Current Moon Phase:

Waxing Crescent

Waxing Crescent

4% Of Full

How Do Weather Sticks Work?

How can a simple stick made of balsam fir be an accurate weather predictor? Do they really work? Learn the science behind nature and see for yourself!

The weather stick has always been popular in the New England States, and it’s growing in popularity elsewhere, too. People have used them for centuries to predict the weather. In fact, it’s said that the Abenaki Indians that lived along the northeastern coast of the United States and Canada were the first to use them.

So what exactly is a weather stick? More importantly, how do they work and how accurate are they?

The World’s Simplest Weather Prediction Device

Weather sticks are made from the dried twigs of balsam fir trees and they’re usually between 15 and 16 inches long. Looking at them, you’ll see they’re incredibly simple – just a stick with the bark removed and a little piece of the tree’s trunk remaining so that you can easily nail it to a wall, fencepost, or a pillar on your porch.

The weather prediction is all in the way weather stick moves. The stick curls upwards sharply when good weather is headed your way and downwards when the weather is about to take a turn for the worse.

They’re very accurate, and they last a long time. Hang one outside your kitchen window or on your porch and it’ll keep forecasting the weather for years to come.

But How Does It Work?

They might seem like a bit of woodsy folklore that doesn’t stand up to modern meteorological methods, but there is actually quite a lot of science behind them. These sticks bend based on the relative humidity.

Higher humidity – which is often a signifier of bad weather – makes them curl downward. When they dry out, they straighten out or curve upwards.

The interesting thing is that there aren’t many kinds of wood that can be used this way – you can’t simply cut a twig from any old tree and expect it to predict the weather. Most trees have what is known as reaction wood.

In other words, if a tree is always exposed to winds coming out of the west, that tree will develop stronger wood fibers on its eastern side to help brace it against high winds.

Balsam fir, however, develops its reaction wood a bit differently. Live balsam fir trees develop reaction wood on the undersides of their branches so that in dry weather, the reaction wood fibers shrink to conserve water, thus bending them towards the ground. Then, when rains come along and the fir trees start drawing more water, those same fibers expand and the tree’s branches unfurl.

Dried balsam fir sticks retain these properties, but since they’re no longer attached to a root system, they rely on the amount of humidity in the air to curl and uncurl.

In fact, that’s one reason why weather sticks have the bark removed. The wood can soak up more water and dry out more quickly, which makes them bend a lot more than if they were protected by a layer of bark.

Weather stick photo, taken on Tuesday afternoon, a sunny and dry day. Weather stick is pointing up.
Weather stick photo, taken on Tuesday afternoon, a sunny and dry day. Weather stick is pointing up.
stick2
Weather stick, taken on Wednesday morning, which was rainy and humid, less than 24 hours after the first photo was taken.

Using A Weather Stick

The best weather sticks make weather prediction easy. They’ll have a very obvious curve upwards or downwards depending on the humidity. To install one, make sure that the stick is oriented upside-down from the way that it would have grown on the tree.

Traditionally, weather sticks point up for good weather and down for bad weather. If you install your weather stick right side up (the way it would have grown naturally), it will still work, but it will point upwards as wet weather approaches instead of downwards.

Who would have thought that you could predict the weather with something as simple as a stick? If you’re looking for a simple, no-batteries-required way to forecast the weather at home, weather sticks are the best way to do it!

Time Lapse of a Weather Stick in Action

Find a weather stick here…

Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental and green living topics. Her article on woolly worm caterpillar folklore appears in the 2020 Farmers' Almanac.

Keep Exploring

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
49 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Carina

They do work and I was devastated when mine broke renently. I’ve had it for over 12 yrs!!!

Shannon

I live in East Tx where the humidity is high through the summer rain or no rain. I’m wondering if the weather stick would be accurate for areas of higher humidity?

jimbobber

A stick that predicts the weather? My immediate thought was, “Well, a cigar, of course” because humidity, high or low, has a huge impact on them, and they are often referred to as “sticks”.

Jenn

Does anyone know if it will still work if you stain it?

Bill cubbage

I really enjoy our weather stick,I’m always looking at it,I would not be with out one

Linda Kay Winkler

I purchased 2 weather sticks from FA a couple years ago, but neither one does what is ported here.

Do they not work in Minnesota? After a couple years neither has ever moved. I’ve moved them around to different sides of house…nothing.

Not worth price or time.

Joey

want more information on weather stick please.

Susan Higgins

Hi Joey, you can purchase one from our online store here:

Bill

I’m on Vancouver island. And have made about 20 weather sticks for friends and family.. They work good.

Jamie Perretta

Yes it does! My Dad had put one on our garage one year when we were kids. We told him he was crazy, and then it moved.

William Carson

I received a weather stick as a Christmas gift several years ago and it does work. The birds coming to our feeders often use it as a rest stop.

Susan Higgins

William Carson: Nice!

Marc

Erect it’s gonna be a great day; flaccid not so good :-). They do work!!!

R.S.

You tell ‘um Duke C.
I loved the “screaming like a 10 year old girl”!!!! I’ve chuckled all day over that one!!
God Bless You!!
Pays to walk outside and look up once in awhile, instead of keeping all eyes on a screen.

