When I was a kid we had an unreal weather man: serious and accurate – he told my farmer father exactly what he needed to hear and he could be relied upon without question. Yet everyone must retire eventually, and the nice man went away. Since I live on the coast, the main tv network weathermen are surfie types, worried about swell, rips and possible whale sightings.
But my dh’s recent rants got me wondering when we started relying on weathermen to tell us what the next few days were going to be like. When exactly did people start predicting the weather?
I’m not old enough to have seen the first tv broadcast in Australia, but the weather has been part of my life for as long as I can remember?
The radio? I’m not sure about when they started reporting the weather forecast.
The newspapers? Possibly.
My 1813 Gentleman’s Monthly Magazine published in London reported daily high and low temps, snow, rain and clouds but all of that was for the previous month.
I know for sure that the 1806 Sydney Gazette did not feature weather predictions in print. What they did report was floods and high tides, bushfires after they occurred along with the colony news of the day. But no predictions.
So how did people know what to expect?
It wasn't until the invention of the telegraph in 1837 that forecasting could actually begin. Prior to this, the only way to get information about weather in another area was to get it delivered by train. Unfortunately, the weather usually arrived before the train so that doesn’t seem to be very effective to me.
There is actually a long history of weather forecasting. The Babylonians predicted the weather from cloud patterns and astrology. Aristotle described weather patterns in Meteorologica around 340 BC. The Chinese prediction lore extends back as far as 300 BC as does ancient Indian methods. And the ordinary man, well … he stuck his head out the door and paid attention to what he could see.
- Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.
- If clouds are gathering thick and fast, Keep sharp look out for sail and mast, But if they slowly onward crawl, Shoot your lines, nets and trawl.
- Rain before seven, clear by eleven (I am never passing this one along to my children – they’ll use it to avoid catching the bus)
- When dew is on the grass, no rain will come to pass.
(The one about the dew is new to me, but I’ve got a feeling it could be right. Since Spring has sprung here in Aus I’ll have to wait a whole year to test it out though. LOL)
While these useful rhymes don’t predict long-term weather patterns, they’re as good, or better, than my weatherman for the next day’s forecasts. But I find it interesting to think that with all the spiffy technology, satellites, and complex weather broadcasts that the time honored methods still work best for the short term. Do you have other rhymes that you live by? If so, I'd love to hear them.