Whether Weathervanes Predict Weather

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Updated on Feb 06, 2012

Grade Level: 6th - 8th; Type: Earth Science


The project looks for a correlation between wind direction and subsequent weather patterns.

The goal is to have the student develop and test a hypothesis about using a weathervane to predict the weather based on observations about wind direction and subsequent weather patterns.

Research Questions:

Does wind direction correlate closely with subsequent weather patterns?

Wind forms when air moves from a region of high air pressure to one where the air pressure is lower. The air is more dense in the high pressure region, so it is drawn into the region of lesser density – or lower pressure. As winds blow into the low pressure area, the air moves up. This can lead to the formation of clouds and precipitation.

Weathervanes indicate the direction the wind is coming from. This information may provide clues about the approaching weather patterns. For example, winds from the south are often warm and carry more moisture than those from the north.

Although there are notable exceptions, most weather patterns in the U.S. move from west to east. This is due to wind patterns across the earth.

There are many weather proverbs linking wind direction and weather patterns. These proverbs are based on observations that have been passed down through generations. For example, one proverbhas it that winds from the west bring fair weather, while those from the east more often bring storms. Another notes that during winter, strong winds from the north may bring snow or hail. Still another holds that winds from the south bring warm and humid conditions.

  • Weathervane

Can be found on the Internet or at a garden store.

  1. Set up a weathervane in a place where it is freely moved by the wind.
  2. Monitor and record the wind direction each day for a month. Also record the weather conditions.

If you live in a part of the country where weather patterns remain stable for many weeks at a time, you may have to extend the monitoring period.

  1. Make a table comparing the wind direction on one day and the weather conditions the day afterwards.
  2. Examine the table for any strong associations between wind direction and weather patterns.
  3. Formulate a hypothesis that will allow you to predict the weather based on wind direction.
  4. Test your hypothesis by monitoring the wind direction and subsequent weather patterns for several weeks. If necessary, revise your hypothesis and use the revision to make new predictions.


Wind direction

Weather on day following

Terms/Concepts: Wind; Air pressure; Weather patterns; Weather proverbs


Dr. Frost has been preparing curriculum materials for middle and high school students since 1995. After completing graduate work in materials science at the University of Virginia, he held a postdoctoral fellowship in chemistry at Stanford. He is the author of The Globalization of Trade, an introduction to the economics of globalization for young readers.

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