20 things you need to know about the weather
The weather is a very mysterious phenomenon which Perkin Warbeck hopes to simplify in this scientific article...
- To the English the weather is a legitimate subject for conversation, much as football is in Scotland. For some it provides a lucrative source of employment by giving them the chance to churn out predictions of Russellgrantian accuracy.
- In fact the weather is nothing more than the result of variations in pressure and temperature. As any school student knows, the relationship between pressure and temperature is accurately predicted by Boyle's Ideal Gas Law
P1 V1 / T1 = P2 V2 / T2
Thus weather forecasting is a complete charade whereby Cray supercomputers are acquired and many balloons wasted when the maths involved can really be done on the back of a Frosties packet.
- Oldfashioned Cartesian Philosophy stated the Universe to be completely predictable if you knew the state of all its atoms and the laws of interaction between them. Conversely, trendy Chaos Theory suggests there to be runaway processors called Strange Attractors, whereby tiny effects can have unpredictable consequences. The commonly heard example is that of a butterfly flapping its wings in Australia and causing a typhoon in Jamaica. Quite why the Jamaicans don't catch the butterfly and bludgeon it to death isn't clear.
- The so-called "Met", or Meteorological Office, derives its name from primitive days when weather was actually part of the MOD and its employees sign the Official Secrets Act. One wonders as to the point in all this. "Now Mr Blunt, when did Mr Burgess tell you it was going to rain tomorrow?"
- In London matters are confused due to the police force also being known as the "Met". Hence many Londoners think that the TV soap "The Bill" is in fact a detailed weather forecast. The confusion is further added to by the fact that the programme is set in a district called Sun Hill, and by there being a real weatherman called Bill Giles.
- The TV weather forecast has changed rapidly in the past 20 years; from the amiable Bert Ford with his wee bits of sticky card to the eccentric personalities of today with their accents, facial hair, computers and radar. On the subject of which, have you noticed how the radar seems to hit a barrier at Carlisle? Given that it's the MOD radar in the first place, it begs the question of just how much protection we are getting for housing the Polaris submarine fleet.
- Many people's favourite amongst the current forecasters is the BBC's Suzanne Charlton. Much of her popularity is thought to derive from the belief that her father is the famous footballer Bobby. This seems unlikely however, as she has long flowing locks rather than a bald head with a lone strand of hair brylcreemed down across the front of it.
- For years the ITV companies didn't bother with weather forecasts. This is no longer the case, but they still differ from the BBC in employing only midgets, horrormovie extras and people with severe dental problems.
- ITV, being a commercial channel, also have to have their forecasts sponsored. Clearly this makes them not to be trusted, as they're never going to predict pissing rain when Ambre Soleil is the sponsor, nor baking hot sun when the logo is that of Damart.
- In Shakespeare, bad weather was a kind of allegory for bad things happening. Hence in his famous play "Paradise Lost", when Julius Caesar is about to be murder'd by Torquemada, the storm becomes so severe that Birnam Wood is ripp'd from the ground. In real life the main counter-example to this is English Cricket, where the bad weather means good things - e.g. Gooch and the boys have an outside chance of a draw with the West Indies.
- In Greek Mythology the weather was mainly controlled by Ceres the Goddess of the Harvest, Thor the God of Thunder and McCasklos the Cyclopean Leprechaun. The latter is least well known due to talking only in riddles.
- An Italian forecaster called Vivaldi invented the concept of the Four Seasons. This was taken up by the famous Yankee forecaster Frankie Valli, who proved that the seasons derive from the four Ptolemaic epicycles of the Earth's orbit. This doesn't apply in Scotland, where there are only two seasons: the rainy season and the midgie season. The former lasts 51 weeks and the latter six months. Fortunately they don't overlap, leaving a week at the end of May when walking can be quite nice. Unfortunately this coincides with the English Bank Holiday weekend.
- Country folk are very good at telling the weather from unlikely sources. E.g. it is said that if cows lie down and cower in the corner of a field it means bad weather approaching. More likely they have just caught site of the abattoir van.
- Our old friend the sheep is also good at telling the weather. In sunny weather they lie on busy roads. In cold weather they lie on their backs and wave their legs in the air. Also, they make sure to have their babies when snow is still thick on the ground.
- A few years ago some enthusiasts at Heriot-Watt University started a Mountain Line service at the same price as a call to your Auntie Mary. Now sadly we pay the same price as BT's 0898 perverts to hear "Welcome to the Glasgow Herald Mountain Line. If you hold on for 30 seconds we'll double your bill."
- One of the paradoxes of the weather for hillwalkers is that when the forecasters are whining on about freezing fog, it is actually good news, meaning high pressure and the chance to get above the fog into a cloudless sky. Tough luck if you live in Birmingham, as you will not get through the pileups on the M6 to find this out.
- Once they've plotted their nice isobars, the forecasters then start ranting about "fronts moving in". Fortunately this is not an invasion by fascist brownshirts led by Jean Marie le Pen or Martin Webster. Nor is it the Frente Sandinista come to liberate us from the Tories. In contrast, a front is actually a squiggly line on the isobar chart. It looks as if a two-year-old has been asked to draw mummy daddy and the dog.
- The most reliable source of weather information is said to be the shipping forecast. Reliable it may be, comprehensible it certainly isn't. What do you think we're doing as they reading it out? Plotting out isobars on our handy weather map? "North Utsire 1098 falling slowly": just what we need to know for a day in the Trossachs.
- In the Bible we're encouraged to adopt an existentialist philosophy by the reminder that "the rain falls on the just and the unjust". Unfortunately in Scotland the just are usually festering in their tents while the unjust dive out of their Range Rover, loose off a few rounds at the hapless fauna, then dive into the best hotels for a dram in front of a log fire.
- When all's said and done, an experienced hill-person ought to be able to read some information from the surroundings. E.g. herringbone skies are a sign of a depression coming in and you should expect rain within 24 hours. Herringbone jackets are a sign that you have drifted into a shooting party and should expect a severe bollocking from some windbag.
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