Weather

Did you know that the appearance of rainbows in the sky can help us predict the weather? There are many ways to understand one of Nature’s greatest puzzles.

KODIAK — Sometimes we take life too seriously and excuses to giggle, laugh and smile are so welcome.

Case in point: A couple years ago, while hosting cruise ship guests on a wildlife boat tour. We saw puffins, sea lions and even whales. Folks were delighted. Then it started to rain. Hard. The wipers couldn’t keep up. I tried to think of something to lighten the mood. As our boat approached the Petro Marine Services fuel dock, I had an idea.

“Can you read the words on those tanks over there?”

All six guests shuffled to the starboard side and peered through the window. “Petro Marine Services,” they chanted. 

“That’s right!” I said. “And until a few years ago, the tank was painted with just the three initials.

Silence.

“P—M—S!” someone shouted, followed by a few restrained giggles.

“Yes, Kodiak had the world’s largest supply of PMS!”

What am I getting at here? We’ve been blessed with a rare stretch of sunny weather, allowing for much romping outdoors and catching up with chores. “I painted two sheds, yesterday” a friend told me at a weekend potluck.

The reality is that in less than three weeks, the first day of autumn arrives. Not a good or bad thing. We don’t have to take on a PMS attitude about it. The arrival of fall does, however, provide a host of opportunities to be keen observers. 

Let’s talk about the weather

In this era of streaming movies and watching YouTube videos, there still remains the biggest show in the whole wide world: The weather. Admission is free and good seats are plentiful. There are no commercial interruptions and it runs 24/7. 

Weather engages all of us, from villagers in the snowy Himalayan peaks to commuters on the LA freeway. 

We live in houses. We study in schools. We work in buildings. We vacation in hotels. And we travel in cars, boats, planes and trains. We spend so much time inside, we grow numb to the beauty outside.

At the close of the day,

Pull your wits together:

Put aside the TV,

And watch the weather.

Don Haggerty published that little ditty in his 1985 book, Rhymes to Predict the Weather. A delightful paperback that’s packed with fun-to-learn and easy-to-apply weather info. I pulled the book from the shelves while working on my 2019 calendar, one sunny day. I looked out the window and saw fluffy white clouds teasing the treetops. What are those clouds telling me, I thought. Maybe other people might want to know. So, I looked up a few of Don’s rhymes to share on the calendar. Predicting weather is like a puzzle, says Don. Here’s a sampler:

Sharp moon, stars bright,

Go to sleep in peace tonight.

Dull moon, stars pale

Dreams of sun will not prevail.

Don says that sharp, bright stars and moon indicate dry air, which spells clear skies for a while at least. High-level moisture has a tendency, on the other hand, to obscure the moon and stars, making them hazy and indistinct. And the color of the moon varies with the amount of moisture present in the atmosphere overhead.

“A stark white moon, with a clean, sharp outline means very little moisture is present and clear weather should continue,” he says. “If its outline turns dull, however, and its face a bit pale, start looking around for other signs of approaching stormy weather.”

Speaking of stormy weather, the following poem emphasizes the value of a having a barometer close at hand to refer to…

Wind up, barometer down,

Unpleasant weather is coming to town.

The higher the breeze and slower the fall,

The tougher the storm ‘twill be for all. 

To explain: A rising wind and a falling barometer says Don, “is just like having a two-headed town crier shouting, ‘Here comes a storm’.”

Staying in tune with the weather can alert you to precautions to take in your garden. For example, you may have noticed that mornings of late have taken on a chilly feel to them. Keep those frost covers handy… 

Cold, calm and clear,

Jack Frost is passing near.

Finally, there’s nothing like a rainbow to get folks excitedly reaching for their smartphones. Yes, even rainbows can forecast the weather for us. The principle here is that wherever you see a rainbow, you can be sure you’re looking at a mass of moist air. This is, of course, a general statement admits Don, but if the rainbow appears to the west, rain may very well be dropping in your neighborhood soon. However, if the rainbow should make its appearance in the east, chances are things will be clearing for a while.

Rainbow in the morning.

Picnicker take warning.

Rainbow in the afternoon,

An evening stroll is opportune.

To some, weather doesn’t matter. It’s a thing to be tolerated. Clouds are only noted when rain threatens inconvenience, and winds observed only when their chill or strength means discomfort or a change in plans.

Don Haggerty says that learning how to forecast the weather, even a little bit, is to understand a thing of great vastness and beauty. The key is to be in the moment, as in the “‘putting of his mind’ to the wonders before him.”

The challenge is to “capture meaning in apparently meaningless events. Then once grasped, the pleasure comes of understanding, of comprehending, the forces at work in his world, and the powers that move amidst the inner depths of his soul.”

The weather offers such a puzzle. And excuses to giggle, laugh and smile.

For more gardening and photography tips, recipes and inspirations, sign up for my special mailing list. Or if you have a garden question, send me an email to mygarden@alaska.net. You’re also invited to visit my blog at marionowenalaska.com.

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