The Detroit Post
Sunday, 28 November, 2021

Do Weather Glasses Work

author
Ava Flores
• Thursday, 12 November, 2020
• 8 min read

We wanted to answer the most common questions surrounding storm glasses, and explain why it is likely that they do not work as well as some may claim. Our team of editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products to help you navigate when shopping online.

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Contents

They would eventually rise in popularity in the mid-1800s after British Naval Officer Admiral Robert Fitzroy used them aboard the HMS Beagle, which also happened to host a young Charles Darwin doing his initial research on evolution. Admiral Fitzroy was a weather enthusiast, and over the course of his expeditions, he examined the behavior of a storm glass to better understand how it worked.

The relationship between the liquid’s behavior and the corresponding weather conditions used today derive from Fitzroy’s work aboard the Beagle. Storm glasses fell out of favor late in the 19th Century as mercury barometers became more affordable.

Even today we do not entirely understand how these devices work, or how the crystals inside form and change shape. The version of the weather glass used in Fitzroy’s time was not completely sealed (typically by only a rubber cap) so pressure changes may have had some kind of effect.

Today’s versions are hermetically sealed, which would likely mean the changes would have something to do with temperature differences outside the glass. While research is slim on the storm glass (even when they were more commonly used), several studies over the years seem to suggest crystal growth is affected by temperature more than anything.

Our opinion is that storm glasses should not be relied upon as a legitimate weather instrument but more of a conversation piece for your office or coffee table. If you’re searching for a functional and decorative weather instrument that is reasonably accurate, we recommend a Galileo thermometer.

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As we mentioned earlier, Robert Fitzroy popularized the current method to read a storm glass. They should also not be placed in a window that receives direct sunlight, or somewhere that may experience sudden temperatures changes during the day.

To help you decide on the best storm glass to buy, we’ve reviewed three separate models on Amazon that we think are worth considering. It has received solid reviews across the board, although, as we’ve mentioned above, don’t expect the predictions to be accurate from any storm glass.

Unlike some other models, it is visually appealing enough to sit on your countertop to accent your other decor rather than being the focal point. It combines a storm glass with a Galileo thermometer encased in a wooden holder with a mahogany finish.

It’s no more expensive than the Eon Concepts storm glass and generally gets good reviews from buyers. If you’re looking for a slightly cheaper version of the Eon Concepts model, Cavalry Mercantile’s storm glass is a good alternative.

We think this makes the Cavalry Mercantile storm glass stand out more, and might be a better option if you have other dark wood pieces throughout your home. However, if you keep this in mind, and are a weather enthusiast (or know somebody who is), a storm glass will be a great conversation piece or gift.

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They're first starting showing up somewhere towards the mid-1700s, however they became popular after documented use by Admiral Robert Fitzroy. He was also the captain aboard the HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin during his expeditions researching evolutionary differences in animals.

Fitzroy documented that he used a similar device intended to measure barometric pressure and temperature changes through solubility of the crystals. When something similar was used by Fitzroy back in the 19th century, it was meant to measure barometric pressure, which is actually a good indicator of approaching weather.

However, modern storm glasses have been tested and revealed to actually be more of a measure of temperature than pressure. Temperature changes don’t tell us much about high or low pressure systems coming into the area or whether it will rain, snow, or be clear outside.

The premise is that temperatures and pressures affect the solubility of the solution in the storm glass. The most important part of storm globe instructions are the charts and/or pictures that are associated with how they are read.

Storm Glass Observation Weather Prediction Cloudy liquid with small spotsStormsClear liquid Bright & sunny Small spots in winter monthsSunny, but snow comingle flakesOvercast sky, snow in winter monthsFlakes toward top of grasslands in atmosphere, weather change comingCloudy liquidizer raining or rain coming newsstands at top of glassWindySmall spots suspended in liquidFoggyCyrstals at bottom of glass Frost If you place it outdoors, it could easily break due to high winds or storms.

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If you are interested, there are DIY instructions on how to make a storm glass all over the internet, however some ingredients (chemicals) are hard to find. You can easily just buy a storm glass from Amazon or any number of other online retailers.

They are actually very reasonably priced, starting around $20 and going up from there, depending on the quality and size of the instrument. Many of the devices that you can buy today also come with a Fitzroy storm glass chart that provides pictures and descriptions of how to read it.

Beyond that, it’s best to look at previous customer’s reviews in order to make sure the product is delivered on time, packaged well, and fits the description. Our recommendation is not to get a storm glass with the intention of it providing your weather forecast, but rather as a nice conversation starter.

