Few remember this, but it used to be that weather was only available in basic flavours, and weather announcers were pretty much stuck with those flavours. The weather report went something like this: “Rain today. Don’t forget your umbrella!” or “Sunny, with cloudy periods.”
Everybody liked to laugh at the weatherman in those days. His forecasts were always boring, and always wrong, too. Nobody really paid any attention anyway, because there was a convenient weather app that most people used: it involved looking out the window, or sometimes even opening the door, to see what the weather had in mind for that day. The app was surprisingly accurate.
Severe weather ahead!
“There is a 50% chance of showers today, 50% chance of cloud cover, 50% chance of clear skies, 50% chance of wind, 50% chance that there will be some kind of temperature, and 50% chance that your mother-in-law will be stopping by, uninvited.”
This new method did make every weather report accurate, but were people appreciative? No. They felt cheated out of their god-given right to complain about the weatherman being wrong. And the weather remained a pretty boring topic of conversation.
Then 24-hour news arrived with CNN, and along with it 24-hour weather updates. Soon an entire station, The Weather Network, was born for the sole purpose of discussing whether it would rain that day or not. Weathermen were replaced by weather experts. These changes triggered severe Weather Report Addiction (WRA) in heretofore normal citizens. WRA quickly became epidemic across North America, and soon people were unable to leave their homes without checking the weather report. “I need to go outside to the workshop for a minute, hon, couldya go check the weather, see if I need rain gear?” Looking out the window or door became something that only a philistine would do.
Still, with 24 hours in a day, there wasn’t nearly enough interesting weather to keep weather-obsessed people glued to the screen. Fortunately, someone somewhere realized that instead of telling people about the weather, they could be warning people about the weather. The idea took off. Dire warnings became the norm, and all weather, even the innocent rain squall, was reborn as ‘extreme weather’. Today, it is almost impossible to find regular run-of-the-mill weather.
A dusting of snow is a ‘snowfall warning’. Any wind above a gentle breeze? Wind warning. And yes, even plain Jane rain has been elevated to the status of dangerous, and now gets a warning. Sunshine gets a warning of a different kind: “Today will be sunny and mild. Don’t spend more than five minutes in it without complete body protection.”
Your guide to modern weather predictions:
“Today will be sunny.”
“Heat warning. Temperatures in the low twenties. Avoid outdoors if possible.”
“Rain today. Don’t forget your umbrella!”
“Rain warning. It will rain enough to get the ground wet today. Don’t leave home unless you absolutely have to. And to you old-timey scoffers, don’t think for a second that a mere umbrella will save you.”
“Winds expected to pick up by early afternoon.”
“Wind warning. Potentially damaging winds of 10 kph expected later today.”
“Thick intense cloud system rolling in (all clouds are now ‘systems’, and they roll a lot), bringing potentially damaging rain to the region.”
“Snow flurries this afternoon. Get out the sleds for the kids!”
“Heavy snowfall warning. Five centimeters of snow expected to dump on area later this afternoon. Seek shelter. Don’t leave your home unless necessary.”
“Storm coming in.”
“Storm of the century coming, watch our 24-hour special coverage. Every bad thing that can happen probably will. We will all die.”
Now, sometimes in the old days you could get a quick weather update from old man Henry down the street, as he sat in his rocking chair and griped about his arthritis. His weather report was pretty much: “Goddamn leg is achin’, I reckon something’s a’ brewin’ out there.”
Even today, you can get a quick weather update, but not from old man Henry, who died long ago of crankiness. You can ask his son, though, old man Sam, who is sitting in his rocking chair and griping about his arthritis. His weather report will be pretty much: “Goddamn leg is achin’, I reckon something’s a’ brewin’ out there.”
The old-version weather predictions were usually wrong, except for old man Henry’s report. Modern predictions, despite state-of-the-art equipment and 24-hour coverage, are also usually wrong, except for old man Sam’s report.
In the last few years, though, weather has taken a marked turn for the worst. Some call it climate change, but weather experts know the truth, that somewhere along the line, the star of the weather report, the weather itself, realized its own fame. Chased by over-analytical weather paparazzi, and giddy from the thrill of being so popular, it has grown into a seething, raging, fickle prima dona, endlessly inventing new bad-weather systems to fling down upon us. Yet even while worsening overall, the weather often likes to taunt weather experts by offering potential - and newsworthy - widespread devastation, only to, after dire warnings and hysteria are produced, meander through the area like the proverbial lamb. Because it seems even the weather itself likes to laugh at the weatherman.