Thursday, September 2, 2021

Watching the Sky for Weather

I have previously posted a blog on the topic of weather predicting in the 1800s, and in this series about the impact of outer space I  return to the perspective of we earthlings.   

Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwck
Isaac Werner began every entry in his daily journaling with the weather.  Following a long interruption from his journaling in Illinois, he finally resumed writing daily on the Kansas prairie, starting on page 129, August 24, 1884:  "Some light raining during the night, and similar prospect this A.M."  Following that entry, he wrote every day until he filled his journal, always beginning with the weather.  On June 10th, 1891, at page 480, he wrote:  "Occassional wind during night whirling bended peach trees, still partly cloudy, clouding over from N.W. & cool wind." 

Isaac was following the advice of Henry Ward Beecher, a famous minister and the brother of Harriet Beecher Stow.  A newspaper clipping by Beecher, titled "Keeping a Diary," was glued on the inside  front cover page of Isaac's journal.  Beecher concluded his article with these words:  "One may trace, from day to day, the mere facts of his history, the proceedings of the farm, or the books read, visits made or received, the events in society, the conversations with men of mark, the facts of the weather, the seasons, the aspects of nature, and in short, a journal of knowledge, in distinction from feeling..." Isaac Werner followed that advice exactly, which is what made him an excellent reporter of his time and location.

Photo credit: Lyn Fenwick
It also made him a capable weather reporter, with the ability to turn to specific dates to determine the previous years' weather, building a record of weather from year to year.  In a new environment, where less was known about seasonal changes, Isaac's journal gradually collected that information so that he acquired some weather predictability.

At a web site online I found advice for becoming a Citizen Weather Reporter.  Although weather forecasters today have many sophisticated means for predicting the weather, citizen reporters can still help.  Although meteorologists can see snow showing up on radar, citizen reporters can alert these professional men and women to what is happening in specific locations, and of such things as when snow changes to freezing rain.  They can also report tornadoes, hail, and wind damage, with specific information that could help save lives during a severe weather event.

For example, precipitation is extremely localized.  Recently, we received no rain at our home, and we were quite surprised when we found large mud holes on the road only a quarter-mile south of our house the next morning.  I also remember driving through heavy rain and suddenly driving out of the rain onto dry pavement.  I understand that rain must stop somewhere, but the the abruptness of driving out of rain, rather than simply the rain gradually becoming less heavy, (or as my father used to say, "letting up,") surprised me. 

Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwick
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network utilizes thousands of citizens with official rain gauges and snow rulers to measure precipitation right in their backyards.  This is particularly helpful for meteorologists to use figuring out areas prone to flash flooding in future storms.

Skywarn is an official weather spotter training program run by the National Weather Service to teach the basics of spotting severe and hazardous weather and properly reporting that weather back to the NWA.

Some amateurs want to learn how to do their own forecasting, and that can be a fun hobby.  However, professionals warn that there are many events involved that are not intuitive about how air, water, and solar radiation interact and evolve to create weather conditions.  While amateurs may enjoy forecasting for their own pleasure, they should not encourage others to rely on their predictions.

1 comment:

The Blog Fodder said...

Citizen weather watchers and reporters is a new idea to me. It should be used more. Rain is a funny thing, as you say. My mother's patron saint was Ogden Nash. "The rain it raineth on the Just and on the Unjust fella. But mostly on the Just because the Unjust hath the Just's umbrella.