8/21/2014

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Red sky this morning - should sailors take warning?

Red sky this morning - should sailors take warning?
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The saying is about as old as man has taken to the seas: "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky at morning, sailor's take warning."

Friday morning there was a brilliant red sunrise, as captured on the SkunkBayWeather.com cameras in Hansville.

So, should sailors today take warning? In this case, yes. Well, sort of...

The saying is based on the fact that weather generally moves west to east in the mid-latitudes. If you can see the sunset, that means it's clear to the west and there are no storms in your immediate future and sailors, along with sun fans and those who forgot to put their top up on your convertible, would be delighted.

The red sky at morning is a bit more dubious. That is assuming that if the weather is clear to your east (as in, you can see the sunrise) then based on natural progression of weather, it must mean a storm is due to come in from the west, and sailors should take warning. There is something to be said that if you see those high cirrus clouds that help make a better easel for a pretty sunrise (as in the photo above) -- those clouds are a sign of an approaching front.

And sure enough, that is the case on Friday -- a cold front was approaching the area, as seen on this radar image from Friday morning:



That front will take a while to get here and while it'll bring rain, it's not a particularly potent storm so I'm not sure in this case sailors need to "take warning" as much as "make sure you have your rain gear handy." Expected winds Friday afternoon and night were to remain at 15 knots or less in the inland waters.

So perhaps the modern version should be "Red sky at morning, sailors turn on your weather radio or check your favorite weather app on your phone, provided you are within cell service," -- a slam dunk to catch on, I'm sure. I'll bet the government can even come up with a fancy acronym.

Maybe then you can just sit back and enjoy the sunrise:



One note: The lore works somewhat well in the mid-latitudes in both hemispheres where the jet stream is in charge of steering storms, but does not work that well in the tropics, where trade winds blow storms east to west at times.

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