‘Dog days of summer’ inspired predictions and weather prophecies

Published 6:15 am Saturday, August 4, 2018

The “dog days of summer” are upon us, and if predictions of hot temperatures and thunderstorms are correct, we’ve got a few more days to put up with the hot, sultry part of summer.

Summer’s dog days, July 3-Aug. 11, are a period of hot temperatures, excessive humidity and short tempers. They have a lot of people barking and growling about the weather.

The dog days are connected to heat, drought and the most uncomfortable part of summer in the northern hemisphere. They also bring sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs and bad luck, according to some.

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Aug. 11 signals the end of the 40-day period, which is named for the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest and one of the closest in the constellation Canis Major, according to the “Old Farmers Almanac”.

Several opinions about the dog days have been found in The Kentucky Advocate archives.

The dog days is often a loose expression and is applied to many dates from July 1 to the last day of September, according to an article in a 1906 Kentucky Advocate.

Older people link many a peculiar and fanciful superstition with the dog days.

“It has rained more or less nearly every day this month,” said an older Danvillian, who was “somewhat of a weather prophet,” according to the article published on Aug. 24, 1906.

The prophet, quoting an old saying, said, “If it rains the first of the dog days, it will continue to rain every day until the time has passed.”

“I have watched it closely for the past 40 years and it never fails. There has not been a single day during the month of August that it has not rained to some extent between midnight and midnight.”

A warm August is thought by some folklorists to predict a long and snowy winter, but whatever the weather in August, it’s said to be the same the following February.

Farmers rely on August sunshine to ripen grapes. The summer thunderstorms are thought to hasten bean growth, because thunders frighten beans into growth spurts.

Cyrus Bell of Danville predicted on July 24, 1913: “The dry spell would more likely be broken with the approach of dog days. Should it rain the first three days, Bell says the remainder of the year will be seasonable.”

The “dog days” have nothing to do with dogs, Chauncey Alcock wrote in an editorial in August 1932.

“According to the Roman theory, the Dog Star, rising with the sun, added to its heat and the ‘Dog Days’ were notable for the combined heat of the Dog Star and the sun. Years ago the discovery was made that every dog has his day and every cat has his night,” Alcock wrote.

In the summer of 1907, The Advocate stated: “It is generally believed that these days are the most unhealthy of the year and it behooves all to be careful, especially as to the drinking water.”