Can animals predict the weather? Perhaps you’ve heard the many stories, folklore, and legends about animals that can predict the weather. Of course, the most famous animal meteorologist is Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog who predicts when spring will come every February.
Are these stories true? Can certain animals predict the weather? We’re going to separate fact from fiction for you with 12 different animals that are said to have weather-predicting abilities.
Why Can Animals Sense Changes in the Weather?
Why is it that animals can sense changes in the weather that humans can’t? Experts believe animals are acutely perceptive of minute changes in the environment, like barometric pressure, the seasons, and humidity. Animals also have heightened senses, which may account for their supposed weather-predicting abilities and change of behavior before a storm. They can feel, hear, and smell these environmental changes that humans cannot.
12 Animals Said to Predict the Weather
Cats are known for being sensitive, and many people believe this extra sensitivity means they can predict thunderstorms and inclement weather. A cat’s senses are much sharper than humans. Therefore, they can detect falling atmospheric pressure.
With heightened hearing, cats can hear the rumble of thunder that is still far away. Experts also believe they can probably smell the metallic odor in the atmosphere that occurs right before a storm. Cats may also be able to smell the distinct scent of rain itself.
Many people think dogs have weather-predicting abilities, which accounts for stories of canines alerting families of impending danger, like tornadoes or hurricanes. Their behavior may range from barking furiously to whining and trying to hide somewhere safe, like under the bed or in the closet.
Dogs may behave strangely when they can sense environmental and atmospheric changes, like a drop in pressure and the electricity in the air before a storm. They also have a much better sense of smell than humans, so they can smell an incoming thunderstorm before it hits.
Perhaps you’ve heard the old proverb that when cows lie down, it means rain. Another saying is, “When a cow endeavors to scratch its ear, it means a shower is very near.” Researchers wanted to test this theory, and they found that it’s actually true. Cows lose heat by standing up, so they lie down when they sense the air temperature dropping (like it does before a rainstorm). The next time you see a bunch of cows lying down in their pasture, you may want to wear a raincoat.
The behavior of birds is another way that you can predict an oncoming rainstorm or thunderstorm. The folklore stories say that birds flying low to the ground indicate foul weather, but that may not be true.
Instead, if you see sudden migrations, many birds perching on power lines, or seagulls flying in from the coast, it usually means that a rainstorm is coming. That’s because birds can hear infrasound, a very low frequency that humans can’t hear. Their heightened sense of hearing lets them listen to storms rolling in from hundreds of miles away.
Another animal that can supposedly predict the weather is the common toad. In particular, they are said to be able to predict natural disasters. In April 2009, there was a devastating earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy. Five days before the earthquake struck, a colony of toads in a pond near L’Aquila started disappearing in droves, and they later returned a few days after the tremor.
Experts are unsure how the toads sensed the oncoming disaster, but they think it has to do with changes in the Earth’s magnetic field and the amount of radon gas present in the groundwater.
Sheep are another animal that can predict the weather, according to some cultures. For example, people in Iceland think that if the sheep start to urinate more frequently, it’s a sign of rain to come, and bright yellow urine means the day will be sunny and bright. It’s unclear whether this wives’ tale is accurate or not. Another way sheep can supposedly tell the weather is when they start to headbutt each other, which foretells heavy winds.
The groundhog is by far the most famous animal known for predicting the weather. Every year on February 2nd, people head to Pennsylvania to find out if Punxsutawney Phil will predict six more weeks of winter or early spring.
Unfortunately, it seems Phil is only correct about 39% of the time, so the jury’s still out on groundhogs being able to tell the weather. But there’s no denying the fun of seeing Punxsutawney Phil and joining in on the celebrations afterward. That’s reason enough to believe that groundhogs make good meteorologists!
These tiny amphibians are highly sensitive to atmospheric and climate changes, especially global warming. Since frogs need water to live and lay their eggs, they’re more likely to have a successful reproduction after a good rainstorm. As such, you may hear frogs croaking their mating calls more loudly right before a good rain, which provides them with the moisture and space they need to lay eggs.
Ladybugs don’t just bring luck—they can also apparently predict the weather. The saying goes, “When ladybugs swarm, expect a day that’s warm.” The warm temperatures bring these beetles out of hiding, where they fly around in the garden. When the temperature drops right before a heavy shower, the beetles will stay hidden under tree bark.
10. Woolly Bear Caterpillars
According to folklore, woolly bear caterpillars can supposedly tell how bad the upcoming winter will be by looking at the colors on their body. If there is more black than brown, you’re in for a long, cold winter. Caterpillars with a wide brown middle band and small black bands at the end signify a mild winter.
Sorry, this one’s a myth. The physical color of woolly bears has nothing to do with the weather. Instead, things like age, diet, and species account for color variations. Plus, molting seasons also make the colors change to a different pattern.
Sharks are another animal with the ability to sense the weather. Scientists were able to prove this by observing and tracking a small population of sharks. In 2001 when Hurricane Gabrielle was about to hit, blacktip sharks in Florida responded to falling barometric pressure caused by the storm. The group of sharks swam into much deeper water that provided better protection. Apparently, sharks can predict the weather. Who knew?
Ants can sense changes in the atmosphere with their incredibly sensitive antennae, and they can also detect minute chemical signatures in the air. Since there’s a lack of reliable scientific data proving this alleged weather-sensing ability, there’s no way to tell for sure if ants can sense bad weather or not.
However, some ant species that live on flood plains will create levees by surrounding their nests with large earthen walls about 24 hours before a heavy rainstorm to divert water away and prevent their colony from flooding. During floods, fire ants survive by joining together in a ball, which can float on the water’s surface for days or even weeks.
Can Animals Predict the Weather? The Jury’s Still Out
Can animals predict the weather? Despite all the folklore, myth, and legend, some scientific data suggests that certain species of animals can predict the weather, like oncoming rainstorms or even natural disasters. Not every animal or insect on our list is a great meteorologist that used top weather radars, but it sure is fun to believe. Next time your furry friend starts acting funny, don’t forget your umbrella!