The Ice Saints

Wednesday 13th May 2015 by theWeather Club

Image: Picture of St Servatius preaching in Greek. The audience miraculously understand him. ‘Ne’er cast a clout till May is out’ is a customary saying about spring weather.

An article published in the Royal Meteorological Society journal Weather, entitled ‘Ice Saints and the Spring Northerlies’ was recently mentioned in The Times. The article explores the folklore surrounding cold spells and examines whether there is any basis to this folklore. The term ‘Ice Saints’ – consisting of St Mamertus, St Pancras and St Servatius – stems from the folklore that 11th, 12th and 13th May (their respective Saints’ days) bring cold weather and the final frost of the year. 

Of course, such folklore does need to be treated with a degree of caution. Indeed, in 1902 William Dines, President of the Royal Meteorological Society at that time, used statistical techniques to demonstrate that the Ice Saints were a myth, and that previous linkages were due to selective reporting. However this article explored weather-log charts over the past 40 years which do suggest that it is not unreasonable to expect an outbreak of cold weather at some point during the spring period.

As the author, David Bower noted, ‘It is perhaps equally unwise to dismiss the folklore of the Ice Saints. Although there may not be a correspondence in many or most years, they reflect the difficulties farmers faced over the whole period and the awareness that they may have had of the capriciousness of late spring weather.’

The full Weather article can be found here >>

The Times feature can be accesses here >>