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Teaching ravens to fly underwater

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This title is from a wonderful bit of silliness by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore  (here) and it reminds me that today I am facing a difficult task.

I am going in to bat for weather forecasters.

Now this may take some time, and ultimately prove unsuccessful, so please feel free to go away and do something useful whilst I have this discussion with myself.

When we moved to GOF's paradise at the foot of a mountain, the old timers provided the very sage advice, probably repeated by wise old people in many countries and languages around the world;

"Only fools and newcomers attempt to predict the weather.
 If you can see the mountain, it MIGHT rain.
 If you can't see the mountain, it IS raining".

Meteorology and its related sciences excite me.  I have a fascination with weather.  An urge to understand the physics involved in creating and driving this powerful force of nature.
Weather related facts are awe inspiring and thought provoking.

There are 2000 thunderstorms operating around the earth at any given moment, each with the potential energy to build up to and beyond 50,000 feet into the atmosphere before dissipating in an explosion of water, ice and fire.

8000 lightning strikes once occurred in the space of a single weekend in California.

For my part of the world, after the winter solstice in June (we're a little funny like that in Australia), day length initially only increases around 10 seconds per day, gradually accelerating to 55 seconds per day in October.  
The sun it would seem, just like me, takes time to get its arse back into gear after winter. ****

The world is full of pretenders who claim the ability to predict weather, or give surrogacy to ants, frogs, birds,  or mango fruit stalks.
Fact is, no living organism can accurately predict weather.
It is random, and driven by forces so complex and powerful, that we, at this point in our evolution cannot fully understand them.

Bureau of Meteorology forecasting has come a long way in 100 years.  Tropical cyclones used to arrive "out of the blue" and cause huge loss of life.  Now they are identified early, are trackable, and increasingly their future direction of movement can be accurately forecast.

Air and sea travel around the world relies heavily upon weather forecasters for safety.  In recent years phenomena such as microbursts and wind shear, both of which are hazardous to aircraft, have become understood by meteorological science, and weather conditions conducive to their occurrence are now predicted.

I am happy for meteorology to remain an inexact science.  
Enjoying the sight and sound of an approaching thunderstorm,  the rainbow which follows, the sunsets, and the little white puffy clouds floating by, does not necessarily require me to apply scientific explanation.

And besides, the conflicts that we now see for political and economic control of the worlds oil and land resources will pale into insignificance should humans ever achieve total understanding and control over its weather.

**** For the benefit of any school child or university student who would seek to plagiarise my hard work and include it in some curricular thesis, then, you grubby little cheats, it is my responsibility to advise you that consensus amongst a majority of astrophysicists in 2009  is that the sun has neither gears, nor an arse.

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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

8 responses »

  1. Personally I think most weather predictions are half-assed guesses … but I watch them because my job is affected by the weather – mainly my comfort level at my job.I do want to comment on something you mentioned – about "old timers" and their knowledge. The small city I now reside in was once located one mile north of where it now sits. This was along the edge of a creek, so there were plenty of trees and a ready water supply – along with the many underground springs in the area. When the "white folks" built the city there, the "Indians" told them it was not a good place to build, because it flooded often. The settlers scoffed and built anyway, because they'd been in the area for years and seen no flood.As you can no doubt guess, the next spring the area suffered from the worst flooding in human memory … or, at least, white man's human memory. It seems the natives actually knew what they were talking about.The former townsite is now a park. The flooding is less likely now because of a lake that was built north of us, but still happens every once in a while.I just thought that was an amusing little story. Probably should have blogged it.

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  2. Thanks GOM for your experience. All around Australia property developers are creating suburbs in low lying places where any old timer could have told them it floods once or twice a century.Old timers aren't always reliable. My mango stalk reference was to a local farmer, who in late 1999 concluded, after his lifetime of research, that, because the stalks were so short, 2000 would be the driest year ever. He made front page news in the newspaper at the time with his prediction.2000 turned out to be the wettest year ever recorded by the Weather Bureau.

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  3. I like the guessing about weather – it gives strangers something to talk about doesn't it!

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  4. Well whoever's controlling the weather is having a right ol' cackle at the Melbournians – 46.9 degrees yesterday and 22 with thunderstorms today…who the hell lives here voluntarily?!

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  5. Both strangers and weather bureau staff fare equally well at the guessing game. Especially in the tropics at this time of year.

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  6. "who the hell lives here voluntarily" Only Victorians who have never seen some other part of the world, and those who chose the ignore the advice of wise elders. 😉

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  7. I'm reminded of the water diviner whose rods suddenly jerked toward the ground. "Water! I'm sure of it!" And then it began to rain.Today I was happily wandering around a riverside park in Brisbane when the skies opened up and it poured down rain. Lately, I've been conducting experiments into outrageous happiness, so the rain in all its glory made me smile and laugh out loud. I watched the 'natural;' (?) reactions of others; running for cover, frowning, getting all hot and wet under the collar. Same planet, different realities.Some people go for a walk in the rain, others just get wet.Of course, this has no meteorological merit but remembering all the fun re-triggered my outrageous happiness gene. Thanks.

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  8. Thanks for your thoughtful comments TB and you have been blessed to receive the rare outrageous happiness gene.I hope you get enough rain from this current meteorological event to fill all your dams. We have had enough in FNQ. We are averaging well in excess of 1 inch a day for the whole of 2009.

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