Rebecca Mccormiick

Love my weather stick

Michelle Bailey

O ok I see it thank you anyway

Michelle Bailey

Michelle Bailey

How can I order one and how much?

Michelle Bailey

Rev. Nancy McMillan

I have had one, called an Abenaki weather stick, for years and it really does work!

Laurie

I live in Az, would it work here or like the comment above would it break because of the hot dry weather peaks during summer?

Jan C

Are these Balsam sticks the same ones they use to find water on the land in order to put in a well? If so I will probably order three or whichever it takes. Please answer. Thank you.

Dianna Lynne

Any type of tree branch can be used for dowsing (water). Find “Y” shaped branch. Branch, pendulum or “L” shaped piece of coat hanger wire in ballpoint pen (halved) all receive information from the same source but expressed through different chakra (Hara, heart, third eye). Be present. Be clear with intention. Be open. Be aware If your mind is already made up or set on a location the answer will sway in that direction. You can also give parameter like “Show me current (healthy) water ?CFS, 200 ft or less below the surface”. Muscle testing also works (same source) and can test using 2 dimensional paper map.

Cheryl Carroll

I have had these for years and they always work. If the weather forecast says sunny and my weather stick is pointing down it is 100 percent going to rain.

T Bliss

We have had a weather stick in our back yard, within kitchen window view, for over 7 years. It never fails to respond to the weather changes. It is accurate. But it cannot forecast the week to come. For that, you can watch the television or use your phone/computer weather app. However, this makes predicting the weather of the day more real and even more fun!

Illinois family

Unfortunately, bought 3 of these. And it doesn’t seem to work!! have it on post of privacy fence in back yard. Does not seem to work as stated it will!

PJB

Love the comments! Especially D. Smiths! I’m thinking the grandchildren would love this and what a great way to teach them about nature! It will get them away from gadgetry (electronics)!

Bama Deb

We have something that works for us. It’s a rock. When placed outside in an open area… It’s wet when it’s raining, dry when it’s not raining, snow on the rock if it’s snowing and so forth.

Erika Warfield

Would love one weather stick.

Mike

It is not predicting anything, just reacting to the present conditions. My bone joints do the exact same thing.

where can I get one at?

Need to know where can I get one

MAROLYN

how do you reconisze a balsam fir tree?

Debbiejc21

How do you see how many sticks you ordered I ordered 3 only got 1

Susan Higgins

Hi Debbie, we can check the order for you.

Donna

1) How much advance notice does it give? 2) Is the cloudy sky already obvious when it points?

J Logan

I have used one for over ten years and it still tells me when it is going to rain. My stick has broken a few times but it still has enough to show the point up or down. You can’t beat the price.

Janet S.

We recently gave these as gifts: we have one in Colorado and it never fails. I highly recommend. We bought ours at the Vermont Country Store.

JLDouglas

Great article and I am definitely thinking about getting this weather stick. I have a question… The article says to nail it into the wall “upside down.” How can I tell if it is upside down or not? Thanks in advance…

mary jarvis

Thanks for the info. Rebecca parson.

Mary Jarvis

I would love to have one but I can’t fine how to order one

Karen Lindell

Does it matter what side of the building you would put it on?

Faye Ann Bristol

Our son in Tampa Bay area of FL introduced us by buying one for us to take back to MI. He is on his second one because it got so hot and dry in FL it bent up till it snapped! Ours works well in Michigan; even when covered with ice or snow, it does its’ job.

Sherry A

I want one! I live this kind f stuff. I think my neighbor has one. I’ll have to research what they look like for sure. I like those bobbing bird things too!

jennice evans

What type of wood would you use in australia. Thanks

Richard Berg

I have had this weather stick for over 15 years and I live on the beach in Fla. It works rain or shine and is very reliable… Even hurricanes…..

m

I remember the bobbing glass bird would turn different colors for weather.They were cool too.But what does a Balsam Fir Tree look like? Wish you had put a picture of one up with the article…:(

Pam P

What if you live in the south where it is humid a lot will it work there the same way too?

M.Blair

That’s very interesting. It would be a cool think to have. I think I’m going to get one. Unique gift idea and great conversation piece.

Barbara F

Kudos to Duke C. I have a weather stick (had it for years) and it is fascinating to just look out and know rain or bad weather is coming. And it’s a natural way to predict the weather without all the gadgets people have today. Have a great day, Duke!

Duke C

Well D Smith, it’s called information! This was used before power or batteries, and you had to depend on your own skills to survive. I feel if the power went out you would be one of those running down the street screaming like a 10 year old girl.

D. Smith

If the weather stick works on the basis of current relative humidity in the area where you live, why not just check your current humidity levels?

I have a Weather Meter installed on my desktop that is handy and tells me the current temp, the predicted high and low temps for the day, the sky condition (right now it’s overcast) the humidity, the visibility, the wind speed, the barometric pressure, cloud cover %, daily precip levels, sunrise and sunset, day length, moonrise and moonset, and the phase of the moon (currently a waning gibbous).

Plan Your Day. Grow Your Life.

Sign up today for inspiring articles, tips & weather forecasts!

{"cart_token":"","hash":"","cart_data":""}