Friday, May 23, 2014

Looking For A Good Witch Doctor

Weather forecasters get little respect and at times deservedly so.  One frustrated customer earlier today made the comment after another 48 hours of cold and drizzle, that was previously forecasted as warm and sunny, that he would love to have a job where you could be constantly wrong and still get paid.  I know many of you would agree with that sentiment.  Forecasting weather in these parts is a fool's pastime.
Rather than get all depressed about the work that still needs to be done with June 1 looming a week away and worry over the potential pitfalls of wet soils, poor seedbeds,weed escapes, fertility and insect alerts I believe it is time to keep the mood light.  I have been reading a book entitled Under A Flaming Sky by Daniel James Brown.  It is the true story of a firestorm that destroyed the town of Hinckley Minnesota in 1894.
This story itself is not one that would lighten your mood, but the description of weather forecasting in the 1890's seems appropriate to share in this space.  According to the author during the last decades of the 19th century meteorology was very much in its infancy as a science and practitioners were often ridiculed as alchemists and witch doctors.  The National Weather Service was created in late 1870 and initially did no more than publish maps of past weather.  Early forecasts were based on proverbs and folklore.

1. A red sun has water in its eye. (I was taught that red sky at night was a sailors delight)
2.When the walls are unusually damp, expect rain. (This makes good sense)
3. Hark! I hear the asses bray.  We shall have some rain today.  (Never owned an ass, so no comment)
4. The further the sight, the nearer the rain. (I have no idea what this means)
5. Clear moon, frost soon. (Yep that can happen)
6. When deer are in grey coat in October, expect a severe winter.  (I don't recall seeing grey deer last fall)
7. Anvil shaped clouds are likely to be followed by a gale of wind.  (And a chance of hail!!)
8. If rain falls during an east wind, it will continue for a full day.  (Sometimes)
9. A yellow sky at sunset presages wind.  A pale yellow sky at sunset presages rain.  (How do you tell the difference between a yellow and a pale yellow sky?)
10. Much noise made by rats and nice indicate rain. (My personal favourite)

Eveyone raised on a farm before the internet age can rhyme off many other proverbs rural folk used to predict the weather.
My prediction is planting weather is coming.  Work safe.  In the meantime, has anyone ever met an unemployed weather forecaster?

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