SPECIAL REPORT: Weather myths debunked

Source: WAVE
Source: WAVE

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – "Red skies at night, sailor's delight." "Ring around moon, rain will come soon."

Chances are you've heard these sayings before and you may have even used one of them yourself. But how much meteorological merit do these weather folklores hold?

Weather myths have existed for centuries, but advancements in science and technology allow us to forecast the weather more accurately than ever. On top of that, greater knowledge gives us the ability to debunk these common weather sayings.

Although I can't bust every weather myth out there, I decided to focus on three big ones I've commonly heard.

But first, I had to test the waters. I took to the streets of Uptown Columbus to see if YOU could decide what was a weather fact, and what was a myth.

This isn't to say all weather sayings are complete myths, as some do have scientific reasoning behind them. But the common sayings that may put your life in danger are the ones that give us concern.


Ahead of a tornado, I should open all of the windows in my house to equalize pressure.

--- MYTH: We now know it is not the change in pressure that causes damage to homes, but the strong winds and debris associated with a tornado. It is more important that you stay away from windows in times of severe weather.

Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

--- MYTH: Tall, isolated objects with strong enough electric fields can be struck by lightning even twice within the same storm. The Empire State building gets struck around 100 times a year and a park ranger named Roy Sullivan was struck 7 times in his lifetime.

Heat Lightning.

--- MYTH: Heat lightning is simply the term associated with lightning from a storm that is so far away, we can't hear the thunder. Light travels faster than sound and the sound of thunder can be muffled by distance and the curvature of the Earth. There is no magical association between heat and lightning, so please stop using the term. :)

If you're in a car during a thunderstorm, you can't get struck by lightning because the rubber from the tires acts as a grounder.

--- MYTH: A car is a safe place during a thunderstorm, but not because of the tires. The electricity from the lightning strike actually flows around the car and into the ground below. The car acts as a Faraday cage, which is a hollow conductor that keeps a charge on the external surface.

Is there any truth here in the southern states that if we have a super hot summer that it means we're going to have a really cold winter? Or vice versa?

---MYTH: There is no statistical significance between abnormally hot summers and very cold winters. This myth was based on a high pressure pattern. High pressure in the summer calls for a long, hot season. If the high pressure continues into autumn and winter, less cloud coverage will form, causing temperatures to dip overnight. However, it is just as likely for the high pressure to dissipate as to persist. It comes and goes on a seasonal basis. Sea surface temperatures are the main drivers of seasonal climates.

Changes in weather triggers arthritic pain.

--- FACT: Changes in barometric pressure can cause joint pain and headaches in some people. Big swings in weather -- both precipitation and temperature - are most commonly associated with changes in sea level pressure (high pressure, low pressure systems), hence the association. So if you feel as though your knee pain means a storm is on the way, you may be correct!

Tornadoes cause the most weather-related fatalities every year.

--- MYTH: According to the National Weather Service, on a thirty-year average, heat has caused the most weather-related fatalities. This is followed by flooding, then finally, tornadoes.

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