CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — Weather affects everyone in some way and has done so for, well… forever. So naturally, there are going to be a variety of myths, sayings and wives’ tales about such a ubiquitous part of human life. The real question is how many of them actually hold any water?

These are eight of some of the most common weather-related myths and expressions, many of which were submitted by 12 News readers on Facebook.

Woolly worm fur pattern

Whether you call them woolly bears, wooly worms or fuzzy caterpillars, pretty much everyone has heard the story that these caterpillars predict the severity of winter if you look at their fur.

More black fur means a bad winter, and brown fur means the winter will be mild. The direction they are traveling is also believed to play a factor. If the worm is going south, it is thought to be trying to escape a cold winter, and if it’s going north, the temperatures will be warmer.

In reality, the fur pattern of a worm has more to do with how much they have been feeding, how old they are and its species, rather than the upcoming weather. In fact, worms that are either all black or brown are an entirely different species than the typically woolly worm everyone thinks of.

“Red at night sailors delight…

…red at morning, sailors take warning.” It’s an expression that is apparently so old that it goes back to the time of Jesus and is mentioned in the book of Mathew.

Sunrise along rocky coastline. Acadia National Park, 2018. National Park Service, NP Gallery

[1] And the Pharisees and Sad’ducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.
[2] He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, `It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.’
[3] And in the morning, `It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

Mathew 16, 1-3

You may (or may not) be surprised to learn that the saying is one that actually has some scientific basis for being accurate. According to the Library of Congress website, the red color of the sky is caused by a high concentration of dust particles in the air. When the sun is at low angles (like when it’s setting or rising) its light travels through the atmosphere and is refracted. Longer light wavelengths like red can get through Earth’s thick atmosphere, but shorter wavelengths, like blue light, are scattered.

According to the Library of Congress, we see a red sky because the sun is sending its light through a high concentration of dust particles, which typically means high air pressure and stable air is coming in from the west. Because weather typically travels from west to east, this means that good weather is on the way. Basically.

“A red sunrise can mean that a high-pressure system (good weather) has already passed, thus indicating that a storm system (low pressure) may be moving to the east. A morning sky that is a deep, fiery red can indicate that there is high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain could be on its way,” the Library of Congress website reads.

Groundhog Day

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Groundhog Day stats from 2012-2021

A timeless tradition, Groundhog Day has been a part of Punxsutawney’s history for over 130 years now. The method is simple — If Phil sees his shadow, that means there will be six more weeks of winter. Since 1887, Phil has only predicted an early spring 20 times, but how accurate are his forecasts?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Phil’s predictions from 2012 to 2021 have an accuracy rate of about 40%, which honestly seems pretty good for a rodent. However, according to Nextstar’s Newsnation, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club insist Phil has never been wrong.

Increase in bodily aches and pains

Can joint pain really predict upcoming weather? As it turns out, it just might. Pain management specialist Robert Bolash, MD of the Cleveland Clinic says many patients will complain of joint aches and pains when barometric pressure falls and humidity rises.

“Weather changes actually can affect chronic pain — specifically joint pain,” Bolash said in a Cleaveland Clinic web post. “Scientists don’t agree on exactly how this may occur, but the anecdotal evidence is significant in leading us to think achy joints and rainy days are related.”

Bolash also said people with arthritis, neck pain or other musculoskeletal issues are more likely to experience pain related to weather conditions as opposed to individuals with nerve pain conditions.

“Lightning never strikes the same place twice”

A red maple tree on the Newark campus of Ohio State University, Newark, Ohio, Credit: James St. John used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Lighting can and often does strike objects or places multiple times, especially if it is a tall tree, pole or building. One example is the Empire State Building, which is struck by lightning 25 times a year on average.

Leaves flipping indicates rain

This myth says that before rain or storms, tree leaves will turn over to show their lighter sides.

This is another bit of weather folklore that has some credence to it. According to the National Park Service, trees like oak and maple have leaves that will curl when humidity and wind speeds are high, two weather conditions that often preceded storms.

So the answer to whether this is true or not is yes, kind of.

“Alcohol can warm you up in the cold”

St. Bernard dog (Wikimedia Commons: Legav)

This is a myth that is more untrue than true, and is likely popularized by the depiction of St. Bernard rescue dogs carrying around little barrels of brandy to those in need of a snow rescue.

While consuming alcohol will make you feel warmer, you actually lose more body heat after drinking. Alcohol causes your blood vessels to expand, which sends more blood to your skin and limbs (which gives you that warm feeling while drinking) but this in turn sends less blood to your internal organs.

You’re essentially turning yourself into a human radiator — You feel warmer, but you lose more internal body heat as a result.

“Don’t shower during a thunderstorm”

This is surely a piece of advice many people have heard, “Don’t shower during a thunderstorm,” as a lighting bolt may electrify your pipes and water, and shock an unsuspecting bather.

While such a thing has never happened to this 12 News reporter, apparently it is enough of a concern that the CDC has this exact topic under their frequently asked questions regarding lighting.

“Do not shower, bathe, wash dishes, or wash your hands. The risk of lightning travelling through plumbing might be less with plastic pipes than with metal pipes. However, it is best to avoid any contact with plumbing and running water during a lightning storm to reduce your risk of being struck,” the CDC said on its website.