Are Irish weather forecasts really worth the effort?

Posted on: 15th January, 2014

Category: Features

Contributor: West Cork People

New to West Cork, David Dillard is pleasantly surprised to find that he loves the weather here, comparing Irish weather to a Mahler symphony or a Verdi opera. He says that having nice weather all the time, as in California, is like having oatmeal and water for breakfast every morning!

I haven’t lived in Ireland very long but I have discovered watching or reading an Irish weather forecast is very entertaining, if not very useful. To put it in perspective, after a few minutes, one wonders if it is based on meteorology, astrology, chaos theory or general guessing. The typical report begins with a gentle introduction usually incorporating key words such as “mild, milder, light, lovely and brilliant”. Weather maps are a confusing set of graphics with every possible symbol represented in moving, gyrating and spinning patterns accompanied by seemingly random numbers. The verbal description is like the Oracle of Delphi foretelling a future of uncertainty, joyous moments, possible disappointments, hope, definitely change.

A daily forecast goes something like this: “Today; winds are likely to be mild, approaching from the west then possibly becoming milder from the east later in the day although gale force gusts could be a problem. Temperature will remain similar to yesterday although warming spells may be expected unless drops of several degrees eliminate that possibility. Sunny spells should occur followed by rainy spells, misty then heavy. Fog is expected sometime soon. We are also keeping our eye on a huge and horrible weather system approaching England and the rest of Europe where disastrous events are sure to happen. A satellite view shows this massive, unprecedented storm system inundating the entire continent as well as parts of Africa and stretching into the Middle East and lingering in India. Ireland may get a slight bit of rain as that front pushes through. Altogether it should be lovely and mild with light winds. We will be here to update you as developments unfold”.

I have a friend in Los Angeles, California who once said: “I hate this place because it is warm and sunny every day of the year”.  After spending time in California, I can agree with her. Nice weather is like having oatmeal and water for breakfast every morning. Before I moved to Ireland, I was told by numerous people the weather was horrible. I totally disagree! California weather is like boring elevator music when compared to Irish weather, which is like a Mahler symphony or a Verdi opera. Irish weather is not bad at all, it just changes often. I love the “blustery days”, as Winnie the Pooh would call them, yet I also love the sunny spells, the glorious, intoxicatingly beautiful days and even the occasional sideways rain and fog.

If my point is not yet rendered, I give this example of what not to do. Imagine a young family where the dad decides to take everyone to a beautiful overlook for a picnic. Now, if you are into the plastic forks, spoons, paper napkins, plates and cups, let me tell you what can happen. As your family is basking in the sun, enjoying their chicken sandwiches and admiring the waves crashing into the deathly high cliffs below, an unseen force suddenly comes and lifts the whole meal, place settings and grandmother’s quilt off the ground and into the ocean. You marvel at how your chicken sandwich has become an experimental aircraft where its wings are the paper plate as it spins like a small UFO before hurtling itself into the breakers several hundred feet below. No, this will not be a lovely day for you.

To ensure a lovely day you must approach the situation the Irish way. First, equip each member of the family with wellies, rain slickers, wool socks and sweaters, signal flares, brightly colored reflective vests and if you are planning to use a boat, consider going to a museum instead. Use only sturdy, permanent bowls and utensils. Make sandwiches on Irish brown bread, which is heavy enough to withstand those gale force gusts. Make sure you have a flashlight and a GPS mobile unit. Keep an eye on the children that they don’t fall into a rabbit hole and disappear. Remind your wife not to wear her summery dress, for it may end up over her head. If light rain does occur just keep eating and in a few minutes it will be lovely again. Brilliant!

So the lesson here is not the prediction of our weather, which we acknowledge is impossible, but preparation. In effect, I have changed my outlook on life because of this. Now I think not if something is going to occur but when. This is generally a good philosophy for anyone to practice. Irish weather has toughened me some and I can laugh in the face of approaching storm clouds, as I stand firm in my wellies, girded with rainproof gear and woolens. As far as Irish meteorology is concerned, I offer a simple solution; eliminate those things most likely not to occur and you will be closer to the truth. For instance, Ireland will most likely NOT have a tsunami, typhoon, tornado or blizzard any time soon. Emphasise the good and downplay the bad.  We have many beautiful rainbows reaching all the way to the green pastures below. There are star filled skies where Orion and Taurus prance across the night. The moon reflecting off the ocean is breathtaking as blinking lighthouses keep watch over our shores and fog is mysteriously beautiful when it hangs over the top of a limestone mountain.

I hope this gives the reader a sense of our weather without the usual criticism of it just being downright bad. Did I mention we supposedly don’t have lightning or thunder in Ireland? I emphasise the word ‘supposedly’. Enjoy your day, Cheers.

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