Weather watching

2018-10-15 10:00

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You know those little ritualistic domestic arguments that end up being a standing joke between you? At home, ours relates to weather forecasts and the domestic politics of them.

I’m a bit of a weather obsessive. I love observing it and feeling it. I yearn for drama in it and dread those predictable, benign days where nothing moves.

Give me gales, give me driving rain and sudden thunder. Bring on the icy cold, the mist and the crack and fizzle of lightning. The only stillness I long for, is the calm in the eye of a storm of Himalayan proportions.

And I really do have exhilarating wish-fulfilment dreams about chasing twisters.

Anyhow, each morning before he leaves for work, the ritual is roughly this:

Him: Can I go by bike today?

Her: Let me check the weather apps. (Consults phone with a frown of deep concentration. She hates him going by bike. She rather likes him. Bikes equal danger in her world.) Ummmm, okay. Accuweather says it could rain at 6 pm, so you may be fine … Oh dear, but says the rain will start at 4 pm, so you’d better take the car. (She’s secretly relieved.)

Him: Oh well, they’re always wrong anyway, so I’ll just go by bike. I’ll dodge the raindrops if they come, which they won’t.

Her: They’re more often right than wrong.

Him: (Grumble, mutter, inaudible protests … fetches helmet.)

Her: Well, why didn’t you just say you want to go by bike regardless? (Grumble, mutter, inaudible protests …)

It’s the way we roll.

But I’m starting to think he has a point.

Take Tuesday, for instance. The weather oracles gave no hint of rain when I consulted them. In fact, at 3.41 pm, the updated forecast from the Durban weather office sent via e-mail, still insisted the weather was “partly cloudy in the morning otherwise clear skies”. Clear as in no clouds.

However, a short while after 4 pm, I noticed a bit of a thunderhead building. It was not spectacular in its looming. It eased out from the west, mushrooming gently from over World’s View as summer storm clouds often do. It was clear skies no more.

At 4.28 pm, I received an SMS alert from the South African Weather Services saying that severe thunderstorms had been observed and forecast over parts of uMgungundlovu (that’s us!) with possible heavy downpours and hail.

Sadly, nothing materialised, but driving home I noticed how pretty the unthreatening cloud really was, with a frilly, undulating edge and I was happy to have at least seen it to admire it.

It also provided a wonderful cooling breeze which was handy as my air con needs a re-gas.

But as I tackled the traffic home, I wondered where this cloud had come from?

And why didn’t forecasters know about its possibility earlier?

I imagined it could be explained away by something like the butterfly effect which I understand to mean that one small discrepancy in the factors on which the forecast is based, can compound and grow to make it abysmally wrong.

We do know that climate change is making it harder for forecasters to make accurate long-range predictions because their models for past weather predictions are no longer the same.

I somehow feel obliged to say that it’s a worrying thought that climate change is also making it more likely that extreme weather could be in the pipeline.

Nevertheless, my guilty secret is that I’m secretly thrilled.

I will always do what I can to fight global warming, like not eating meat, generally shrinking my carbon footprint where possible, and swearing at U.S. President Donald Trump every time his smug mug appears on CNN.

But, I confess I will be hoping for glorious, exhilarating inclemency with it at the same time. Fingers crossed, hey.

After all, every cloud must have a silver lining.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  opinion and analysis

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