Colloquial Weather Terms
April 7, 2016 2:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of colloquial weather terms like the "dog days" of summer, Indian summer, or blackberry winter. These are just examples, the terms don't have to be about weather like those. I'm just interested in learning more local/regional expressions like these, especially non-English ones if people know them. Thanks!
posted by Sangermaine to Society & Culture (50 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
In Chicago, as it is currently 39F and snowing, it is very much lousy Smarch weather.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 3:02 PM on April 7, 2016

I'm in farming country on the Canadian prairies, and there's something called a crow snow. It's that first little snowfall we get in early spring, after the winter snow starts melting, and it seems like the crows always migrate back to the area right after that snow.
posted by bluebelle at 3:04 PM on April 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Ukrainian version of "Indian summer" is "бабине літо" or Baba's summer. Literally Grandmother's summer, or Old woman's summer. Same idea in Russian ("бабье лето"), and probably a few other Eastern European languages.
posted by Kabanos at 3:04 PM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

This post on what it's called when it rains while the sun is shining in different languages might interest you.
posted by karbonokapi at 3:06 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

My dad's from Georgia and whenever it rains while the sun is still shining he says that the Devil's beating his wife.
posted by mollywas at 3:07 PM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

My coworker is of Japanese descent and she calls sunshowers "the foxes' wedding".
posted by darchildre at 3:09 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've usually heard "dogwood winter" rather than "blackberry winter". (And where I am, we're about to have one this weekend.)
posted by dilettante at 3:12 PM on April 7, 2016

Lauren Bacall's character in the movie The Shootist used the term "false spring."
posted by davcoo at 3:19 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are a bunch for the moon.
posted by BoscosMom at 3:19 PM on April 7, 2016

Actually, I bet the farmers almanac is a great resource for this question in general (linked to above).
posted by BoscosMom at 3:22 PM on April 7, 2016

Mud season.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:33 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Harvest moon. Also other "moon" stuff.
Frost is on the pumpkin.
Sunshine shower, won't last half an hour.
March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.
Dog days of summer. Or August.
April showers bring May flowers.
white Christmas
Pea soup fog
Sea breeze/land breeze

My parents referred to a State Of Maine Day, meaning the best of summer weather.
posted by SemiSalt at 3:35 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

We get silver thaws a lot at this time of year in Newfoundland, in other words, spring ice storms.
posted by peppermind at 3:36 PM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

These are just a few local wind terms, many from the wonderful book Heaven's Breath, which has a lot more:

karaburan (Gobi black wind)
harmattan (in the Sahara)
feh (Shanghai gentle breeze)
nasim (Saudi Arabia)
cat's paw breeze
oroshi (Japan)
aspre and mistral (France)
helm wind in England
chinook (North America)
fohn and various local variations, like halny in Poland
bora system, which has a bunch of local names
Santa Ana (hot winds in California)
(rain bearing winds in the Swiss Alps)
kubang (Java)
gending (Java)
bohorok (Sumatra)
zonda (Andes)
berg or bergwind (South Africa)
Sirocco wind, which has these local names: levante (Spain), leveche (Morocco), chergui (Algeria), chili (Tunisia), ghibli (Libya), khamsin (Egypt), sharav (Israel), sharkiye (Jordan), shamal (Iraq)
piteraq (Greenland)
squamish (British Columbia)

In my neck of the woods, the daily katabatic and anabatic winds (winds flowing downhill and uphill in the mountains) are known as the evening and morning breezes.


--Many languages have different names for what we call dust devils.
--A red flag day or red flag warning has become shorthand for ideal fire weather or fire blowup, meaning that humidity is extremely low, conditions are extremely arid, and high winds are expected.
--Blue Northers, also called blue darters and blue blizzards, are fast moving cold snaps moving across the Texas panhandle and Oklahoma.
--This wonderful piece out of the New York Times entitled Pluviovocabulary put together a huge list of rain terms.
--Vog is a term for volcanic derived smog in Hawaii.
--To go with mud season, shoulder season is also used.
--Indian summer has other terms other places: veranico in South America, and grandma's or old women's summer (altweibersommer)in parts of Europe.
--Other weather terms I can think of:
Pneumonia fronts.
Lluvia de Peces (rain of fish)
Lake Effect Snow (Great Lakes)
Catatumbo lightning

Technically, El Nino, La Nina, and monsoon are colloquial words that have been adopted elsewhere.
posted by barchan at 3:49 PM on April 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

In maple sugaring regions, there's a short season with specific conditions when the maple sap runs that can come anywhere from late January through March (and is changing with climate change).

