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Friday, 17 January 2014

Weather Lore

Listening to a learned climate scientist making predictions based on the latest models and data yesterday I did get a few laughs. The present warmer than usual winter in Western Europe is being seized upon by the Climate Change/Green lobby to ramp up their "see, we told you so" scaremongering. No mention is made, of course, of the unusually cold weather blanketing the US and Eastern Canada, or of the unseasonably extensive pack ice in Antarctica, or the massive recovery of the Arctic ice. Oh no, the entire focus is on the "Climate Change" in one small part of the overall continent. It was funny, largely because all these serious speakers have university degrees and live in cities, making, of course, the occasional foray into the countryside to choose some more sites for windmills and solar panel farms, and perhaps to wring their hands over the latest lack of snow.

Living in a small village, surrounded by farmers and forest, one cannot help but be aware of the old folk lore regarding a lot of nature and natural phenomenon. It's a pity so many highly educated Greens and Climate Scientists don't take a closer look at what the people on the land, in the forest and in the fields can tell them about cycles. A couple of weeks ago one of our local farmers told me that if the Epiphany dawned warm and clear with no snow - the winter was over and the Spring would arrive early. There are a number of similar measures and sayings in different places, and they are, generally, based on many centuries of observation, and are generally pretty much on the money.

Epiphany was chilly, but it was clear, and there was no snow on the ground. Now I am seeing birds furiously building nests, rabbits, squirrels and other wildlife all getting themselves geared up for the next stage in the cycle of their lives and the old farmer is complaint that the crops he had planned will not thrive yet - because the ground is still to wet.

It strikes me that for this sort of 'lore' to arise, there must have been centuries of observation of similar events and cycles. OK, so the folk who developed this didn't have temperature records, they didn't have satellite images and data, and the probably wouldn't know the North Atlantic Oscillation from a fun fair. That doesn't mean it can simply be disregarded - especially when it is, a lot of the time, more accurate than all the data crunching that goes into 'models'. I suspect that most of these models are simply a fancier way of the old Shaman throwing the bones and declaring that, because one landed in a pool of water, another on a stone and yet another on a patch of bare ground, that this meant we were going to get a flood, followed by a drying up of the rivers and a drought.

The rural weather lore is not just sucked out of the air, it has developed and been handed down through generations. It would not be repeated if the cycles weren't being observed by those repeating them. Some of the residents in this village are well into their 80s and one is over 90. Talking to them about the cycles of the land and the weather is fascinating and, I must say, a heck of a lot more informative than listening to someone repeating the story that Germany will not see any snow - even on its highest mountains, in another 30 years. Or that even Switzerland will not see snow in a hundred. I mentioned this to one old fellow here and he laughed. "Ja," he said, "They said that when I was little. Then we got the winter of 1947."

It seems to be the same thing all over the world. Once one becomes an "expert", the simple act of doing a reality check occasionally seems to get forgotten. Now, thanks to the fact that a warm winter (my neighbour reminds me in broad Hessisch that they had a similar one some years ago) I shall dig out my waders and take my friend Harry the Sheltie for a walk in the mud.

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