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Weather Junkies


I’ve become a temperature/weather junkie of late. Maybe it’s because I used to store wine in a corner of our old basement in Brooklyn and I’m trying to do likewise in our new house, learning about thermal mass and earth temperatures and insulation R-Values all that. It’s also because our heating isn’t yet working properly in the new house and we need to keep notes on how warm it gets for every time we call back the installation company. And certainly it’s got a lot to do with the fact that I like to do a lot of outdoor activities and I much prefer planning them for good weather days than bad ones: there’s not much point going running in rain if you can run under the sun by going early or late, or indeed skiing the day before a snowstorm if you can go the day after. You get my (snow?) drift. But mostly I think it’s just because I like statistics: as a kid, I used to write down football attendances and work out the averages, long before we had Excel to do the work for us. The long and the short of it is that I have several thermometers scattered around the house – especially in the basement – and a couple of weather web sites set to our zip code as home pages.

These weather web sites seem like the fulfillment to all our desires: no more waiting for the local forecast on the radio or TV, never really knowing if it applies to your own area or not. Now you simply punch in your zip code on a chosen weather web site, bookmark it, and get your a specific forecast every day. Except that anyone who checks more than one such site will realize there is no such thing as a specific forecast. They vary in their predictions like the… you know what.

Our ancestors probably just looked up to the skies to predict the weather. But then, they probably weren’t planning their ski weekends or long training runs several days ahead!

We’re in a really weird week right now: we had snowstorms either side of New Year’s Eve, last Thursday Jan 3rd was the coldest day of the winter so far (wind chills up here were way down in the minus Farenheits), and yet Monday the 7th, just four days later, it was in the high fifties. I write this Tuesday morning as we are warned of freakishly balmy temperatures for the day. (These drastic temperature swings, while not entirely uncommon – early winter is known for “freeze and thaw” up in the mountains – are a sign of climate change if they occur too often.)

And yet the web sites seem able completely unable to agree on what to expect. As of lunchtime Monday, Noah (the Government’ss weather website) and Unisys (a nerd site I was pointed to the other day by some ski bums who follow the jet streams) were predicting 54F for Tuesday in Mount Tremper, high for the season (especially after last week’s lows) but nowhere near the record-breaking 64F predicted by the more user-friendly intellicast.com and weather.com. Meantime, our local radio station WDST, seems to have taken the smart move and split the difference, calling for a still spring-like 58F. I’m going to check back at them all later today – and the thermometers outside – to see who gets closest. And in the meantime, don’t be surprised if you live local and see me doing my errands on the bike today. Whether rain or snow, hot or cold, the goal is always to use the weather to your advantage.

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