Writing In The Sky

A certain adventure skill has proven practical and reliable many times, even in my everyday life.  I’m talking about forecasting rain and storm fronts.

The first time I used forecasting was at camp.  To the untrained eye, the clouds didn’t look like a reason for concern.  However, I knew what to look for.  I pointed towards the mostly empty and bright blue sky and said, “Hey look, there’s going to be a storm!”  Nobody believed me.  They said I was full of it, and that I did not know what I was talking about.  We didn’t have internet or radio, so I couldn’t pull up the forecast to prove myself right.  We also didn’t have a dryer, so we had to hang all our wet clothes out in the sun to dry.  Knowing what was coming relatively soon, I took my slightly damp clothes inside to dry in the cabin.  That night, it rained as if there was no tomorrow, and when it was tomorrow, it was still raining.  Guess who had dry, non muddy clothes to wear that morning?  Me.  Guess who had to search for their sopping wet clothes strewn across the fields by the wind?  The same people who called me wrong.

No one else acknowledged that I was right, but no one else had dry underwear either.

So how does this work?  How do you call a storm front up to 48 hours in advance?
There’s a certain cloud formation called Mackerel Sky.  It gained this name from looking a whole lot like fish scales.  There’s even a rhyme that goes with it:

Mackerel Sky, Storm Is Nigh.

For those who don’t speak Old English, “Nigh” means near, or that a time or event is close.
This is what a Mackerel Sky looks like:


See?  Fish scales.  In fact, this set of clouds is even shaped like a mackerel!
Typically something like this isn’t an indicator of a huge downpour, but it can imply light precipitation or a temperature drop.

From my experience, the more of these clouds, the greater the magnitude of a shift in weather conditions.


In this picture, I pointed my camera straight up, and snapped the photo.  Just about the entire firmament was filled with mackerel sky.  Within twenty four hours, it rained dramatically with slight flooding in the area.

Typically, the clouds stretch out in parallel rows across the sky, looking somewhat like rows of tilled farmland.




Knowing what to look for and what to expect is valuable outdoors knowledge, even in everyday life.  With experience, you can read the sky the same way you read the forecast in the newspaper.  Hopefully this helps y’all on your adventures.

Have any forecasting tricks that you know?  Tell me in the comments below!

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One comment on “Writing In The Sky

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