar to a chain of beads. Ball lightning is a rare form that measures from one-half inch to six feet in diameter and is white, red, yellow, or blue. St. Elmo's Fire, named for the patron saint of sailors, is a static glow or visible electrical discharge from a pointed object, like the mast of a ship or the wing of an airplane during an electrical storm.

Europe-Thunder

Folklore: In medieval times, many people believed that thunderstorms were evil spirits. Church bells were rung so the sound would chase away the evil thunder. Often people used a variety of rituals to save themselves during thunderstorms. They would hide scissors, cover every mirror, lie down on feather beds, and stay away from wet dogs and horses.

Science: Thunderstorms start in cumulonimbus clouds, called thunderheads. Warm, humid air rises from the ground. As it cools in the atmosphere, it condenses into water droplets, forming a cloud. When the droplets or ice crystals (if cold enough) grow big enough, they fall, dragging down the air, forming downdrafts. Updrafts and downdrafts in the cloud make for a very violent storm, spawning lightning. The noise of thunder is caused by cooling, contracting air masses slamming together after being instantly heated to searing temperatures along a lightning stroke.

Europe-Wind

Folklore: Magicians of Northern Europe are said to have captured the winds in bags and tied them with ropes. They attempt to control the winds by the tightness of the ropes, the number of knots, and the way the bag was tied. With this power, a magician could cause great destructive winds or he could take the winds away.

Science: The wind is caused by a complex collection of forces. Warming and cooling of the air causes changes in density, or pressure. Air tends to move from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. Even very small differences in pressure from one area to another can cause very strong winds. Friction from obstacles like trees, mountains, and buildings affect winds, slowing it down, or creating updrafts, bottlenecks, and so on. Also, Earth's rotation creates what is called the Coriolis effect, causing winds north of the equator to tend to curve to the right and winds south of the equator to curve to the left.

Finland

Folklore: In the lore of ancient Finland, Snow is an ancient king who has three daughters: Thin Snow, Thick Snow, and Snow Storm.

Science: In northern Finland, the average yearly precipitation is only 600 millimeters (about 23.5 inches), half of it rain and half of it snow. Snow forms in clouds with temperatures below freezing. A tiny droplet of water freezes into a six-sided ice crystal. Then as more water vapor condenses onto it, it begins to grow six branches with arms. When the crystals get large and heavy enough, they fall. Sometimes they begin to melt as they fall through warmer air, and the water acts like glue, holding the crystals together in large clumps.

Germany-Snow

Folklore: It was commonly believed in old times that Old Mother Frost caused snow by shaking the feathers from her bed. These feathers would then fall to Earth as snow.

Science: About 48 million square miles of the Earth are covered year-round with snow or ice. This is about one half the land on our planet's surface. Snow is actually falling ice that is composed of crystals in hexagonal (six-sided) forms. Snow forms in air with temperatures below freezing. Then water vapor turns directly to ice without going through the liquid stage. Fresh, uncompacted snow typically is 90-95 percent trapped air.

Germany-Winter

Folklore: Medieval Germans often relied on the shadow of a badger to tell them whether or not spring was on its way. If the badger saw his shadow on a particular day, then more winter was in store. If the badger didn't see his shadow, then spring would come soon. German immigrants brought this tradition to the United States. It is celebrated every February 2nd in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, as Groundhog Day.

Science: Technically, the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere is the spring equinox. This is one of two dates when Earth's axis of rotation is tilted neither toward nor away from the Sun. Day and night are nearly equal. The spring equinox falls on March 21, and the autumn equinox on September 21. Of course, in some areas far north of the equator, spring may still seem a long way off on March 21.

Greece-Rainbow

Folklore: The folklore of ancient Greece taught that Iris, wife of the god Zephyrus, caused rainbows. Iris was a messenger between mortals and the gods. She ran back and forth, dressed in shimmering multicolored robes. The word "iridescence" comes from Iris's robes.

Science: To see a rainbow, you must be standing with the Sun behind you, looking at rain falling in another part of the sky. Each raindrop acts as a tiny prism when lit by the Sun, bending light and separating it into its different colors. Made up of long, colorful streamers, a rainbow may look similar to Iris's robes.

Greece-Wind

Folklore: The folklore of ancient Greece taught that the god Aeolus caused the wind. Aeolus kept the wind locked in an enormous whistling cavern. When he played his harp, a gentle breeze ruffled the trees. When he blew his conch shell, great storms devastated the land and whipped up the ocean waves.

