Added: (Thu Jul 12 2001)

Pressbox (Press Release) - 12 July 2001

News release is available online at http://www.prowse.co.uk/newsf.html

With St Swithin’s day this Sunday (15 July), the Met Office is keen to dispel the myth surrounding the old wives’ tale that if it rains on St Swithin’s Day, it will rain for the next 40 days.

According to the Met Office, this old wives’ tale is nothing other than a myth. This has been ‘tested’ on 55 occasions*, when it has been wet on St Swithin’s Day. However, 40 days of rain did not follow!

While this old wives’ tale may not help predict the weather, there is evidence that some other tales do have sound meteorological substance:

‘Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning’ has a valid scientific explanation to support it. The sky appears red due to dust particles or dry air. As English weather systems move mostly from west to east, a red sunrise indicates dry weather moving away to the east, so rain should be expected soon. Conversely, a red sunset hints of dry weather to come from the west.

‘If there is damp fog or mist accompanied by wind, expect rain’ is also sound, as when wind and dampening fog occur, the likely cause is the approach of a front or a moist airstream – the classic forerunners of rain.

‘When the wind is in the east, it is neither good for man or beast. When the rain is from the east, it is for four-and-twenty hours at least’ is also an accurate observation. This is as the coldest and most biting weather does arise in an east wind and observations indicate that the rain does usually last for at least the next 24 hours.

What the Met Office can predict is that much of the British Isles will have a rather cloudy day with brief bright or sunny intervals between showers. Some of the showers could be heavy.


Issued on behalf of the Met Office by Prowse & Co. Ltd

For enquiries contact:
The Met Office Press Office: 01344 856655
Prowse & Co Ltd: Sara Lipscombe/ Jane Lackenby, 01372 363386 or e-mail jane@prowse.co.uk or sara@prowse.co.uk

Editors’ Notes

St Swithin’s Day is the most famous of the saints’ days for weather lore. Swithin, an Anglo Saxon bishop of Winchester, originated the weather legend by wishing to be buried in a churchyard where rain from the church eaves might fall upon his grave. When he was removed to Winchester Cathedral on 15 July 971, it poured for 40 days … or so legend has it.

* source: the book entitled ‘Red Sky At Night’

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