Spring weather proverbs – is it really April Fool’s Day? Let’s check out


For centuries, weather proverbs have served as a compass, indicating what to expect from the aura. They carry with them collective wisdom and practical knowledge, firmly rooted in a particular place. These folk maxims, which are a multi-generational legacy, especially during the spring season provided farmers and gardeners with invaluable guidance as to when to begin sowing and planting, when to expect the last frosts, and when the coming rains might harm the crop. Nowadays, when technology and scientific weather forecasts seem to be the primary source of knowledge in this area, the question arises: can these ancient messages still compete with the precision of modern meteorological data? In light of recent research, how does the reliability of traditional predictions compare?

Checking this is not an easy task. Proverbs often refer to imprecise dates or weather phenomena that are difficult to quantify. Many of the nearly 2,000. Polish weather proverbs (Dygacz A., 2000; Świrko S., 1990) contain non-meteorological terms such as: rejoice peasants czychlebin the country, to which it is impossible to match climatological characteristics. Nevertheless, researchers and enthusiasts have repeatedly attempted to determine the verifiability of proverbs in a specific location (Biniak-Pieróg M., 2011 and https://zsmedlanc.pl/) or even across the country (Matczak et al., 2020).

Easter period

The Easter period is particularly rich in proverbs predicting weather and prosperity for the days ahead. Even before Christmas, according to the proverb When the stork arrives on St. Joseph (March 19), the snow will be gone, the first storks were on the lookout. In general, the norm for these birds is to arrive in the second half of March or even early April. However, warmer winters have caused them to arrive earlier in recent years – they have been seen as early as March 6-7, and the first individuals even in February. More than once afterwards, birds could be seen standing in the snow-covered meadows. Although these were episodic cases, however, they suggest that the adage does not hold true.

From proverbs, too, we learn that when the Christmas tree sinks in the water, the egg rolls on the ice. Although a snowy Christmas is a rarity lately, we tend to associate Easter with warm weather. In the not-too-distant past, the “winter” Resurrection Festival took place in 2013 and 2020. Christmas of 2012 was cold and snowy in the north of Poland and foggy with temperatures around 0 C in the south – so Christmas trees were unlikely to be standing in water.

On the other hand, the end of December 2019. brought weather with weak rain and with temperatures above 0 C, which could suggest Easter frost and ice. It is difficult to find a correlation between a wet Christmas and a frosty Easter, so we can either assume that the proverb holds true or that chance plays a big role here.

From proverbs, we learn that Good Friday is the sowing of the beginning. And it is on this day that special attention should be paid to rainfall. When it rains, there is a proverb for both optimists , because when the rain drops, rejoice pe asants, and when the rain pours generously down the valleys, that much milk will be, there are some hopes, and pessimists, because if it rains at Easter, dryness rules throughout the summer. It’s hard to assess the verifiability of the first two folk truths. One would have to juxtapose fertility and milk production data with Good Friday rainfall. In the third case, looking at data over the past 30 years, dryness in summer is increasingly the bane of farmers. However, it is due more to climate change than to the fact that it rained on Good Friday.

On Easter Sunday, proverbs accurately predict summer weather and crops. We learn, for example, that when the weather is on this day , great beauty in the field, and when it rains on the Easter bells, dryness rules us all summer. Rain on Easter Sunday heralded a period of plague and bad weather until Pentecost (this year on May 19) if itrained on Easter Sunday, between Easter and Pentecost there would bemore fury than weather.

Spring predictions

After Easter comes the weather predictions for the days commemorating the saints. As researchers have shown (Matczak et al. 2020), the St. Mark (April 25) will not perform well as a synoptician. So when Mark’s sizzle threatens, Bonifracy (May 14) [raczej nie] freezes. Also, as for Mark the man does not chuckle, in the Gardeners trza sheep skin has little predictive value at the moment. Interestingly, the low verifiability of these proverbs is rather due to the fact that on St. The brand is unlikely to be sizzling yet, and more often than not we are still chuckling about how warm the cold gardeners are.

Another researched proverb refers to rainfall. Folk wisdom states that when it’s a plague in May, it’s a drought in June. As the researchers showed (Biniak-Pieróg, 2011), the proverb came true by almost 70 percent during the period they studied. years, which should be considered an impressive result. Its predictive power can be attributed to its long forecasting period of up to a month – June is already the start of nice weather and sometimes even droughts.

