Degree in Meteorology? Hardly!


wind vaneI’ve been a true “weather geek” for most of my life.

This “habit” started in elementary school and persists even today.

I built a backyard weather station while attending Wooster Heights grade school and I kept taking readings and recording weather until I left home for school and then the USAF.

Each day, I tracked the temperature, humidity, precipitation and winds and logged observations three times daily.

Some of my earliest heroes were weather folks.

On Cleveland television, I felt a kinship with “Wally Kinnan, The Weatherman”, Dick Goddard, Don Webster and even Hoolihan the Weatherman.

In those days, my hometown had a weather station at the airport and they would send daily forecast updates plus severe weather announcements.

I could identify by their voices the crew that monitored Mansfield, Ohio’s weather; guys like Ed Jacobs, Charlie Miller and Dewey Peters.

Ed’s forecasts sounded like mini-weather novels.

I loved it.

To prove I was actually a weather geek, check out my elementary school pictures.

Flat top haircut, clip-on bow tie and probably a pocket protector.

A real babe magnet!

I would cut the weather map out of the daily newspaper and glue it to a page in a stenographer notebook and log my daily readings.

I read everything I could get my hands on regarding weather and I also found out there were ways to determine weather elements without the benefit of Doppler radar and satellites.

For example, you can get a pretty accurate outdoor temperature by listening to a cricket chirp.

Male crickets chirp to attract the babes, to scare off other dudes or to warn of danger.

Oh, by the way, crickets don’t rub their legs together to “chirp”.

They rub their wings together.

Male crickets have “scraper” (a sharp ridge on a wing) that they rub against a series of wrinkles, or “files” on the other wing.

This time of year, count the number of cricket chirps in 14 seconds, and at 40 to that number.

If you want Celsius, count cricket chirps over 25 seconds, divide that number by 3 and add 4.

We can thanks scientist Amos Dolbear for that.

He came up with “Dolbear’s Law in 1897.

Also, this fall when the cooler weather arrives, you’ll note the cicadas’ chirp is a lot slower that what you’ll hear in the heat of summer.


You see lightning, then thunder follows.

How near is the storm?

Since sound travels one mile every 5 seconds, when you see a flash, count the seconds until you hear thunder, then divide by 5.

That will tell you how far away you are from where that lightning bolt occurred.

Remember, like the song said, “So when you hear it thunder, don’t run under a tree. There’ll be pennies from heaven from you and me”.

Actually, today officials say, “Thunder roars, Go indoors”.

You can also get a pretty accurate read on wind speed by using something known as the “Beaufort” (Boe-fert) scale.

Irish hydrographer Francis Beaufort devised this nifty little tool.

A hydrographer is one who studies the science of measurement, description and mapping of the surface of waters on the earth.

While serving in the Royal Navy, Beaufort came up with this little gem which measures wind from 0-12.

I won’t give you all 13 categories but I’ll highlight a few.

“0” or “Calm”; Smoke rises vertically.

“1” or “Light Air” (Less than 3 mph); Smoke shows the direction of the wind but it’s not strong enough to move most wind vanes.

“2” or “Light Breeze” (4-7 mph); You can feel a breeze on your face, leaves rustle and a wind vane is moved.

“4” or “Moderate Breeze” (13-16 mph);  The breeze stirs dust and loose paper and small branches are moved.

“6” or “Strong Breeze” (26-31 mph); “Large branches move, whistling is hear in overhead wires and it’s tough to use an umbrella.

“8” or “Gale” (Fresh Gale) (39-46 mph); Twigs break off and progress walking is impeded.

“10” or “Storm” (Whole Gale) (55-63 mph) Trees are uprooted and there’s considerable structural damage.

“12” or “Hurricane Force” (73+ mph) Significant devastation.

This scale is for sustained winds, not gusts and there’s also a version with descriptions if you on a body of water.

Who needs an anemometer?

Seasonal insight can also be provided by critters and plants.

After you hear the first “spring peeper”, there’s normally 3 more hard freezes or brief cold snaps before winters’ cold is no more.

Spring is here to stay when all the oak and beech tree leaves fall.

It’s often true that thunder in January means snow and cold in February.

Not so certain is the adage, “Green trees late into fall means a rough winter”.

Other fun weather things include the woolly bear caterpillar.

The wider the brown band, the milder winter will be.

We also have that “persimmon thing” that some folks in Indiana swear by.

Did you ever hear that every fog in August counts for a winter snowfall?

Much rain in October means much wind in December.

Thunder in the fall foretells a cold winter.

Just about everyone knows about, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning”.

High pressure (fair weather) traps dust and soot particles in the air and they impact the rays of light and the red shades are more prevalent. Since weather generally moves from west to east here, a red sky at night is good.

In the morning, a red sky indicates the fair weather has passed and expect precipitation

sooner than later.

Cows don’t like the wind in their face so when you see their tales to the west, expect arriving or continuing nice weather.

Regarding aches and pains increasing with approaching bad weather, most formal studies have been inconclusive.

However, a drop in atmospheric pressure can cause blood vessels to dilate and that could bother sensitive joints and such

And I’ve found that if the dew is heavy on the grass at sunset, expect fair, generally dry weather to continue.

Try your own hand with some of this weather info and see how it works.

We might truly become more than just “fair weather” friends.


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