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Red Sky at Night

Red Sky at Night

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Red skys in the morning, sailors take warning. Red skys at night, sailors' delight. What is the meteorological basis for this saying?

Barbara P.


We get this one pretty often too. This saying only works in mid-latitudes in an ideal situation. There's actually a biblical reference in this I believe it's in the New Testament there's a link talking about this on the right. This saying only works in ideal weather systems that move from west to east.

In the morning, our sun rises in the eastern sky, illuminating clouds in the west. Since weather moves from west to east (in mid-latitudes), this would mean that clouds in that direction will be moving your way. Cirrus clouds and other mid level clouds appear ahead of cold fronts and areas of low pressure, so if those are red in that western sky in the early morning, they are heading to you.

In the evening, the sun sets in the west. If the sky is red here it's going to illuminate the eastern sky, that weather is moving away from you, so more quiet weather is moving.

Again, if your weather is moving south to north with an approaching storm which isn't uncommon, then this saying doesn't work.

Answered by KSL Meteorologist Dina Freedman.

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