It is certainly an adventure to leave our climate-controlled homes and offices and camp for a few days in the wilds. Here is a bit of weather advice to take along.
When hiking at higher elevations or boating, keep an eye out for thunderclouds. In the afternoons, watch the sky to the northwest and west. Thunderstorms that pass over your location will come from that direction. Take note of puffy white cumulus clouds, the ones that look like giant popped popcorn. As long as these clouds maintain their shape and keep their distance from one another, the weather will likely remain fine. If the clouds begin to run together, become taller, gain jagged edges, and turn dark, a thunderhead may be forming.
Rely on the direction the thundercloud is coming from to decide whether to head for safety. Ground level winds can be deceiving – they cannot hold back a thunderstorm or turn it in another direction.
Rainstorms and wind
Trying to predict rain in southwestern Idaho is a challenge at best. Many signs of rain that practically guarantee a downpour when observed in other parts of the country are much less reliable in our dry mountain stronghold. However, the following bits of weather lore may be better than nothing if you can’t afford to be caught in the boondocks during a storm.
Winds from the north, NW, west, and SW usually bring good weather. Winds from the NE, east, SE, and south are apt to be delivering bad weather. A compass is handy to verify the direction of the wind when a person is away from familiar landmarks. When in the vicinity of broad leaved trees (excluding quaking aspen), take note if the trees are showing the undersides of their leaves. This is a sign that the wind is not from the prevailing direction and that a change in weather is likely.
A drop in atmospheric pressure often heralds bad weather. Signs of a drop in barometric pressure include: campfire smoke that rises straight up for a distance, then travels horizontally; distant sounds that can be heard more distinctly than usual; and odors of nature that are more noticeable than usual.
Red sky at night is the sailors’ delight, likely bringing good weather the next day. A red sky in the morning, or a red morning sun may indicate trouble is brewing.
Dew on the grass in the morning is a sign of a rain-less day, but if there is no dew, one should entertain the thought that rain is possible before the day is over.
A silvery moon overhead calls for fair weather to come, but a yellow or orange moon (when it is overhead, not when it is rising) foretells stormy weather unless it is fire season.
A ring around the moon on summer nights predicts a storm front and possibly rain within the next two days.
High thin clouds are not much help in spotting a change in the weather unless they are accompanied by lower clouds. “Mare’s-tails” are high comma shaped clouds. When they appear with lower clouds, wind and rain are likely. A mackerel sky consists of a multitude of uniform medium altitude clouds that look like scales on a fish. So it has been said, “Mackerel sky and mare’s-tails make tall ships carry low sails.”

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