March 10 , 2017 /


I’ve been a weather watcher for as long as I can remember, probably starting as soon as I could walk for I would hear something like, “You can’t go outside because it’s raining.”   So I would just walk to my boots and raincoat, point to them and some reluctant, but willing adult, parent or grandparent, would indulge me with walking in the rain.   I did not know then about Bill Bryson’s quote, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. “

My family usually reported the weather to one another, either in conversations, on the phone or even in writing. My brother and I still do. It was part of our family culture perhaps stemming from farming which is so dependent on the weather.   Thus I developed an on-going interest in the weather and how it seemed to affect people and their attitudes. I know this is a dangerous generalization. Sunny days seem bright and happy, cloudy and rainy days not so positive.

My wife says to me that the wind is irritating, especially on a sunny day when it’s a cold wind. I tell her that it’s that time of year and here, in the mountains, just before Spring, it’s often windy, today around 30 mph with gusts between 45-50 mph and a wind advisory. Here that means blowing dust, strong crosswinds and light objects becoming airborne. But I look ahead to the forecast so I can see that the wind will diminish, the temperatures will rise and we can look forward to being more comfortable outside. The wind also stirs up the pollen and for those of us who suffer with allergies, the wind makes that misery a little worse.

That said, what are we to make of all the weather reporting whether you depend on the local news reports that have their own meteorologists or the internet where you can find the weather report on any place with details that include information on the pollen count, maps, radar, forecasts, pending storms, rainfall, snow accumulations, you name it. It doesn’t matter whether you use a source like weather underground, the Weather Channel or NOAA, you can get whatever you need or want regarding the weather, anytime.

All of this led me to think about how the art & science of forecasting has developed in recent years with mathematical modeling, algorithms, and how, when people decided to collect data and keep track of the outcomes, we began to be in a better position to predict the future. I’m not so sure that’s the case with human behavior although there appear to be some fields where forecasting has made some great strides, medicine being one of those. For a deeper dive into the subject you might want to have a look at Super Forecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner. (Broadway Books, 2016)

I also said to my wife that the wind is now generating enormous power via the wind farms and that it makes sailing a much more exciting adventure. Really, my friends, it’s what we make of it, how we use what is given to us and how adaptable and flexible we are in order to reap the rewards and benefits from something over which we have little control. Think about that in a context other than the weather.

Please share your thoughts and opinions