Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Deciding weather to go out!

The unseasonably warm weather has made for a few surprises in the garden. A fuchsia is still flowering on from last year. Daffodils and Snowdrops are well on their way. things are a bit topsy turvey with the weather. I wonder if we will get another mild start to the boating season this year! Were you up and around for the red sky display yesterday morning. The old weather saying was " Red sky at night, shepherd's delight, Red sky in morning, shepherd's warning." The red sky this morning proved the old rhyme to be totally wrong as what should have been a cool 5 or 6 Celsius actually reached balmy 13 Celsius.

It has long been a human desire to make accurate weather predictions. Man has felt the need to be able to predict the weather from the earliest times. Back then predicting the weather was the seasonal change from winter to spring and identifying the best time to plant crops. Later is was the merchant about to send ships on trade. Knowledge of the seasons might mean the difference between success and failure.

Our history is full of rhymes meant to help in determining whether the next day will bring fair or foul weather. The only instruments of any reliability for a long time was a weather vane, seaweed, a pine cone and human experience.
When the wind is blowing in the North. No fisherman should set forth, When the wind is blowing in the East, 'Tis not fit for man nor beast, When the wind is blowing in the South. It brings the food over the fish's mouth, When the wind is blowing in the West, that is when the fishing's best!

For us in the UK, Saint Swithun's day (July 15) was reputed to forecast the weather for the rest of the summer. If St Swithun's day is dry, then legend says that the next forty days will also be dry. If however it rains, the rain will continue for forty days.

As a boater, I suppose all I am interested in on the inland waterways is the daylight temperature and strength of the wind. However, the weather forecast can be quite ambiguous because of all the different sources of information available. Most of us get our weather from the TV or radio news and if we want to know a more long term forecast, then we have to go elsewhere.

I suppose the BBC five day weather forcast for a particular area are as accurate as most other weather services. For a week long weather forcast I use NetWeather.TV on the web for longer term forecasts.

Then there was the fabled "air ministry roof"  Following the First World War, the Met Office became part of the Air Ministry in 1919. The weather was observed from the top of Adastral House, where the Air Ministry was based. Thus giving rise to the popular weather forecast phrase of the day "The weather on the Air Ministry roof".

We must not forget, the Shipping Forecast, broadcast on BBC Radio 4. The Shipping Forecast has long been of real interest to, and vital to the safety of, mariners traversing the various Sea Areas around the British Isles. "And now the Shipping Forecast, issued by the Met Office at 10:00 GMT today."  The weather forecaster would then read out a list of names such as Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne and Dogger. Other more memorable ones included German Bight, Finisterre, Fastnet, Shannon and not forgetting Rockall which also seemed to lend itself to many risque jokes.

The Meteorological Office has been around recording and forecasting the weather for a large number of years. In 1854 as an experiment the government of the day created a weather department. This fledgling weather department was to become the Met Office, set up under the Board of Trade. Its aim was to research the possibilities of forecasting the weather, mainly to protect the safety of ships and their crew at sea.

Old met office web site
New met office web site 

Yes, we Brits seem to have a deep preoccupation with the weather.


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