Red sky at morning

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Red sky at morning, during sunrise
Red sky at night, with dust and clouds moving away to the west

The common phrase "Red sky at morning" is a line from an ancient rhyme often repeated by mariners during the past centuries: [1]

Red sky at night, shepherd's delight.
Red sky at morning, shepherd take warning;[2][3][4]

There are other variations of the wording (see below: Other versions). The rhyme is a rule of thumb for weather forecasting, dating back over 2,000 years, based on the reddish glow of the morning or evening sky, caused by haze or clouds related to storms in the region.[2][3] Due to the rotation of the Earth, storm systems travel from west to east in the mid-latitudes.[5] A reddish sunrise, caused by particles suspended in the air, often foreshadows an approaching storm, which will be arriving from the West, within the day. Conversely, a reddish sunset often indicates that a storm system is on the west side (same side as the sunset), travelling away from the viewer. A similar movement is noted all around the world, in both the northern and southern hemisphere.

There are occasions where a storm system might rain itself out before reaching the observer (who had seen the morning red sky). However, for ships at sea, the wind and rough seas, from an approaching storm system, could still be a problem, even without rainfall.


A similar adage appears in a poem by William Shakespeare. He said something similar in his Venus and Adonis (1593): [5][6]

“Like a red morn that ever yet betokened,
Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field,
Sorrow to the shepherds, woe unto the birds,
Gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.”

The perils are foreshadowed using the archaic word "betokened"; some versions use the archaic term "Wrack" (for the word "Wreck").

In the Bible at Matthew 16:2-3, Jesus is quoted as saying, "When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering."[5] However, some scholars have questioned the authenticity of this passage, suggesting that it is a late interpolation.[7]

Other versions[edit]

Red sky at morning, at sea

There are other variations of the wording, including the following version using the plural word "sailors":

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning;
Red sky at night, sailors' delight.[1]

Another version uses the word "shepherds":

Red sky at night, shepherds' delight;
Red sky in the morning, shepherds' warning.

A storm system can approach from the west, either on land or at sea.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kentucky Weather, by Jerry D. Hill, 2005, p.139, web: Books-Google-ikC
  2. ^ a b "GuideLines - Buoy & Marker Messages",, 2009, webpage: PN-297
  3. ^ a b "Weathervanes and Weather Wisdom. - Weather Station Channel",, 2009, webpage: UsedWeath-6300
  4. ^ The Complete Sea Kayaker's Handbook, Shelley Johnson, 2001, p.171, weblink: Books-Google-IC
  5. ^ a b c "Everyday Mysteries", Library of Congress, February 12, 2009, webpage: LOC-wsailor
  6. ^ "Folk Lore Weather Forecasting",, 2008, webpage: Cartage-Lore
  7. ^ Fleddermann, Harry T. (2005). Q: A Reconstruction And Commentary. Peeters Publishers. pp. 651–52. ISBN 90-429-1656-7. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Sunrises at Wikimedia Commons