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:[1]

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

The concept is over two thousand years old and is referenced in the New Testament as established wisdom that prevailed among the Jews of the Second Temple Period by Jesus in Matthew 16:2-3.


The rhyme is a rule of thumb used for weather forecasting during the past two millennia. It is based on the reddish glow of the morning or evening sky, caused by haze or clouds related to storms in the region.[2][3][5] If the morning skies are red, it is because clear skies over the horizon to the east permit the sun to light the undersides of moisture-bearing clouds. The saying assumes that more such clouds are coming in from the west. Conversely, in order to see red clouds in the evening, sunlight must have a clear path from the west, so therefore the prevailing westerly wind must be bringing clear skies.

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

Because of different prevailing wind patterns around the globe, the traditional rhyme is generally not correct at lower latitudes of both hemispheres, where prevailing winds are from east to west. The rhyme is generally correct at mid-latitudes where, due to the rotation of the Earth, prevailing winds travel west to east.

Other versions

Red sky at morning, at sea

There are variations of the phrase, some including the plural word "sailors":

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

Another version uses the word "shepherds":

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

Another version uses "pink" in place of "red":

Pink sky at night, sailors' delight.
Pink sky in the morning, sailors' take warning.

Another version uses "forlorn" in place of "warning":

Red sky at night, sailors' delight.
Red sky in the morn', sailors' forlorn.

In Matthew 16:2b–3, Jesus says:

When it is evening, you say, "It will be fair weather; for the sky is red."
And in the morning, "It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening."[6]

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:
  4. ^
      The Complete Sea Kayaker's Handbook, Shelley Johnson,
      2001, p.171, weblink: Books-Google-IC
  5. ^ "Everyday Mysteries", Library of Congress, February 12, 2009, webpage: LOC-wsailor
  6. ^ "Bible Gateway passage: Matthew 16:2-3 - New American Standard Bible". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2017-08-15.

External links[edit]

Media related to Sunrises at Wikimedia Commons