Sunday, March 17, 2013

What Weather?

  I awoke Saturday morning to at least 3" of snow on the ground. My first thought was "where'd that come from?". Well I know where it came from. What I meant is I didn't know it was supposed to snow.  I had been outside on Thursday thoroughly enjoying the sunshine and cleaning out the front part of the chicken house. The day was beautiful! And then Friday it had warmed up to the high thirties. In essence it seemed like spring had finally sprung, although, I haven't smelled spring yet. And when I mentioned to Mom that I didn't know it was supposed to snow she replied matter-of-factly, "You don't listen to the weather report".

Let me interject a bit of background here as to why you may be asking why I didn't know the weather forecast for Saturday. It's not that I don't have at my fingertips all the modern technology to find out the weather. I do. There is television, radio, and the internet. And all are working splendidly. Therefore, my lack of knowing what the next day may hold as to weather is my own fault. I don't watch the news and weather on tv. I rarely turn the radio on in the house or the car for that matter, unless I don't want to listen to my own thoughts. And I don't look at the weather on the internet unless there is a storm coming through and I want to know how large it is or how long it will last. In that case I look at the national map on NOAA.

After talking with Mom earlier in the morning I began to wonder how people determined the weather way back before technology ran our lives.  I found a bit of interesting information on the Wikipedia site which I have pasted below:

For millennia people have tried to forecast the weather. In 650 BC, the Babylonians predicted the weather from cloud patterns as well as astrology. In about 340 BC, Aristotle described weather patterns in Meteorologica. Later, Theophrastus compiled a book on weather forecasting, called the Book of Signs. Chinese weather prediction lore extends at least as far back as 300 BC, which was also around the same time ancient Indian astronomers developed weather-prediction methods. In 904 AD, Ibn Wahshiyya's Nabatean Agriculture discussed the weather forecasting of atmospheric changes and signs from the planetary astral alterations; signs of rain based on observation of the lunar phases; and weather forecasts based on the movement of winds.

Ancient weather forecasting methods usually relied on observed patterns of events, also termed pattern recognition. For example, it might be observed that if the sunset was particularly red, the following day often brought fair weather. This experience accumulated over the generations to produce weather lore. However, not all of these predictions prove reliable, and many of them have since been found not to stand up to rigorous statistical testing.

It was not until the invention of the electric telegraph in 1835 that the modern age of weather forecasting began. Before this time, it was not widely practicable to transport information about the current state of the weather any faster than a steam train (and the train also was a very new technology at that time). By the late 1840s, the telegraph allowed reports of weather conditions from a wide area to be received almost instantaneously, allowing forecasts to be made from knowledge of weather conditions further upwind.

Ezekiel Stone Wiggins, known as the "Ottawa Prophet", wrote the "Architecture of the Heavens"; and Wiggins' storm herald, with almanac, 1883 which were based on his astronomical calculations and theories that storms, unusual tides, earthquakes and cyclones were all caused by planetary attraction, and that both visible and invisible planets could shift the Earth’s centre of Gravity. He lost credibility after a great Hurricane and Tidal Wave on March 9, 1883 was not as terrible as Dr. Wiggins had predicted. Mark Twain's humorous essays about Wiggins' prophecies appeared in American and Canadian newspapers.

The two men most credited with the birth of forecasting as a science were Francis Beaufort (remembered chiefly for the Beaufort scale) and his protégé Robert Fitzroy (developer of the Fitzroy barometer). Both were influential men in British naval and governmental circles, and though ridiculed in the press at the time, their work gained scientific credence, was accepted by the Royal Navy, and formed the basis for all of today's weather forecasting knowledge. To convey information accurately, it became necessary to have a standard vocabulary describing clouds; this was achieved by means of a series of classifications and, in the 1890s, by pictorial cloud atlases.

Great progress was made in the science of meteorology during the 20th century. The possibility of numerical weather prediction was proposed by Lewis Fry Richardson in 1922, though computers did not exist to complete the vast number of calculations required to produce a forecast before the event had occurred. The first computerised weather forecast was performed by a team led by the mathematician John von Neumann; von Neumann publishing the paper Numerical Integration of the Barotropic Vorticity Equation in 1950. Practical use of numerical weather prediction began in 1955, spurred by the development of programmable electronic computers.

It seems that wanting to know what the weather has in store for us has been going on for centuries. So, why do I remain clueless weather-wise? I had to really think about this question. But, I've determined several things. Not knowing what the weather has in store adds a bit of mystery to life (as if life doesn't hold enough mystery), talking about the weather is truly interesting now, and not listening to the weather report forces me to look for other clues to what the weather will hold. For example, hearing the first spring songs of birds looking for nesting spots and a mate. Or noticing how the cats are getting restless. Or how Glory's coat sheds when I pet her.

Modern technology has its merits, but give me nature and all that entails, and I'm one happy camper.