Last spring frosts

Cold gardeners are known to everyone. The recurring cold weather is a documented phenomenon every year, during the period of remembrance of Saints Pancratius (May 12), Servatius (May 13), Boniface (May 14) and Sophia (May 15). They are associated with an anomaly characteristic of central Europe due to a change in the direction of the inflow of air masses. The first half of May is generally dominated over Poland by a sunny and warm high, followed by a change in atmospheric circulation. Along with the low-lying system, cold air from the polar regions enters our country, bringing nighttime frosts and even fleeting snowfall. Similar terms for cold days in May are also found in other European countries: the German Eisheiligen (May 11-15) or the Slovenian Trije ledeni možje and Poscana Zofka (May 11-15).

Numerous proverbs have been created based on years of experience. Of these, over the last century, it has proven true that when Pancracy, Servatius and Boniface … with the frost they stand, the summer cold they give. It is also known that before Pankracy there is no summer, after Boniface the frost eases. So it’s worth holding off on planting flowers and vegetables in the garden or covering plants in the ground with an agro-fiber cloth. It is only with Saint Sophia that the fields break into ear and the frost-free period begins.

Do proverbs really fail that much?

It is worth considering why the verifiability of proverbs is rather low. After all, this is the wisdom of the people, passed down from generation to generation. In the old days, people observed nature with more care, and if any of the observations were untrue, the message about them would fade. So several factors may have influenced this. The first that comes to mind is climate change. Proverbs were created decades or even hundreds of years ago. As a result of warming and intensification of weather events, their verifiability will decline over the years.

Another issue is the geographic area in which the proverb originated. Prior to World War II, Poles inhabited areas further east – the current areas of Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. Proverbs were formed there, which lost their verifiability after resettlement after the war. The main reason was that the climate was more transitional than continental in its new location. We are currently studying the verifiability of proverbs on data going back at most to the post-war period, so we cannot determine whether its reliability was higher at the time the proverb was written. This thesis is supported by the fact that higher verifiability of proverbs was obtained by analyzing data from stations located in the east: in Minsk, Vilnius or Suwalki (Matczak et al. 2020).

Finally, it is worth looking at the length of time the proverbs predict a phenomenon for. This is generally not a few days, as with the latest weather models, but a period of a month to even a year. Forecasts based on long-term meteorological models can therefore have similarly low accuracy. For example, the European Center for Medium-Term Forecasting’s model, which is one of the most frequently cited seasonal forecast models, was judged to be marginally applicable in most cases in Central Europe. No matter what, one proverb has 100 percent verifiability, because on Saint Jerome, either the dishtowel is or it is not there, and when Saint Ada comes, either it rains or it does not rain.

In the article, I used, among others. From the works:

  1. Biniak-Pieróg M. et al. (2011), Evaluation of the verifiability of weather forecasts contained in folk proverbs on the example of Wroclaw, University of Life Sciences in Wroclaw
  2. Dygacz A. (2000) The Four Seasons in Proverbs, Professor Adolf Dygacz Foundation
  3. Matczak P. et al.(2020) Temperature Forecast Accuracies of Polish Proverbs, Weather, Climate, and Society, https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/wcas/12/3/wcasD190086.xml
  4. Swirko S. (1990), The Year Pays, the Year Loses: A Calendar of Agricultural Proverbs and Prognostics. Poznan Publishing House
  5. http://www.aktywnawies.pl/ludowe-prognozy-pogody,n47,l1.html (Accessed 24.03.2024)
  6. https://edunews.pl/edukacja-na-co-dzien/edukacja-przez-zycie/6540-czy-przyslowia-pogodowe-nadal-sie-sprawdzaja (Accessed 24.03.2024)
  7. https://obserwatoriumjezykowe.uw.edu.pl/felietony/jakie-czasy-takie-przyslowia/ (Accessed 25.03.2024)
  8. https://uniwersyteckie.pl/nauka/czy-przyslowia-pogodowe-sie-sprawdzaja (Accessed 24.03.2024)
  9. https://zsmedlanc.pl/meteo/niebo/przyslowia/przyslowia.html (Accessed 25.03.2024)

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