Science: The wind is caused by a complex collection of forces. Warming and cooling of the air causes changes in density, or pressure. Air tends to move from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. Even very small differences in pressure from one area to another can cause very strong winds. Friction from obstacles like trees, mountains, and buildings affect winds, slowing it down, or creating updrafts, bottlenecks, and so on. Also, Earth's rotation creates what is called the Coriolis effect, causing winds north of the equator to tend to curve to the right and winds south of the equator to curve to the left.

Ireland

Folklore: The Old Woman of the Gloom was considered an evil spirit who gathered sticks on St. Briget's Day for a fire to dry herself. If St. Briget's Day was wet, the Old Woman could not venture out until she made sure there was a dry spring for her own comfort. If St. Briget's Day was dry, a wet spring would follow, so then she would gather enough fuel to warm her through the wet months.

Science: In early days, St Briget's Day was celebrated in mid-winter, on February 1. Technically, the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere is the spring equinox. This is one of two dates when Earth's axis of rotation is tilted neither toward nor away from the Sun. Day and night are nearly equal. The spring equinox falls on March 21 and the autumn equinox on September 21.

Italy

Folklore: In ancient times, the Etruscan soothsayers from Northern Italy were considered divine weather watchers. They were said to have foretold disaster or good fortune from slight changes of the wind direction, claps of thunder, or bolts of lightning.

Science: Meteorologists (weather scientists) are getting better and better at "foretelling" what the weather will do in the next hours and days. Technology makes a great deal of difference. Observers such as the GOES environmental satellites, along with a vast network of weather monitoring instruments on the ground, instantaneous communication, and computers to process all this information help scientists put together the big picture and predict what will happen next.

Norway

Folklore: Josti, son of Kari, the fierce god of the winds, blew frost on the Earth when he was angry.

Science: Frost is an accumulation of ice crystals on cold surfaces. When the air cools at night, water vapor condenses out of the air, coating surfaces with water. The temperature at which this happens is called the dew point. If the temperature drops below freezing (32 F or 0 C), this condensed water freezes, making frost. If the dew point is below freezing, water vapor in the air may change directly to ice without going through the liquid state first.

Rome

Folklore: Ancient Romans believed that Sirius, the Dog Star, caused the very hot temperatures in July and August because Sirius is the brightest summer star. From this belief came the phrase still used today, "Dog days of summer."

Science: July and August are, on average, the hottest months in Earth's Northern Hemisphere because that is the part of the year when the North Pole is tilted toward the Sun. The Sun ray's hit Earth's surface in the Northern Hemisphere more directly than at any other time, thus concentrating the Sun's energy over a smaller surface area. Also, the days are longer than the nights, giving the surface less time to cool off before the Sun heats it up again.

Scotland

Folklore: The Blue Hag was believed to have lived in the Scottish highlands in a cave. In her cave, she tried to keep the Summer Maiden captive, in an effort to prevent the summer from arriving.

Science: Earth rotates on its tilted axis while making its yearly trip around the Sun. A region's climate is determined by its latitude (how far it is from the equator), along with air circulation, ocean currents, and local geography. Scotland is far from the equator. So, in Scotland, sunlight hits at a slant and spreads over a large area. When the North Pole is tilted toward the Sun around June through August, Scotland gets the most direct sunlight of the year, so that's when it is summer in Scotland.

Slovakia

Folklore: According to Slovakian folklore, the twelve months of the year are really twelve bearded men sitting around a roaring fire, the Sun.

Science: Earth is tilted on its axis of rotation as it makes its annual trip around the Sun, and it is always tilted in the same direction. Thus, sometimes it is the North Pole tilting toward the Sun (like in June) and sometimes it is the South Pole tilting toward the Sun (like in December). Thus, we have seasons. It is summer in June in the Northern Hemisphere because the Sun's rays are hitting that part of Earth more directly than at any other point in Earth's orbit-or, in other words, more directly than at any other time of the year. It is winter in December in the Northern Hemisphere, because that is when it is the South Pole's turn to be tilted toward the Sun.

Sweden-Thunder

Folklore: When children heard thunder in long-ago Sweden, they were told it is only Thor, the god of thunder, riding his chariot across the skies.

Science: Thunderstorms start in cumulonimbus clouds, called thunderheads. Warm, humid air rises from the ground. As it cools in the atmosphere, it condenses into water droplets, forming a cloud. When the droplets or ice crystals (if cold enough) grow big enough, they fall, dragging down the air, forming downdrafts. Updrafts and downdrafts in the cloud make for a very violent storm, spawning lightning. The noise of thunder is caused by cooling, contracting air masses slamming together after being instantly heated to searing temperatures along a lightning stroke.

