Weather Watching 101
Spending time exploring the parks, pathways, and forests
of Michigan can be a year-round activity. Preparing for a
wildlife watching experience is more than just picking one of the sites
described in the Michigan Wildlife Viewing Guide. The normal routine generally begins by
mapping out a trip. Then, depending on the season, the car is packed
with photographic gear, various resource guides, snacks, water, rain or
snow outerwear, and a spirit of adventure. Finally, it's off to the "wilds
of Michigan." But did you forget the most important preparation item?
Did you check the weather forecast?
Keeping an eye on the weather can prevent
unexpected disappointments. Most of our weather, or air masses, move
in from the west. Several weather signs to place in your memory
bank include cloud types, their shapes, direction of movement, sky
color, wind direction, barometric pressure, saturated air such as fog, mist,
dew or frost, sun dogs, and moon rings.
High clouds are the cirrus, cirrocumulus, and
cirrostratus; these are found at 20,000 to 40,000 feet; middle clouds are the alto-stratus and cumulus floating at 8,500 feet; the low
clouds developing from the ground up to 8,500 feet are the cumulus's.
They resemble heavy lumping masses, mixed with other cloud
formations. Their colors can be snowy white, gray tones, or black.
Bright, blue skies with cottony-looking cumulus clouds
are indications of a fair weather system. Should these cumulus clouds
begin to build high into the sky, watch out for changing weather.
Rising barometers indicate high pressure moving in, bringing fair weather,
and dropping barometers indicate low pressure systems which
often trigger storms.
Nature can also provide clues. When birds are flying low to
the ground to catch insects, this could be an indication of approaching rain.
Sudden changes in wind direction can indicate weather fronts
are moving through.
Even some well-used weather rhymes are fun to remember
and may have some validity:
When the dew is on the grass,
Rain will never come to pass.
When grass is dry at morning light,
Look for rain before the night.
The National Weather Service is a good source of information
on upcoming weather. Most cable companies provide access to
a weather station, and local forecasts can easily be found on the internet.
When you plan your next viewing trip, remember to keep an eye to
the sky and your local weather news.