When Nature Predicts, Learn To Read the Signs

One of the basics of survival is knowing and being prepared for upcoming weather events.

Depending on what area of the country or world you live in, weather can create an event that is life-changing. Tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards can knock out power, destroy homes and cause casualties.

In a post-SHTF world, you’re not going to have a local weatherman to tell you what’s up. Knowing how to read nature’s signs to predict weather can quite literally save your life.

There’s an old joke about this that we found funny, but it does prove our point:

An Indian chief was preparing for a fall council meeting and called the National Weather Service to find out about the weather. He was told that the winter was going to be cold, so he included this in his report to the counsel. The tribe began gathering fire wood.

The chief called back a couple of weeks later to make sure that his people were prepared and was told that it looked like it was going to be a harder winter than usual. He passed the word to his people to gather more wood.

A couple of weeks later, he was finalizing his winter plans and called the NWS again, and was told that it was going to be terrible. When he asked why they thought that, the man told him, “We’re not exactly sure, but the local Indians are gathering wood like crazy!”

The moral of the story? Don’t depend solely on somebody else to make your preparations! We have a few signs that can help you determine what the weather will be, and here they are.

Red Skies and Rainbows

You’ve probably heard the old sailors’ poem of “red skies at night, sailors delight; red skies in morning, sailors take warning.”

This is actually a good indicator of what’s coming. If the sunset is beautifully pink, the sun is shining on dust particles being pushed by a high-pressure system, which brings warm, dry air. If the sunrise is red, a low-pressure system is often pushing moisture toward you. Not always accurate but something to pay attention to.

Rainbows follow the same pattern: if you see one in the eastern sky in the morning, there’s a good chance that you’re going to get rain. The rainbow is caused by the sun reflecting off of moisture and most storms in the northern hemisphere move east to west.

Woolly Worms

IC_Pyrrharctia_isabella_caterpillarOld wives tales say that the black and brown tiger moth caterpillar, known affectionately as the woolly worm, is a good predictor of how bad winter will be, depending on how narrow his brown middle stripe is: the narrower it is, the harsher the winter will be.

Research conducted by Dr. C.H. Curran in the 50’s showed that Mr. Woolly was right about 80% of the time. Modern research hasn’t backed it up and writes it off to coincidence, but it wouldn’t be the first time the old wives were right.

Squirrels and Birds

Are the squirrels having knock-down drag-outs in your yard over the dwindling supply of nuts? Are the birds attacking your feeders like they haven’t eaten in weeks? If so, there’s a good chance that a substantial storm is on the way. This is another great way to read nature’s signs to predict weather.

Similarly, if you notice that birds are migrating early, you should follow their lead and be ready to bunk in early for winter too. Winter is coming early.

In the shorter term, if birds are flying high, you’re probably going to have a good couple of days. When the pressure drops, indicating an upcoming storm, it hurts birds’ ears and they fly lower to alleviate that. Animals sense changes in barometric pressure well in advance of weather events so pay attention.

Look to the Moon

If the moon has a circle around it, this is almost a sure sign that there’s inclement weather heading your way in the next 3 days or so. If it’s clear and bright, you may also be getting some moisture because a low-pressure system has moved in and cleared the dust from the air.

If the moon is orangish or pale, there’s dust in the air so you’re probably going to see some good weather the next day.

Wind Direction

Like we’ve already said, storms blow in from the east, so if you have easterly winds (the wind is blowing east to west), you may be getting bad weather. If you have westerly winds, all is probably well.

Also, high winds are a sign of changing pressure which is generally accompanied by changing weather.

Video first seen on XxPhobosxX

Look for Furrier-Than-Usual Friends

If your pets are growing longer, thicker winter coats than usual or are getting extra chunky in the fall, there’s a pretty decent chance that the winter is going to be rough. On the flip side, when you can pet your animal and pull tufts of fur out without any effort, warm weather is on the way.

Pay Attention to Plant Life

This is one of nature’s best signs to predict weather and knowing what to look for can help you decide what you need to do to prepare for winter. Corn husks, onion skins and acorn shells will all be thicker if winter is going to be harsh.

Also, evergreen trees will make more and bigger pine cones in an attempt to give their offspring better chances of making it through a rough winter.

Watch Your Cat Take a Bath

Cats typically lick their paws and swipe their eyes but they usually leave their ears alone. They’re finicky like that. However, cats’ ears are particularly sensitive to changes in pressure so if he’s swiping his ears, there’s a good chance that bad weather is imminent in the next couple of days.