"Sugaring weather" is when it's below freezing at night, and above during the day, to 40 or so.
posted by Miko at 4:00 PM on April 7, 2016

"the devil is beating his wife" is a traditional, if sort of baffling, term for a sunshower
posted by Sebmojo at 4:11 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

In Minnesota we have "Winter" and "Road Construction Season".
posted by Elly Vortex at 4:12 PM on April 7, 2016

My Japanese father told me clear blue skies without a single cloud are called national sky days.

Similarly, there are bluebird days in skiing, with the fresh snow.

And then the fabled earthquake weather.
posted by umwhat at 4:15 PM on April 7, 2016

Earthquake weather is a myth, but everyone in California knows what you're talking about when you feel it: hot and still.
posted by cecic at 4:16 PM on April 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

Here in CA, we call hot, still weather (often in autumn), earthquake weather.

The Santa Ana winds are also supposedly earthquake portents.

In the Bay Area, we also get Junuary, which is the foggy cold days we get in summer.
posted by vunder at 4:17 PM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

In Australia we have '... dog nights'. When sleeping in a hollow or on the ground, a one dog night is a chilly night, a two dog night is a cold night, but a real cold night is a three dog night'.
posted by Thella at 4:23 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

As it turns out, the Pineapple Express is an actual meteorological phenomenon.
posted by mhum at 4:44 PM on April 7, 2016

In coastal southern California, we refer to the overcast days in June as June Gloom. I have also heard May Gray for the same type of days that occur earlier in the year.
posted by wsquared at 5:00 PM on April 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

We Southerners sometimes have French Toast Emergencies. That's a weather event (snow, ice) that's predicted to be bad enough that everyone rushes to the store and buys milk, bread and eggs.
posted by workerant at 5:17 PM on April 7, 2016

In Ithaca, NY, those days when you can't quite tell if it's snowing or raining or sleeting or what are days when it's "Ithacating."
posted by dizziest at 5:18 PM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Where I live we have "Junuary," "June gloom," and "Augtober." June gloom seems to be pretty common up and down the west coast.
posted by Pearl928 at 6:45 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, we live in the "rain shadow," where we have temperate rain forests.
posted by Pearl928 at 6:46 PM on April 7, 2016

Another colloquial Australian term is "a Southerly Buster". It's when it's been a blisteringly hot day and you're drained and tired and everything is sticky and sweaty, and then the cool change comes up from the south with strong winds that come out of no-where and the temperature drops with a bang. Practically a religious experience.
posted by ninazer0 at 7:09 PM on April 7, 2016

I remember my grandma talking about "spirea winter" when I was little. I assume that is the same sort of thing as blackberry winter and dogwood winter.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 7:38 PM on April 7, 2016

We have a season in Vermont called Mud Season where the ground is deep down frozen so the melting snow on top isn't able to soak in and gives the roads a sort of quicksand consistency for the top six to 12 inches or so. i thought it used to mean "It's muddy out" but it's really not the same and has to do with the freeze/thaw cycle.

I learned the midwestern term gullywasher for really sudden torrential downpours.
posted by jessamyn at 8:03 PM on April 7, 2016

When I was a kid, I spent a week in a Tule Fog west of Bakersfield, it made me very homesick. In the Ozarks, a straight down, heavy rain is a Toadstrangler. A hot, humid, very still summer day is tornado weather, there may be a change in barometric pressure or ozone, or something subtle that feels more ominous than just miserable.
posted by ridgerunner at 8:47 PM on April 7, 2016

My favorite colloquial weather is celebrating sweater weather - I personally celebrate its arrival as the first day I can wear a proper sweater all day without sweating (that for me is the first day the high temp doesn't go above 40F)
posted by paradeofblimps at 9:10 PM on April 7, 2016

I'm from the US West, but my family is from Appalachia, and until I was well into my 20s, the only expression I knew for "it's raining, but the sun is also shining" is "the devil is beating his wife." It turns out [] that this is super regional, so now I describe myself as a Heritage Speaker of US Southern, sort of.
posted by pleasant_confusion at 9:39 PM on April 7, 2016

I grew up in Wisconsin and every spring we had a "sugar snow" - one last wet snowfall that came down heavy but melted the next day. It was supposed to be good for the maple sap collecting, probably related to "sugaring weather" (above) but I don't remember hearing that term.

Also thundersnow, for thunder during a snowstorm.
posted by colbeagle at 10:23 PM on April 7, 2016

Oregon sunshine or liquid sunshine... it's raining. Especially on a moderate or warm day, often in the spring.
posted by stormyteal at 11:11 PM on April 7, 2016

In the Canary Islands, a calima is a dust storm that blows over from the Sahara Desert. The sand and dust is too fine to settle, so it hovers in the air for a couple of days like smog and completely destroys visibility and air quality. It usually lasts for 3 or 4 days.
posted by colfax at 1:05 AM on April 8, 2016

I've heard very cold weather referred to as 'brass monkey' weather.
posted by h00py at 4:47 AM on April 8, 2016

My coworker is of Japanese descent and she calls sunshowers "the foxes' wedding".

