HALL: And talk about the weather | Opinion

One summer, when I was in early college, I was lucky enough to crew a boat in the annual 300-mile race from Chicago to Mackinac Island.

I knew a little about sailing, how to get a boat going, but my duties were menial. I’ve spent hours directing a course as directed by the navigator. I monitored the sails and adjusted (adjusted) them if necessary.

I had sunburn during the day and cold at night. It probably rained, as it always does at least once during this race, and everyone on board complained about the strength and direction of the wind, but complaining was of no avail.

I began to understand why ancient people came up with the idea of ​​weather gods, grumpy deities who controlled the winds, rain, and sun. I could also understand why people developed rituals to call upon these gods for weather changes; bad weather will tempt people to try just about anything.

Over the following centuries, the Old Farmer’s Almanac gave weather advice which partly replaced the gods. He published guidelines that tried to help farmers make their schedules: rules of thumb like “plant your corn when the oak leaves are the size of squirrels’ ears.” But as my grandfather said, “the paper hasn’t refused the ink yet,” which means that just because something is published doesn’t mean it’s true. Survival in farming depends on planting and harvesting at the right time, and learning what to believe.

Sailing to Mackinac, I found the weather forecast to be anything but accurate. The following school year, I took a course called Meteorology 17, an introduction to weather. One of the course requirements was to read a book called “STORM”, which described the development of a storm in the Pacific Ocean and followed it throughout the United States, the Atlantic and Europe.

He discussed storm data collection, how forecasters depended on wind and barometer readings from various ships in the Pacific to alert them to weather disturbances that could become problems. Often this data was sparse and inaccurate. The book was written before any artificial satellites were put into orbit.

Nowadays we have weather forecasts available online, and even the 10 day forecast is much better than anything in the 1960s. And the long range forecast is also very good. This is mainly due to the cloud of satellites that circles the Earth and the computers that analyze data from the ground and from the satellites.

They can read temperatures, cloud cover, wind directions and more, across oceans and land. And because they have this data for the entire globe, they are now able to develop what will be the weather averages over the years, which they call the climate.

Considerable amounts of this data are publicly available. If you go to the National Weather Service website, you’ll find tons of data. Some of them make you wonder why anyone needs it, but it’s fun to check and wonder who’s using it.

I recommend that you check out the Forecasts section, at the bottom of the page. I guess there are people out there who don’t believe anything the government says, so they won’t watch this stuff, let alone read the forecasts and check to see if they turn out to be accurate.

However, if you’re one of those who want to know whether or not to bring an umbrella to your picnic, this should interest you. It will take you some time to learn to appreciate these reports, but you might find them useful every time you go out.

If you look at the info center at the bottom of the page, there’s some really wacky stuff under Space Weather. One section talks about auroras or aurora borealis. Another reports ‘coronal mass ejections’, something I’m sure we’re all losing sleep over. A kindergartner probably knows all about this and will tell you that the more mass ejected in our direction from the solar corona, the better our chances of seeing the Northern Lights.

Children tell things like that to their elders out of kindness.

They don’t do it just to make us feel obsolete.