Herd Animals Unite

Animals such as cows, deer and horses are pretty good at telling you bad weather is coming if you just pay attention. Cows in particular are good at predicting drought; you’ll notice a drop in fertility rate if the next year is going to be tough. In the short term, watch for herd animals to group together, typically facing the same direction. If you see that, a storm is likely near.

Also, horses and cows have ears that are sensitive, similar to a cat. If you notice them trying to scratch an ear with a hoof more often than usual, the pressure may be changing and bring a change in weather with it.

Good Fishing, Bad Storm

If you have an absolutely spectacular fishing day, where your line gets hit every time it hits the water, you may want to plan your fish bake for inside instead of out. Fish are great at sensing changes in pressure and will feed heavily before a storm so that they can go deep to weather it out.

Watch Your Campfire for Rain

If the smoke from your fire rises without any significant swirls, you’re probably in for good weather the next day. If the smoke blows back down or escapes in swirls, there’s low pressure in effect, which means bad weather is imminent.

Get to know your local environment; when you do, you’ll start noticing patterns in the local animals and plants that are linked to the weather. Being able to read nature’s signs to predict weather can be an invaluable skill that may very well save your life, or at least your camping trip!

If you know of other nature signs that are good weather predictors, please tell us about it in the comments section below!


This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

Written by

Theresa Crouse is a full-time writer currently living in central Florida. She was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia, where she learned to farm, hunt, fish, and live off the land from an early age. She prefers to live off the grid as much as possible and does her best to follow the “leave nothing behind but footprints” philosophy. For fun, she enjoys shooting, kayaking, tinkering on her car and motorcycle, and just about anything else that involves water, going fast, or the outdoors.

Latest comments
  • Here in Central Michigan the normal storms and wind direction is out of the west, however we get our worst precipitation when we get a North Easter storm.
    Woolies here are predicting a cold winter.

  • When I go for a walk through my cedar bush and the wheather is fine the tree branches are tighter to the trees. When it’s about to rain the branches open up and hang lower as if to cathch the coming rains.

  • My grandfather (1890-1960), a dairy farmer in W WI (who twice lost a barn during a tornado) used to tell all his children to beware whenever a lot of birds (over 20, but including 40-60) are sitting on a telephone pole wire. Grandpa said it was a sign that a tornado could be approaching. His children (my uncles) referred to the birds perched on a wire, as sensing a significant low air pressure change that precedes the arrival of a significant thunderstorm, that sometimes can contain major down-draft winds or a tornado. I never forgot that lesson. However, at times when I was in a rural environment I have seen up to 40 birds on a wire, but there was no storm even hours later.

    • There are places where at certin times of the year it would be unsual not to have a large number of birds on the wires and the birds missing may the storm warning, so you need to know the local birds.

  • Storms may come from the east in Florida but in the north eadtern US they come from the North through to the west. Occasionally from WSW. They can come from the east if you are in quadrant IV of a hurricane ( not very often) or a cyclonic CCW rotation storm ( not very often).

  • It would seem to me that our storms move primarily from west to east.

  • Why is it that the weather is changing. Some say it is from climate change but i think that the government is changing it somehow. Do they have a big antenna up in alaska called HARP and thats how they mess with the weather.

    • Weather changes in natural cycles. Some politicians see the opportunity of making money and gaining control over a frantic or frightened public. It’s easier to pass new taxes and rules in an effort to “save mankind, the environment, the planet,” etc.etc.etc. To that end, we lose both our hard earned money and our freedom. The “Global Warming crowd has had to change their tune to “climate change,” because there has been no documented warming in nearly two decades (per NASA and NOAA). Touting carbon dioxide as a deadly “greenhouse gas” is laughable. Carbon dioxide is necessary for life on earth. Plants require it in order to produce the food, moisture and oxygen we need to live! The greatest “greenhouse gas” is water vapor, which will be difficult for mere man to control without coming up with some cover for all the oceans!
      Those who believe in God, or a Higher Power, or Creator rest easy, knowing that He is ultimately in control. Future weather events will get stronger and stronger, as predicted in the Bible as we come to the end of the age. Luke 21:25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.” Google the 4 Blood Moons. The second will occur in October- next month. The book of Genesis states God created the sun and moon for SIGNS, and He’s giving us a big one now! There are many articles on the internet about HAARP, but I have no idea which are credible. They may in some way be able to project energy waves that may affect earthquakes, but I really don’t know. The New Madrid faultline seems to be over-due for a shaking, and many Biblical Scholars such as Rabbi Jonathan Cahn predict that we’re in for a real “shaking” soon!