Cool, there is an identical Bengali expression to denote this kind of weather, with an accompanying children's song.

I've heard very cold weather referred to as 'brass monkey' weather.

Because it's cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey! :)
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:21 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't know how many times I heard "Those look like snow clouds" when I was growing up in Charlotte, NC. No one could ever define that that meant--"cloudy when it's cold outside," I guess.
posted by pupsocket at 9:51 AM on April 8, 2016

To explain the phases of the moon to my inquiring 5-year-old mind, my grandmother used to say, "The moon is the north wind's cookie." Other interesting moon terms: snow moon, wolf moon, red moon, blue moon, harvest moon, etc etc.

Here in coastal Northern California, we refer to extremely high tides caused by new or full moons plus storms as "King tides." We also use (well, weather forecasters use) "June Gloom, earthquake weather and tule fog," meaning fog inland instead of at the coast.
posted by Lynsey at 10:53 AM on April 8, 2016

There's the smoke of the smokey mountains. Also the smokey sou'wester of Buzzards Bay (Massachusetts).
posted by SemiSalt at 1:40 PM on April 8, 2016

That reminds me about sea smoke.
posted by Miko at 8:25 PM on April 8, 2016

Glaswegian slang for very cold is "pure baltic" - I assume named for the Baltic Sea.

The Australian Southerly Buster is called the Fremantle Doctor on the west coast
posted by girlgenius at 11:23 PM on April 11, 2016

Oh, and in rural Australia some people refer to "fire weather" or "a fire day" - usually a blazing hot day with a strong hot dry north-westerly wind - ie the perfect conditions for a bushfire to start and blaze out of control.
posted by girlgenius at 11:25 PM on April 11, 2016

In the northwest of Ireland, that sort of heavy grey drizzle that on the face of it is not particularly bad but is actually capable of quietly saturating your outer layer without you noticing is known as 'wet rain'.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:44 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Late to the party here but I can't pass up a chance to say that my favourite idiomatic Welsh language phrase is that the English "it's raining cats and dogs" translates as "it's raining old ladies and walking sticks".

When I last tried to prove this to a friend, my google search returned this list, which gives some almost-haiku alternatives for the same phrase in other languages. My favourite is the Norwegian "it's raining female trolls" although the Slovak "tractors are falling" is a winner in the deadpan stakes.
posted by unless I'm very much mistaken at 1:17 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

When there has been freezing rain and everything is covered with a layer of ice which is horrible for the trees because it breaks their branches we say we are having an amil. I have long supposed that the word amil might be derived from the word enamal, because it is rather as if everything has been coated in a layer of ceramic.

Cat ice is that very thin layer of ice that forms over still water such as a puddle. Sometimes the layer of ice is still there although the water has drained away. It makes wonderful scrunching sounds if you walk on it. It's called cat ice because it will support a cat but not anything heavier.

When there is a heavy fog so that visibility is down to a block or so, especially if it is starting to get windy and the fog is breaking up we used to say it was the kind of weather where you would see Dewar the huntsman. This was a version of the legendary Wild Hunt.

Sugaring snow was the snow fall that fell after sugaring off had begun. It meant that the there would be fresh snow to pour the hot thick syrup onto, which was convenient because otherwise you had to go find some clean snow that wasn't pock marked with pine needles.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:49 PM on April 26, 2016

Dreich (pronounced /drix/, more or less) means overcast weather with low grey clouds, but without rain (or, more typically, without rain yet).

Very light drizzle is called a smirr of rain.

When there's fog on the sea but not on land it's called a haar.

All of these are from Scotland.
posted by Dim Siawns at 4:25 AM on April 28, 2016

@Dim Siawns

'Smirr' and 'dreich' are heard in Northern Ireland too, hardly surprising given the Scots connection up there. Except the latter is pronounced 'dreek'.

I think 'smirr' and 'dreich' are Gaelic and 'haar' is Norse.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:53 AM on April 29, 2016

Most years in April I take a motorcycle trip from Michigan to Tennessee. When the weather is good it's the best imaginable, so I keep doing it in spite of how many times I have been caught in a "Kentucky frog strangler" on my way home. At least twice, the rain has been heavy enough to close roads and bridges, leaving me hunting for a motel room and getting home a day late.
posted by elizilla at 10:36 AM on April 29, 2016

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