8 Old Wives’ Tales About Weather You Can Safely Ignore

Updated: Apr. 13, 2021

From caterpillars to colds to cows, we examine the most popular weather myths to discover the truth once and for all.

Black and white cow lying down on green grass, horizontal view
prochasson frederic/Shutterstock

Holy cow! Rain is on the way because cows are lying down

Don’t worry about breaking out the umbrella because you saw several cows lying down. They’re not doing this to guarantee they have a spot of dry grass or because their system is reacting to atmospheric pressure changes. More likely, they’re simply chewing their cud and sometimes prefer not to stand during that process. According to livescience.com, there isn’t any scientific evidence showing that cows take this position because rain is forthcoming. Check out some amazing facts you never knew about thunderstorms.


Achy joints? Cold weather is on the way

While it is true that colder weather can trigger joint pain, what’s not true is the old wives’ tale that the pain will be long-lasting or that it will lead to a lifetime of joint problems. “All of those tissues have nerve endings in them, so they’re going to feel changes in the weather as tightness in the joint, or stiffness,” James Gladstone, MD, co-director of sports medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told the Weather Channel. However, this change is only temporary; your joints aren’t being destroyed with every bout of cold weather. Here are more ways the weather can affect your health.


It’s so hot, you can fry an egg on the sidewalk

While there may be some heat transfer, frying an egg requires temperatures of at least 158 degrees Fahrenheit. While some areas have soared into the triple digits at times, that extreme temperature—thankfully—hasn’t been recorded on Earth. Livescience.com puts this old wives’ tale to rest, explaining that some kind of solar assist would be required to actually fry an egg on the sidewalk, even during extremely hot temperatures. Furthermore, other factors come into play such as the fact that light-colored sidewalks reflect more energy than they absorb and concrete isn’t a good heat conductor. It may be hot, but it’s not that hot.

Tornados over mediterranean sea in a sunny winter day

Heading to the southwest corner of a basement is the safest location when a tornado strikes

In reality, the southwest corner of a basement isn’t any safer than any other basement location. NWS makes it very clear that this tale is false, noting that tornadoes can move in any direction. Debris can be scattered in all directions, contrary to the common thought that all tornadoes move to the northeast. It is best to go to an interior room in the lowest level of your home, ideally under a heavy piece of furniture that’s away from windows.


You’ll catch a cold if you go outside with wet hair

“Colds are caused by viruses, and actually viruses don’t necessarily propagate any better in the cold than they do in warm weather,” said Russell Vinik, MD of Utah Health Care, during a University of Utah Health Sciences radio interview. You simply can’t get a cold just because you are outdoors in cold weather—wet hair or not. Here are some more old wives’ tales that are totally false—and a few that are true!


Your health will suffer if you exercise outdoors in the cold

Michael Bracko, an exercise physiologist and a fellow with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), told the Weather Channel that it’s not detrimental to your health to exercise outside in the cold weather. So long as you don’t have serious health problems, are generally healthy, and are dressed appropriately, bring on the skiing or whatever cold-weather activity you enjoy!


If you’re struck by lightning, you’re electrified

It’s perfectly safe for someone to give you CPR (or for you to give it to another person) in the event there’s a strike to the body. NWS states that the human body doesn’t store electricity, so no one’s going to get electrocuted. If you should witness someone getting stuck by lighting, call 911, then perform CPR if the storm has passed and it’s safe for you to do so. Find out some more weird facts about lightning strikes.


A fuzzy caterpillar can shed light on winter weather

A woolly worm, fuzzy bear, or a Hedgehog Caterpillar: No matter what you call them, this caterpillar can’t predict whether you’re in for a mild or severe winter. A woolly coat does not indicate that a super cold winter is on the horizon, just as its northward travel direction does not mean you should expect mild winter temperatures. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) explains that several factors such as species, age, feeding, and molting affect this caterpillar’s coat color, texture, and movement—none of it having anything to do with winter weather predictions. Read on to learn some things your TV weather forecaster won’t tell you.