  • Greetings,
    Bad weather and winds come mostly from the west an once and awhile from the south notnot from the easteast.
    The reason native Americans pitched their door to the tipi to the southeast. The bad weather comes from behind opposite of door not into it.
    From the south, I can not think of one time bad weather/wind came from the easteast

  • Now I’m going to be watching my cat for rubbing his ears. Great article

  • My sister said she saw a wooly worm with earmuffs on.

  • in southeast New Mexico I could always know it was going to rain if I saw tarantulas, turtles, and snakes on the march. Never fails.

  • In the northern hemisphere weather systems usually move west to east. If I see a rainbow in the east the storm generally is moving away from me. Occasionally a storm comes out of the east or northeast but not often.

  • In southeast New Mexico I always knew when we were going to get rain when I saw tarantulas, snakes, and turtles on the march. It never failed.

  • Thanks for the information Theresa. Weather systems in the North American continent usually come from North West to South East, so major weather changes come from the same direction. Individual storms associated with these systems usually travel and build larger from the South West and heading towards the North East as the entire system pushes through from the West. Summertime monsoonal type thunderstorms move from the South to the North during day light hours and in the evening hours they travel from the north to the south, along the Gulf Coast that is. they travel from water to land during the day and back to water at night. That’s data from yeares of living on the northern gulf coast of the US. Have a good day!

    • Hey Matthew,
      I think you’re in my neck of the woods…at least generally. I’ve vacationed my whole life in the panhandle of FL, lived my whole life in west central AL. Small world. It’s good to know there are other preppers near. If shtf my (grown) son & I plan to bug-in here on our little 25 acre farm w/ another family we are close friends with. Financially,it’s difficult to do much prepping/buying right now but nothing’s keeping this prepper from planning & connecting w/ our community. Great post on the weather, BTW, you’re 100% on the mark!
      Paula Mc

      • Greetings from another west-central Alabama “awareness” geek! Also spend all the time we can on Dauphin Island! I agree- nice to know of like-minded people in this ‘neck of the woods!’

  • I enjoy getting out and going hunting in the fall/winter and have notice in the past 30 years of deer hunting a direct correlation in the way the winter weather was in relation to the amount of fat that was stored around the intestines of the deer taken. The more fat, the worse the winter was that year… P.S. I haven’t seen many wooley worms this year and the few that I have seen don’t have much of a middle stripe at all. I have seen that there has been a more noticeable abundance of crickets/spiders in my yard though, what’s up with that, anyone know?

  • Sorry, Teresa, but in the northern hemisphere, yes, the WINDS that indicate approaching storms do come from the east, but the STORMS move west to east. I lived in Michigan’s “glove” for 40 years, and our storm winds blew from the east and the rain/snow blew in from the west across Lake Michigan. Only once in all the years I was there did a blizzard blow into Port Huron from Lake Huron and buried the place! Grandpa always said we wouldn’t have rain until the wind came from the east and even the weather didn’t argue much with Grandpa.

  • My husband and I always watch our “critters” out back in Utah. Our hummingbirds have departed earlier than usual; our foxes have already gotten their pretty red coats; and the Wooducks have started to come in to our pond area. They usually don’t arrive until October.

  • My husband and I always watch our “critters” out back in Salt Lake City. The crickets are extra noisey this year, which means a cold winter. Our hummingbirds have left early; our foxes are beginning to get their beautiful red coats; and the Woodducks have started to come in to pond area. These ducks don’t usually arrive until October.

  • My grandmother, who was 1 quarter Cherokee Indian, always predicted the weather by looking at the clouds. she said if the clouds looked like horses tails or sheep going home it was a sure sign of rain. Another sign of eminent rain was when the leaves of the poplar trees turned over. She also said you can predict the number of heavy snows during the coming winter by counting the number of heavy fogs in August.

  • Considering how often the weather forecasters are wrong using all the fancy electronics, I’ll put my bet on the animals every time.

  • I always thought most of the jet stream went from the west to the east which means high and low pressures follow the same patterns. That’s the way it is in the Midwest. Unless you get wrap around winds then it usually either comes from the north, south or east. I think the author is wrong in stating most storms come from the east and go west

  • I don’t want to say that it has been extra windy here in the Midwest but I saw a chicken lay an egg the other day and the wind blew it back up in her butt

  • I don’t know that you would consider this a sign of nature, but ever since I can remember, I get horrible headaches that no Tylenol or sinus meds help at all before a storm. But as soon as it starts raining I have immediate relief from the headache right away! Not sure why this happens to me, but it’s never wrong!