One great thing about living in Minnesota is that we always have something to talk about – the weather! I’ve been partially inspired by the current activity and also by a great word I ran across in a book I’m reading (see the Word of the Week) to continue that conversation.
Winter conversation: “How much snow did you get?” “I couldn’t even see the neighbor’s, the wind was blowing so hard.” “You think this is cold? When I was your age…”
Spring conversation: “How much rain did you get?” “When will the frost go out?” “When will the farmers be done in the fields?”
Summer conversation: “How much rain did you get?” “I might not have to mow again if we don’t get rain soon.” “You think this is hot? When I was your age…”
Fall conversation: “When will the first snow come?” “When will we have the first frost?” “When will the farmers be done in the fields?”
You may notice some similarities, but it’s usually the topic du jour, especially if nothing of earth-shattering importance is happening. Even if there are world-shaking events, you can bet the weather will get mixed into the talk.
I enjoy listening to Dan Barreiro on KFAN at 3:00 some days. He has coined the phrase “weather terrorists” to describe meteorologists these days, since they always seem to have some doom and gloom scenario to draw in viewers. It’s always the storm of the century, a snownami, or even, I kid you not, the threat of a brown Christmas this past year.
I’m not sure if they glamorize simple weather patterns for the ratings or so they can say they were right on the off-chance that the weather takes a turn for the worse. There are so many times we’re supposed to get three inches of rain or 5-8 inches of snow, and we barely see anything. Maybe they’re afraid of being held culpable if we do get socked and they hadn’t forecasted it.
Weather is unpredictable; we all know that. The forecasting has certainly gained in accuracy, but many in the know will tell you that it’s mostly guess work beyond 2-3 days. That never stopped me from fretting at least a week in advance when I was in charge of baseball tournaments!
This past Monday, January 5, we were supposed to get 4-8 inches of snow. I didn’t even hit two on my driveway. It really petered out to a simple snowfall. Today, January 8, we’re out of school for good reason, as a blizzard is whipping snow around furiously. Yesterday, I saw we were in a blizzard watch, with the snow and winds due to hit in the afternoon. Before bed, it had been upgraded to a blizzard warning, and as I was ready to walk out the door this morning, we got the call that we were out of school, soon followed by many other schools. In this case, the storm actually hit, and even sooner than they had guessed.
Many times we joke that meteorologists are allowed to be wrong more than any other profession (unless you count many of the Minnesota Twins’ hitters the past few years). Still, I’m sure it’s not an easy job. They can’t control Mother Nature any more than we can.
Still, we seem to get freaked out a lot more than we used to. Today was certainly an example of a good old-fashioned blizzard. But there are other days that you just shake your head and wonder why people are panicking. We do live in Minnesota after all; most of us should be used to a couple inches of snow, and it shouldn’t impact what we do.
Our reaction to the cold has changed as well. In 2001, the wind chill calculations were adjusted. For example, if the air temperature was 0 and the wind speed was 10, the old wind chill would have been -21. Today it would be -16. I seem to remember -50 wind chills when I was young. Today, that would be equivalent to -32 wind chill. We never used to get out of school for cold, but most schools now consider that, at least going late to let the sun come up.
It’s been a tough start to 2015 weather-wise, but I think we were spoiled with warm temps through most of December, so the cold is hitting harder than usual. Stay warm, have some soup, and turn your lights on when you’re driving! Before you know it, we’ll be wondering how much rain we got!
Word of the Week: This week’s word is apricity, which means the warmth of sunlight in winter, as in, “The school administration knew that the apricity once daylight arrived would make it warm enough to go to school.” (Thanks to the great book What If? by Randall Munroe; it’s his favorite word!) Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!