You’ve heard, I’m sure, of people predicting weather with pig bladders, groundhog shadows and aching knees. But what about swimsuits and sports cars? Read on:
Here in a land where rain and sun, heat and cold, hail and wind can make the difference between poverty and prosperity--for tourism businesses, forest industries, farmers and more--the weather is almost an obsession. It’s usually the first subject of any conversation. We hit the weather websites almost as soon as we pop out of bed--well, I do--to find out if our plans for the day are a go.
We long ago discovered, of course, that the weather sites are not 100% infallible, and that makes us a bit cranky when, for example, our outdoor picnic is interrupted by heavy rain.
Our pioneering parents and grandparents had no access to such “experts” and often trusted to centuries-old traditional wisdom. Some older citizens still do. One of their beliefs is that rain will follow hoarfrost by precisely six months. I’m sceptical about that, but still: If someone tells me during a warm spring rain that he knew it was coming, I’m hanged if I can remember if there was hoarfrost on the corresponding day last December. I suspect there was quite a bit of frost around last December.
Many amateur forecasters put their faith in birds and animals. Apparently if small birds keep flying up in bunches from your lawn into the sky, rain is coming. Or maybe your cat is lurking in the hedge.
Then there’s the Correction Theory: If we get an unusually mild spell in winter I’m always amazed at the number of people who tell me, “Well, we’ll pay for this next spring.” I picture God looking over his Weather Balance Sheet and saying, “Well, I see I owe southern Alberta a smoker of an April blizzard this year, but after a drought last summer Eastern Saskatchewan has a nice warm rain coming.”
Now I don’t like to brag, but I’ve been watching the weather for decades--eight of them. And I’ve come to the conclusion that human behaviour is a better predictor than hoarfrost, animals or official long-range reports. Some examples:
1. WEATHER SIGN: The new ladies’ swimsuit fashions come out in the spring. They expose 20% more skin than last year.
FORECAST: It will be 20% hotter on the beaches this summer.
2. WEATHER SIGN: You have just bought, for the first time in your life, a sporty new convertible.
FORECAST: The coldest, rainiest summer on record, with frequent gale-force winds and hail, is on the way.
3. WEATHER SIGN: Your neighbour on the west, who always watches his barometer and wind vane and records their readings, says it will rain tonight. Your neighbour across the street, who observes the behaviour of animals, says it will be clear.
FORECAST: It will be dark tonight.
4. WEATHER SIGN: You take your four kids and three of the neighbour’s kids on a weekend camping trip in the woods.
FORECAST: It will be the hottest day of the season while you are travelling in the car (especially if you have no air conditioning). But it will rain overnight and all of the next day (especially if the tent is too small for three people, let alone nine, and is pitched in a low-lying spot).
5. WEATHER SIGN: You have just put all your winter clothing and footwear in storage.
FORECAST: A late spring blizzard will bring record snowfall, low temperatures and considerable profanity.
6. WEATHER SIGN: It’s the Labour Day long weekend coming up. All your kids and numerous other relatives living in distant towns and cities have made arrangements to take time off from their studies, work and vacations, to make the long journey to your farm to help with harvest, which is behind schedule.
FORECAST: I don’t really have to tell you what’s going to happen here, do I? (Been through that one myself.)