Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weather Forecasts

We have our favourite weather; some like it hot, others like it cool, and the great thing about the English weather is that’s for ever changeable. The English so much enjoy discussing the weather and Thomas Hardy was no different. Here is his poem, ‘Weathers’.
This is the weather the cuckoo likes,
And so do I;
When showers betumble the chestnut spikes,
And nestlings fly:
And the little brown nightingale bills his best,
And they sit outside at “The Travellers’ Rest”,
And maids come forth sprig-muslin drest,
And citizens dream of the south and west,
And so do I.

This is the weather the shepherd shuns,
And so do I;
When beeches drip in browns and duns,
And thresh, and ply;
And hill-hid tides throb, throe on throe,
And meadow rivulets overflow,
And drops on gate-bars hang in a row,
And rooks in families homeward go,
And so do I.
Hardy transports us into the spring and then the autumn; his preference being for the period of regerneration when the chestnut tree produces its spiky fruit, young birds are on the wing and maidens blossom, while people dream of their summer holidays. He’s not so keen on the autumn that foreshadows winter where he paints a picture of browns and duns; a time likened to the gathering of rooks associated with funereal black when there’s an end to life.
The great British Meteorological Office, now based at Exeter, publishes long range forecasts upon which people put their hopes. Businesses can flourish like the spring if the forecasters get it right, or they can go bust if they get it wrong. This year the forecast was for ‘a drier and warmer summer than average’, but oh, they got it so wrong (except for a few days of Wimbledon) and now predict for August a month of average rainfall. Many of us had high hopes for gorgeous sunny days when we could have done our favourite outdoor thing, whether lounging on a beach, trekking the Lake District, playing cricket or just a bit of gardening.
My wife is really disappointed, and said she would have preferred that no long term forecast had been given. I’m sure many of us feel the same, but I’m reminded of the limitations of our ability to forecast the weather by these words of Jesus, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.” (John 3:8) Even with all the sophistication available to our expert weathermen in their state-of-the-art purpose-built accommodation with one of the most powerful computers dedicated to the task, even they cannot know for certain.
Meteorological Office

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