The weather and the forecasting of it was a major interest of my late friend Doug. When he was much younger, he worked part time for the National Weather Service in Norfolk, Nebraska. His weather station gig was something he often recounted in fond terms. Shortly after leaving the bureau’s office, he constructed a Heathkit weather monitoring device. It became his most prized possession. He kept track of all the relevant data his “weather station” constantly provided so he could formulate his own personal local weather forecasts. His forecasts were often more accurate than the official NOAA forecasts. In any case, Doug was a stickler for details.
I was instantly reminded of Doug when I noticed that today is World Meteorology Day. Naturally, this is a holiday that Doug relished. It was more meaningful to him than Christmas and his own birthday.
“Science is an attempt, largely successful, to understand the world, to get a grip on things, to get hold of ourselves, to steer a safe course. Microbiology and meteorology now explain what only a few centuries ago was considered sufficient cause to burn women to death.”–Carl Sagan
Much of why Doug was attracted to meteorology as a hobby is the fact that atmospheric conditions are continuously unstable. Applying technology in the ongoing effort to predict weather’s fluctuating phenomena was a creative challenge for my friend. He claimed that weather prediction was like herding cats, but after awhile he had a rough understanding how to predict the behavior of the atmosphere and of cats. He readily admitted that neither one are exact sciences, yet.
Regarding the volatile topic of global climate change, Doug was adamant about being aware of the dangers that will steadily increase. He noted that even a few degrees increase will cause tropical and “extratropical” violent storms and the variability around the world will decrease. If the temperature decreases, other factors will increase that will be just as inauspicious for life on Earth. As for either scenario, Doug wished that climate change was not a political hot button issue, because we need to be clear-headed about it.
One amusing side-note about the friendship between Doug and me was our opposing seasonal preferences. He craved hot weather and often kidded me about my love of winter. His love of heat was the motivating factor behind his move to Arizona. My enjoyment of winter was one reason I stayed behind in Nebraska. Until his dying day, Doug kept track of the weather both in Phoenix, Arizona and in Norfolk, Nebraska. Doing so brought him great joy.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes academic, activist, and science broadcaster David Suzuki. “The increasing frequency of extreme weather events, droughts and floods is in line with what climate scientists have been predicting for decades–and evidence is mounting that what’s happening is more severe than predicted, and will get far worse still if we fail to act.”