Sweden-Lightning

Folklore: Lightning, as well as thunder, was part of the legend of Thor, the god of thunder in long-ago Sweden. Children were told that lightning is only sparks from Thor's hammer as they fly through the air.

Science: Lightning occurs when electricity travels between areas of opposite electrical charge within a cloud, between clouds, or from a cloud to the ground. Negatively and positively charged particles accumulate in different parts of a cloud. Because opposite charges attract, at some point the attraction becomes strong enough to overcome the electrical resistance of the air, and the electrons seek out a jagged path to an area of positive charge. The positive charges are drawn toward the negative charges, and when they meet, an intense wave of positive charge travels at about 96,000 kilometers (about 60,000 miles) per second! This process may repeat several times in less than half a second, making the lightning seem to flicker.

Russia

Folklore: The Mordvins set out bowls of porridge for the Frost Man so their crops would be protected.

Science: Frost is an accumulation of ice crystals on cold surfaces. When the air cools at night, water vapor condenses out of the air, coating surfaces with water. The temperature at which this happens is called the dew point. If the temperature drops below freezing (32 F or 0 C), this condensed water freezes, making frost. If the dew point is below freezing, water vapor in the air may change directly to ice without going through the liquid state first.


North American Continent

Arizona USA

Folklore: Tsohanoai is the name of the Sun god for those practicing traditional Navajo ways. Every day, he crosses the sky, carrying the Sun on his back. At night, the Sun rests by hanging on a peg in Tsohanoai's house.

Science: Earth's rotation once every 23 hours 56 minutes makes the Sun appear from Earth's surface to be crossing the sky. The Sun shines on the side of the Earth turned towards it, causing day time. At the same time, the side of Earth turned away from the Sun is in darkness. From its vantage point 35,800 kilometers (22,300 miles) above Earth, the GOES environmental satellites also study the Sun. Instruments keep track of solar events that can affect satellite communications signals, electric power grids, airplane navigation systems, and other sensitive equipment.

Canada

Folklore: Long ago, people told of a wind eagle that lived on a bald mountain top. The wind eagle caused the wind by flapping its wings. The harder its wings flap, the stronger and more abundant the wind. If there was too much wind, Gluskabi, a powerful being in Abenaki Indian lore, climbed to the top of the mountain and tied the wings of the wind eagle to its body. When the weather was too hot because there was no wind, Gluskabi again climbed the mountain to cut the eagle's bonds.

Science: The wind is caused by a complex collection of forces. Warming and cooling of the air causes changes in density, or pressure. Air tends to move from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. Even very small differences in pressure from one area to another can cause very strong winds. Friction from obstacles like trees, mountains, and buildings affect winds, slowing it down, or creating updrafts, bottlenecks, and so on. Also, Earth's rotation creates what is called the Coriolis effect, causing winds north of the equator to tend to curve to the right and winds south of the equator to curve to the left.

Caribbean

Folklore: In this region, a hurricane was considered an evil spirit, or the god of all evil, who would send terrifying winds to punish people when he was angered.

Science: Hurricanes (also called cyclones or typhoons) usually start over warm, tropical oceans. Thunderstorms rise high into the air, causing the atmospheric pressure to drop. As trade winds in the area begin spiraling, warm moist winds in the center are drawn upward by low pressure. If the spiraling wind reaches 74 miles per hour, the storm is called a hurricane. The GOES environmental satellites see hurricanes developing and help weather forecasters make very accurate predictions and warnings about their strength and direction and speed.

Georgia USA

Folklore: According to the Creek Indians, the beginning of the world was a time when "animals could talk" and had the power of day and night. Daytime animals used all their magic to keep the Sun in the sky. Nighttime animals used all their magic to make darkness fall. This caused trouble between the two groups. Finally, they met and discussed the problem. At first they argued. Then, noticing the raccoon's striped tail, they decided to divide the times of light and dark into equal parts, resulting in "day" and "night."

Science: Day and night are caused by the rotation of Earth on its axis every 23 hours 56 minutes. The Sun shines on the side of the Earth turned towards it, causing daytime. At the same time, the side of Earth turned away from the Sun is in darkness. The GOES environmental satellites orbit at 35,800 kilometers (22,300 miles) above Earth, directly over the equator. The GOES make only one orbit each day. Thus, they seem always to be hovering over a single point on Earth's surface.

