The following is from a speech given by Mark Twain in 1876. The humor is intended for the precursor to the National Weather Service.
Twain’s words describe how a forecaster does his job: “…mulls it over, and by and by he gets out something about like this: Probable nor-east to sou-west winds, varying to the southward and westward and eastward and points in between; high and low barometer, sweeping around from place to place, probable areas of rain, snow, hail and drought, succeeded or preceded by earthquakes, with thunder and lightning.”
Roars of laughter followed, according to a New York Times’ report.
Not much has changed since Twain’s witty words. Weather still remains difficult to “get right.”
Predicting the weather, or attempting to do so, goes way back. In 340 B.C., Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, wrote a four-volume text exploring the origins and dynamics of weather events. Basically, weather forecasting was founded in daily observations – by stepping out of a cave or other home-type dwelling. From there a determination was made; was it hot or cold, wet or dry, windy or still, cloudy or clear? Although by 1764 a few privileged folks owned thermometers and barometers, weather prediction remained primitive. Newspapers included articles pertaining to British politics, shipping news, George Washington’s inauguration and “a war for independence,” but there was no equivalent to Weather in the Foothills written on page two. Weather was big news, but only after the blizzards, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and heat waves had come and gone leaving their stories to tell.
Moving ahead to the mid 1800s, the invention and rapid development of the telegraph proved enormously important for weather forecasting. The telegraph allowed for simultaneous collecting and transmission of critical weather data. This information often allowed people a one- to three-day notice of impending weather. Staying ahead of the weather allowed farmers to harvest crops before devastating hailstorms struck. Also, advanced tornado warnings gave precious time for folks to seek safety in a root cellar.
In the 1920s, Norwegian researchers documented size, wind speed and temperature of air masses. Forecasting became more precise as their interplay was studied and mapped.
Advances in weather knowledge continue. Next week, into the 1950s … and beyond.
Winter has passed even though two more storms are moving down from the Gulf of Alaska. “Spring showers?” Not really… Their origin, farther-south-than-usual jet stream delivery, temperature and pattern are typical of winter rains.
Thunderstorms and rain showers define Thursday into Friday’s weather. Over an inch of rain and snow levels at 5,000ft. are predicted. Come weekend, warmer temperatures and lingering clouds are forecast.
Hold onto your umbrella! More weather – via Alaska – is on its way with an
estimated time of arrival of Monday or Tuesday.
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.