To learn how the weather works is actually pretty good to know, for many reasons. Obviously you can know whether to pack a jumper or coat. But learning about our clouds and skies, and how snow and rain and thunder works, makes for an awe and amazement at the natural world. Anyone who has sat under the stars on a dark night and looked up, tends to think more on what our planet is all about, rather than people obsessed with celebrities and TV.
In England, weather is very changeable, more than elsewhere in the world. In theory, England should be as cold as Scandinavia (and it can be in winter, up north). But because we have a warm Gulf Stream, we miss a lot of the very cold weather, and can not only have 4 seasons, but sometimes 4 seasons in one day!
Why TV weather presenters take so long to read the weather is quite the mystery, although most are high qualified. The Met Office is the world expert and can clear up a few mysteries that you may wonder about:
- Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning. This (from the Gospel of Matthew) is true, as red skies appear when high pressure appears from the west, so it’s fine the next day. Red sky next morning means high pressure moved east, so good weather has gone.
- Rain before 7, fine by 11. It may appear that way, but it’s not true. It’s just as our weather changes so much, it’s become an old wives tale.
- When it’s about to rain, cows lie down. There is no proof that cows are sensitive to the moisture in the air. The Met Office says it could just be that the cows are having a rest!
- Pine cones open, when good weather is upon us. This is true. Pine cones open in dry weather due to humidity, then close when it rains.
Books to Learn About Weather
- The Weather Detective is a book by German forestry expert Peter Wohlleben. Combining research with charming anecdotes, a walk in the park will never be the same. Learn how chaffinches are weather prophets, bees can work as thermometers and courgettes tell the time!
- The Secret World of Weather is a landmark book by natural navigator Tristan Gooley, who goes beyond the forecast to change our very idea of what weather is. The weather does not just blanket an area: it changes as you walk through the woods, or turn down a street. You’ll discover distinct microclimates on opposite sides of a tree – and even beneath a blade of grass. By reading the weather, we begin to understand how it shapes our cities, woods and hills. You’ll never see your surroundings the same way.
- Weather for Hillwalkers helps you understand the principles of the causes of wind, rain, snow, cloud, fog, thunder and clear skies (and how they are affected by mountains and high ground). Read this book, and you’ll know what people are talking about, when they mention depressions, warm and cold fronts and air masses. You’ll also learn how to make a short-term weather forecast.
- Angry Weather is by a pioneering scientist, asking whether massive fires, widespread floods and hurricanes are ‘acts of God’ or caused by climate change. Friederike Otto believes that Hurricane Harvey (which caused over 100 deaths in 2017) was 3 times more likely, due to human activities.
Wild Weather is a fun and easy-to-read guide on everything from why it trains to cloud formations, from extreme weather to the benefits of sunlight. Beautifully illustrated, it explains sunshine and rainbows, wind, rain, thunder, lightning, snow and ice. Includes a cloud spotting guide and packed with exercises for rainy days. A lovely book to embrace what is happening on the other side of the window!