I am a member of a Facebook group called Appalachian Americans and the other day a lady mentioned "weather dogs." In my innocence, and sure that this was some mountain weather forecasting strategy I had not yet heard, I asked what a weather dog was. Now those of you who know are already splitting your sides laughing I am sure. But for the rest of us who are uninitiated, here is what I learned:
A weather dog can predict the weather, and pretty much any dog can do it. To get his/her prediction, open the door and let the dog in. If the dog is dry, it's not raining. If the dog is wet, it's raining. If the dog is covered in white stuff, odds are it's snowing (unless your dog has paid a visit to the white leghorns in the henhouse). How simple! And, I would wager, a lot more accurate than the Weather Channel.
A weather rock is similar to a weather dog. Anyone can have a weather rock--you don't need to live in the mountains but you must have access to a rock. Place the rock in a position that can be viewed easily from your favorite vantage place and observe. If the rock is dry, it's not raining. If the rock is wet, it's precipitatin'. If you can't see the rock, it's foggy. If the rock disappears under a white blanket, it's snowing. And if you bust your you-know-what going out to check your weather rock, it's probably icy.
Sun dogs or solar parhelia which is their formal name really have nothing to do with the canines we know and love, mountain or otherwise. A sun dog is that odd little rainbow-looking pool of light sometimes seen to the left or right of the sun, and usually when the sun is low in the sky. Sun dogs are caused by light reflecting off ice crystals, but I have seen them in summer too so that seems odd to me. Sun dogs can be very colorful and quite lovely, or might only be a very bright spot. Sometimes (although this is something I've never seen) sun dogs appear on both sides of the sun, giving the appearance of three suns in the sky. Here is an example of a sun dog, from Wikipedia:
You can see other photos here. There are moon dogs as well, occurring in the same way as sun dogs. I do not think I've ever seen one of those.
The ancient Greeks referred to sun dogs in their weather lore; in some cultures the appearance of three suns in the sky caused widespread panic and fear that the world might be coming to an end or some other catastrophe loomed. With no information to know otherwise I can see how such an event could be frightening. You can read the weather lore of the Greek poet Aratus here. He was obviously a man who was a keen observer of the natural world around him. Which probably made him an excellent poet.
And lastly, the Pogonip. I first heard this term several years ago and wrote a post about it because the word fascinated me. I do not think one has ever occurred where I live but I would like to see one sometime because they look absolutely beautiful.You can read what I wrote about the pogonip, and the comments of readers who have experienced this "ice fog" by clicking here. It reminds me in a way of growing crystals with charcoal, ammonia, salt and bluing.
I wonder what other unusual weather terms are used in various places? Is there something people say in your region that the rest of us might not have heard? Do tell!
Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.