Four Easy Ways to Predict a Storm at Sea

Learn how sailors anticipate inclement weather.

“And how far are we from port?” asked Peter, gloomily; “haven’t we run into the

Middle Channel? And how’s the wind blowing? Maybe I could catch a sight of

land from the mast-head. Did you see the sea last night, Fleck, all ablaze? And the

sky’s no longer blue, but white; and what do yonder tall clouds mean? The sea’s going

to pay up its old debts. There are no birds about, and this morning at daybreak I saw a flock of them flying southward fast, as if they were scared. They’re in port by now, I guess; but I doubt whether all of us will set foot on shore again . . .”

The Crew of the Dolphin pages 61-62

In the above quote Peter is predicting the weather based on the strength of the wind, the color of the sea, the color of the sky, the shape of the clouds and the behavior of the birds. These are all accurate predictors of weather, and even though we now have computer modeling and satellites to help track the weather, modern sailors are still encouraged to recognize the signs evident in nature of an approaching storm. Here are some of those signs:

  1. A barometer is an instrument used to measure air pressure. A drop in pressure indicates that stormy weather is approaching.

  2. As Peter mentioned, when seabirds such as gulls, sea ducks, frigate birds, cormorants, tropic birds, and puffins head for shore, they are telling sailors that they know bad weather is imminent and they’re headed for safety.

  3. A bright halo around the sun or the moon indicates humidity is in the air and a storm is on its way. The brighter the halo is, the stronger the storm will be. There’s even a little rhyme about predicting weather with halos: “Ring around the moon, rain before noon. Ring around the sun, rain before day is done.”

  4. High, wispy clouds called cirrus clouds can show the weather is changing when they are moving quickly across the sky. And as Peter noted, a tall cloud, called a cumulonimbus cloud, indicates a storm is imminent.

In The Crew of the Dolphin, Peter also looked at the white sky to determine the weather. A rhyme which tells how to predict a storm based on the color of the sky goes like this: “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” Jesus also spoke about predicting storms by observing the sky in Matthew 16:2-3.

He answered and said unto them, “When it is evening, ye say, ‘It will be fair weather for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today for the sky is red and lowering.’ O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”

Just as we can use our intellects to observe the signs of changing weather, Jesus wants us to use our minds to analyze the signs which reveal what God has done throughout history and is doing in our current culture.

For more information about predicting weather using signs in nature visit:

The Crew of the Dolphin

The Crew of the Dolphin

Hesba Stretton, 1876

Price: $20

The crew of the Dolphin faces great peril, being swept away in crashing waves and crushing winds. But this is not the fiercest storm they face. The insurmountable surges of greed and deceit are far worse, bringing exposure, disgrace, and ruin. Yet we need not drift or be lost at sea, for God holds the sea in His great strong hand!


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