Copyright 2001 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved



Crank's Corner


                                            Weather (or Not)


    After an unseasonably warm autumn, and a comparatively balmy first three weeks
of December, the cold winds of winter have finally arrived in Northwest Ohio.  A few
minutes of mini-blizzard managed to shut down I-75 with ice and accidents on Dec. 23,
and today the wind chill is something like five degrees below zero.  Is this, finally, some
"normal" weather?

    For several months, it seemed that every time I watched a weather report, the
meteorologist  would be remarking on how whatever weather we were having was not
"normal" for the day or the season.  (Speaking of meteorologists, whatever became of
plain old weathermen?)  Twenty degrees above or below average, new record highs or
lows for particular days of the year, freak storms, take shelter, you name it.  Perhaps the
newscasters are trying to make weather reports sound more exciting and newsworthy,
breaking in with reports from Bigfoot Doppler Radar and First Alert Weather Center,
spicing things up with high-tech toys like street-by-street, minute-by-minute Storm
Tracker Mapping.

    Remember the big wind that blew through town a couple months ago, ripping
branches off the trees and generally making a mess of things?  I had the television on,
switching from station to station to check for tornado warnings and severe weather alerts,
but there was nothing to see, not even a little cartoon map stuck off in a corner of the
screen.  All summer long, I'd been watching them hype a few thunderstorms into high
drama, showing us records of lightning strikes and replaying satellite radar footage ad
nauseam, but now, with wind so strong I expected to see Dorothy flying by the next time I
looked out the window, there was nothing on the tube but a Montel re-run.  What good
are all those gizmos, if the best they could do was to break into the broadcast ten minutes
after the wind died down, saying "we've had reports of high winds in southern Wood
County..."?

    Another thing: who decides what a "normal" temperature is?  It seems to me that,
on any given day, the temperature is never reported as normal, but rather as so many
degrees above or below normal.  When was it ever normal, that they could decide what
normal ought to be?  Is "normal" the average of all the temperatures ever recorded for that
day?  If so, is it the mean average, or the median average?  If I remember my math
correctly, those two can be very different.

    A mean average is calculated by adding various numbers together for a total sum,
then dividing by the number of numbers you added together.  A median average is
calculated by arranging the numbers in order, the finding the one in the middle, that has
the same number of numbers above it as below it.  So, if the recorded temperatures for a
particular day, in five different years, were 10, 15, 16, 18, and 65, the mean average
temperature would be 25, but the median avearge temperature would be 16.  Which one is
"normal," or is normal something else entirely?

    If a normal temperature is whatever the temperature has most often been on that
day, the "normal" temperature must get adjusted every few years, especially if this whole
global warming thing turns out to be real.  In the year 2525 (if man is still alive), the
normal teperature for a day in December might be 73, and we'll spend the summers
underground, in air-conditioned bunkers.   If we'd been able to record the temperatures
during the last ice age, and added them into the calculations, "normal" for Memorial Day
might be twenty below, and the last few thousand years just freakishly warm.  How
should we decide these things?

    Now that there is a little snow on the ground, our weathercasters will be gearing
up to terrorize us with dire warnings of future storms, the Great White Death that they
predict several times a year, when they aren't commenting on the January thaw or other
warm spells or cold snaps.  It won't really make much difference to most of us, who still
look out the window to check on the weather with more conviction than we tune into the
Weather Channel.  We live in Northwest Ohio; if you don't like the weather, wait ten
minutes.  It'll change.

     Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.  No matter
how many early warning radar screens, storm trackers, lightning recorders, tornado
watches, severe weather alerts, and satellite images get shoved at us, we're really not
much better off than in the days when the weatherman pasted up little suns and cloud-
shaped cutouts while he drew on a map with a marker to show us the direction he thought
the front would move.  Back then, they didn't make such a big deal about the weather,
probably because they didn't have a bunch of expensive equipment to pay for.

     Schools make a big deal out of the weather now, too, much more than they did
when I was in high school.  I can barely remember one or two days when school was
cancelled for snow; the attitude then was, "it's winter, and we have snow in winter....so
what?"  Now, a light snowfall or early fog throws everything into chaos with school
closings and delays; it must have something to do with liability insurance and safety
issues.  It's too dangerous for kids to ride the bus to school; it's safer for them to stay
home and race snowmobiles.

    Sometimes, the weather is truly worth talking about, but those situations are the
sort that enter into legend, like the Fourth of July Storm or the Blizzard of '78.  Most of
the time, the weather is barely worth mentioning; it'll be what it will be, and we can't do a
thing about it.  Keep an umbrella in the car, wear a hat and gloves, don't drive like an
idiot, stock up on canned soup; use a little common sense and you can survive almost any
weather, no matter how overblown the meteorologists make it sound.  It's just weather,
whether it's "normal" or not.


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