21 Comments

  1. Not just Michigan. In general, the vast majority of “weather” movement in North America is from west to east. This is one reason that the medium-range forecasts on the East Coast are generally more reliable than those for western Europe, or for the Pacific Northwest, because the “source” area is over land, and offers a much better network of temperature, pressure, and windspeed meauring stations than a corresponding area that is over open ocean.
    P.S. That said, the actual joke is a simplistic exchange, similar to the kiddie riddle: “Why do we drive cars on a parkway, but park cars in a driveway?

  2. In Manchester (UK) ,where I was a student, the weather report was basically “If you can see the hills, it’s going to rain. If you can’t see the hills, it’s raining already”.

  3. Must be a standard joke: we say the same thing on the D-Day beaches, replacing the hills with Le Havre (city across the Seine river estuary).

  4. I’ve found that I can pretty reliably predict the weather at our new apartment (top top floor on a hill with 180˚ view east to west) by looking out to the west and seeing what the clouds are like there, because in an hour or two, they’ll be here. Is it going to clear up, or become more cloudy? Just look to the west…

  5. And if you live close to the west side of Lake Michigan (like a few blocks), you also have ‘lake effect weather’, which could mean anything from NO snow to MORE snow than anyone else in the winter, and a ten-degree difference in temperature in the summer.

    Then the weather picks up heat/cold from the Lake and changes again for those on the east side of Lake Michigan.

  6. I’ve noticed in the past couple years the wind comes more often to Chicago from the north and east, as it flows down Lake Michigan, than it used to. Climate change! It’s not just for low-lying islands any more.

  7. I live on the east side of Lake Michigan in West Michigan and lake effect, especially of the snow verity reaches a lot farther than a few blocks. The effect on the temperature is more extreme close to the lake. I go to 5he beach a lot and there are times especially in the spring where I might need a sweatshirt at the beach, but when I get home which is around 9 miles away I can put on shorts. But even farther from the lake the temps are effected some, just look at temps in Wisconsin vs Michigan in the winter.

  8. A few years back I had a friend in the Midwest and we used to joke that whatever weather system she had, we’d have it a couple of days later — but I never considered this to be accurate enough that I’d say “Forecast the weather by calling somebody west of you.”

    New Jersey gets its weather from the North, South, and West. Sometimes three systems do a do-si-do, and the result is rarely pretty.

  9. Well, the predominant weather pattern here is controlled by the trade winds, which typically come out of the northeast. That’s not to say we don’t get storm systems coming up from the southwest, it’s just that 90% of our weather moves east to west. Besides that, there’s no one further west to call, unless you count Guam.

  10. Bill, the coasts have more unusual weather patterns because of the ocean currents. The jet stream can also affect the exact trajectory of pressure systems. But in general, yes, you can predict the weather with a reasonable degree of accuracy by looking at what’s happening to your west.

  11. I’m in the SF Bay Area – west of us (pretty much) is ocean, but I can still tell what the weather will be like tomorrow with about 70% accuracy by looking at the sky to the northwest in the evening. Even when, as now, the winds are from the east and north (and I know that because that’s where the fire whose smoke we’re engulfed in is).

    I’m always struggling with the adage

    Red sky at night, sailor’s delight
    Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

    Is a red sky clear or cloudy? If it’s cloudy to the east, in the morning, it’ll storm? Or if it’s clear to the east, it’ll storm? Or… I confused.

  12. We either get the weather just after or before Bill. Husband swears by the local ABC evening weatherman (followed by the morning “red headed guy”, followed by “the cute girl” on weekends, and does not trust the report from “other woman” also on weekends.

    Our cable company recently decided that no one needs to see the weather on the local weather channel it owns before 6 am or on weekends and runs infomercials instead. And their report is actually important as Long Island is so large that the weather can be totally different depending on where one is on the Island and their weather channel gives more localized weather. (The local cable co was sold in 2017. I thought no one could be worse than the original owner – I was greatly wrong – 6 raises in the past year and service has gotten terrible. We suddenly lose or have Internet that runs like modem dial up in the afternoons.)

    Unfortunately the main channels weather reports cover too large an area. They can be talking about freezing or deep snow – but they mean upstate NYS and they don’t always differentiate between “north and west of the city” and “south and east” of the city.

    Our weather as a basic rule though comes from the west. We were doing a craft show and I felt the wind picking up and looked and saw dark clouds to the west on what should have been a sunny day. I told Robert to start covering our stuff. He thought me crazy, but I am the wife and we have been married long enough for him to generally listen to me, so our most vulnerable stuff was pulled under our tent top before the rain hit.

    However, we were doing a time line reenactment event (we were not running it) and the fellows were just about to go into the restored church for the program they were to do. I felt the wind pick up. Looked west, saw dark clouds and told him that we needed to cover the stuff in the encampment it was about to rain. He told me no, there was no rain coming and went off. The two men who were doing cooking and the women had to get as much as possible under our tent covers which was already filled with stuff. When he came back to the camp he was amazed at how wet we were – this happened on a Veteran’s Day weekend in the past and it was colder than this week has been.

  13. In the early television weather forecasting days (according to one personal account), a weather girl was told to move the weather indicators — clouds, sun, etc — from west to east, then move them back to the west and repeat.

  14. @ jjmcgaffey – The “red sky” adage is based on high clouds over the observer. If the late evening sun is lighting them from below, then it’s clear to the west, and the impending weather at that location is likely to be good. However, if the early morning sun can light them from below, it must be clear to the east (and therefore less clear to the west, although that’s not entirely certain).

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