herald

Friday 17 August 2018

No guarantees for our weather - except rain, sun, rain

YOU wouldn't know what to wear. You wouldn't know what to pawn.

Last week, I got hammered by hailstones as big as golf balls. Well, okay, they were the size of marbles, but it was a hell of an aerial attack. This morning, in sharp contrast, I had all the windows in the car open to cool down, while the weather forecaster on the radio said a gale warning is in operation and the ad on the back of the bus in front of me announced, 'The Ice Man Cometh', warning me and other drivers to get our cars checked before the snow falls.

The weather in the last week has delivered the summer we didn't get this year. Not much of a summer, and since everybody's back at work, at school or college, it's damn all use to us, but at least at lunchtime it's possible to sit out on the wall with your sandwich and feel the warm sun on your shoulders.

John Eagleton at the Met Office seemed surprised that I was surprised at us having good weather as September comes to an end.

"We have a phrase for that," he told me patiently. "We call it an Indian summer. Good weather sometimes does return in September and October. In some countries, they call it the Old Wives' summer. I don't know why. It's just summer coming back a little bit. It's only fair. Winter often comes back to visit us in May," he added.

That's true. But it hasn't stopped the radio presenters, reading out the weather for the day, going: "Temperatures TWENTY THREE DEGREES!" It's like they want us to appreciate how lucky we are, at least on the East Coast.

Eagleton, because he has a national mandate, was quick to point out that although us Easterners have seen temperatures up around twenty degrees and gone looking for the Ray-Bans, Cork, yesterday was getting what he called, "A lousy old day, drizzly and damp".

"We always live a charmed life," Eagleton says about Easterners, him being from Drogheda, although he has the accent under control.

"By and large," he adds, "temperatures should hold up for the rest of the week."

The 'by and large' is a sort of instinctive insurance cover. Met Office forecasters do what it says in their title. They forecast. Guarantees, they don't provide, and they heave long quiet sighs about the lads who do. You know the ones: who promised us snow-drifts this week or next, and ice-skating down the front path.

"This is Paddy Power stuff," Eagleton shrugs. "This is just guesswork. Even last year, if someone had said in November we'd have a foot of snow, nobody would have believed them. It was an extreme weather event.

"What you can't do is work out when those events are going to happen. These people who suddenly predict a sudden major cold snap the week after next never give a reason, but someone always picks up on it and it gets momentum because we've had a few cold winters," he added.

The problem with the weather is that it's so completely outside of our control, yet has the capacity to play hell with our lives. We yearn for a bit of certainty, even a week in advance. That would allow us to take advantage of hot spells or go and buy snow chains if that white-out is really on the way. So we thump the Met Office whenever they get it wrong.

"I never mind personally," John Eagleton says. "It's business. Every business gets irate customers," he added.

His best current estimate is that, while we're likely to see bits of rain in the next few days, tomorrow should be warmer than today. Heavy rain on Saturday. It might be sunny next week.

No guarantee, mind. Terms and conditions apply.

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