Your best bet in selecting a storm glass is to find the one with the best customer reviews and one that looks appealing to you. It is probably true that someone with a trained eye would have better luck predicting the weather with one.

Through research and testing, it’s been revealed that at least modern storm glass accuracy is not much better than the probability of a coin flip at 50/50. A: No one knows who actually invented the storm glass, although it was first documented Admiral Robert Fitzroy in the 1860s.

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Research and extensive testing has shown that the odds of a storm glass predicting the weather is no better than a coin flip (50/50). The storm glass not working is because it’s more of a novelty item than a real, functional tool.

Keep it clean and set it out for looks and fun discussions when your friends come over. Sometimes you get lucky and the charts match the weather outdoors, appearing to give the storm glass meaning.

Keeping it outdoors would put it at risk of breaking if the wind blew it over or it was hit by hail or something else. It’s also advisable that you keep a storm glass out of direct sunlight so quick temperature changes don’t falsely affect the crystals inside.

The idea is that the mixture is so finely balanced that minor fluctuations in atmospheric conditions will change the solubility of the chemicals and produce a wide variety of crystal shapes, from tiny floating flakes to large masses of feathery fans. Early theories held that the chemical blend inside was sensitive to light, heat, wind, atmospheric pressure, or even electrical charge.

In some glasses the contents were exposed to atmospheric pressure via a flexible rubber cap, but other models were hermetically sealed. Interest in storm glasses crested in the 1860s, when such scientific notables as Michael Faraday, Robert Fitzroy, and Charles Tomlinson investigated their properties.

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Fitzroy, meteorologist and captain of HMS Beagle (of Charles Darwin fame), touted the glasses accuracy in his Weather Book of 1863. Tomlinson, on the other hand, tested a glass for several months and found it was sensitive only to heat, calling it a “rude thermoscope.” Japanese research from 2008 backs this up, pointing to temperature change as the sole cause of crystal growth.

A hitch: initially no scientific supply house would ship the goods to a private residence, doubtless seeing in the ominous-sounding chemicals the ingredients of a terrorist plot. Toiling late one night at Straight Dope Labs, RNA and Sierra made six storm glasses.

Each consisted of a big test tube filled with the precisely measured chemical mixture, then capped. But after a few days the initial crystal growth settled to the bottom of the tubes, leaving the liquid above clear.

Every day for 12 weeks, RNA and Sierra recorded local weather conditions plus their observations of the crystals in each glass. This gave us a couple simple tests: the storm glass was clear or it wasn’t; rain fell or it didn’t.

The idea is that the mixture is so finely balanced that minor fluctuations in atmospheric conditions will change the solubility of the chemicals and produce a wide variety of crystal shapes, from tiny floating flakes to large masses of feathery fans. Early theories held that the chemical blend inside was sensitive to light, heat, wind, atmospheric pressure, or even electrical charge.

In some glasses the contents were exposed to atmospheric pressure via a flexible rubber cap, but other models were hermetically sealed. Interest in storm glasses crested in the 1860s, when such scientific notables as Michael Faraday, Robert Fitzroy, and Charles Tomlinson investigated their properties.

Fitzroy, meteorologist and captain of HMS Beagle (of Charles Darwin fame), touted the glasses accuracy in his Weather Book of 1863. Tomlinson, on the other hand, tested a glass for several months and found it was sensitive only to heat, calling it a “rude thermoscope.” Japanese research from 2008 backs this up, pointing to temperature change as the sole cause of crystal growth, with the rate of cooling influencing the crystal shapes.

A hitch: initially no scientific supply house would ship the goods to a private residence, doubtless seeing in the ominous-sounding chemicals the ingredients of a terrorist plot. Toiling late one night at Straight Dope Labs, RNA and Sierra made six storm glasses.

Each consisted of a big test tube filled with the precisely measured chemical mixture, then capped. But after a few days the initial crystal growth settled to the bottom of the tubes, leaving the liquid above clear.

Every day for 12 weeks, RNA and Sierra diligently recorded local weather conditions plus their observations of the crystals in each glass. This gave us a couple simple tests: the storm glass was clear or it wasn’t; rain fell or it didn’t.

RNA figured she’d err on the side of caution, counting a day as rainy if at least 0.01 inches of rain fell within a 20-mile radius. Defenders of the storm glass may blame this poor showing on our simplistic scoring method.

To avoid such ambiguities, I had RNA look strictly at days when it rained: did the storm glasses show crystals or not? The latter could signify passage of a cold front, so it’s plausible that a storm glass might sometimes correctly predict deteriorating weather.

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