Nebraska USA

Folklore: According to Skidi Pawnee Indian lore, clouds are clothing for the gods of heaven. The sky god wears a cloud garment. When he spreads his arms, the clouds, or "garments," stretch across the entire sky.

Science: Clouds are named according to the way they look and how high or how low they appear in our atmosphere. The sky god was probably "wearing" stratus or stratocumulus clouds since these clouds are generally layered or broad and flat, taking up much of the sky. The GOES environmental satellites maintain constant watch over the clouds, how much moisture they contain, where they are heading, and how fast.

Nevada USA

Folklore: In the language of the Shoshone Indians, the word for rime frost "pogonip," meaning "white death."

Science: Rime frost forms when fog or low clouds that are heavy with very cooled droplets of water come in contact with an object and freeze there. As the wind blows, the rime frost builds up, sometimes into needlelike formations that may stick straight out. The stronger the wind and larger the supercooled droplets, the larger the rime formations. Some rime formations more than three feet long have been recorded on high mountain tops.

New Mexico USA

Folklore: Tradition among the Zuni Indians tells of a monster called Cloud Eater. He was as tall as a mountain peak and had an enormous appetite for clouds, thus causing drought. Down through the years the Zuni Indians have hunted for this monster far and wide to destroy him and bring rain, but no one discovered where Cloud Eater lived.

Science: Clouds are named according to the way they look and how high or how low they are in our atmosphere. The GOES environmental satellites easily observe all types of clouds from their geostationary orbits above the equator. Some of these types are cumulonimbus, cirrostratus, cirrus, cirrocumulus, altostratus, altocumulus, stratocumulus, cumulus, and stratus.

New Mexico USA-Moon

Folklore: There is an ancient rain-predicting proverb among the Zuni Indians that says, "If the moon's face is red, of water she speaks."

Science: The moon appears red because of dust being pushed ahead of a low pressure system bringing in moisture. So the Zuni were right on! Data from the GOES environmental satellites is used to estimate the amount of rainfall to be expected from a storm.

N.Carolina USA

Folklore: An old proverb says that a house that is overarched by a rainbow will soon experience a disaster or if you walk through the end of the rainbow, your family will experience a disaster within a year.

Science: Rainbows are byproducts of rain. Raindrops act as tiny prisms when lit by the Sun, bending light and separating it into its different colors. A rainbow's arch, made up of long colorful streamers, appears to dip down from the sky to meet Earth's surface-an optical illusion. To see a rainbow, you must be standing with the Sun behind you, looking at rain falling in another part of the sky. A rainbow may mean the rain is nearly over, since the Sun must be peeping through the clouds to make the rainbow appear.

N.Carolina USA-Sun

Folklore: The ancestors of modern Cherokee Indians believed that spiders spun their webs in the shape of a circular, rayed sun because Grandmother Spider stole a piece of the Sun from a greedy band of people living on the other side of the world who were hoarding the Sun's light.

Science: Our Sun is an ordinary star, a gigantic ball of burning gas so hot that atoms are being fused together to make new elements. In addition to keeping their eyes on Earth's weather, the GOES environmental satellites also study the Sun's "weather." GOES instruments keep track of solar events that can affect satellite communications signals, electric power grids, airplane navigation systems, and other sensitive equipment. Bursts of energy from the Sun can also expose astronauts to increased radiation.

Pennsylvania USA

Folklore: If the groundhog saw his shadow on February 2nd, then more winter was in store. If not, then spring wasn't far away. German immigrants brought this tradition, now "officially" celebrated in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to the United States. It is known as Groundhog Day.

Science: How do we really know that winter is over and spring is just around the corner? In regions that are covered with snow during winter, we know that spring is coming when the snows melt and flower buds burst through the soil. Watching the groundhog find his shadow is a fun way to celebrate the spring (or vernal) equinox, or the beginning of spring.


South American Continent

Peru

Folklore: Native people in Peru once believed that the rainfall during the growing season of October to May can be predicted from the brightness of stars in the Pleiades constellation in June. The brighter the stars, the more abundant the rains.

Science: Water recycles from Earth's surface to the atmosphere and back again in a process called the hydrologic cycle, or water cycle. Water gets from Earth's surface into the air through evaporation (transferred from rivers, lakes, and oceans) or transpiration (transferred from plants). And it gets back to Earth by the process of precipitation. Water vapor in the air rises and cools, condenses into water droplets, and collects to form clouds. Rain develops when cloud droplets become too heavy to stay in the cloud and fall to Earth. The total amount of water on Earth doesn't change, so we need to take good care of it!