We are trying as hard as we can to change that, from the global-warming zealots who insist humans exercise a significant measure of control over climate to endeavors to improve our capabilities of warning the public about impending catastrophe.
It’s a work in progress.
We remember, many years ago, a WPSD-TV viewer writing a letter to the station’s “Mailbag” feedback service, sarcastically noting, “I swept four inches of cloudy skies off my front porch this morning.”
We may have added Doppler radar and all sorts of computerized analytical hardware and software to our arsenal, but we’re still wrestling with accurately predicting just what’s going to happen weather-wise. Sometimes the weather forecasters nail it. Sometimes, well...
For years, humans have watched the skies and warehoused their experiences and observations in an effort to understand weather, because without question it is important to us. If there is debate on how much we affect it, there is no question about how profoundly it can affect us.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote “Meteorology” in 350 B.C., introducing us to the water cycle that most of us learned about in elementary-school science class, in which water continuously moves through evaporation, condensation and precipitation, in an ongoing exchange.
And we moved on from there, accumulating centuries worth of data and recorded events and statistics, developing scientific instruments to measure things such as humidity, barometric pressure, and so forth.
We have moved from a time when even slow-moving and massive weather events such as hurricanes took us completely by surprise to a point when we can now identify tornadoes when they are in the process of forming.
Yet still, the most solid predictions sometimes turn out wrong, and some traumatic events take us by surprise.
Last week’s forecasts of a winter storm included the word “ice” and triggered a Pavlovian reaction from many, who immediately thought, “Ice Storm 2009 – oh, no!”
Indeed, that was a memorable and awe-inspiring event, completely disrupting our lives for the last week of January and most of February, causing 35 deaths in Kentucky alone.
Forecasters and public officials are faced with the dilemma of issuing alerts with gusto, and being accused of crying wolf, or with restraint, and incurring the wrath of those who complain, “Well, why didn’t you warn us!?!”
Our best advice is to use common sense and remain prepared for emergencies, to some minimally acceptable level, at all times. Basic things such as having a supply of water, non-perishable food, flashlights and candles, safe auxiliary heating sources and a moderate amount of cash that’s accessible in some non-electronic manner; keeping the fuel tank of your automobile on the plus side of half-full at all times; and having some coherent family plan of how to react to any disaster or catastrophic event can help everyone deal with whatever may occur, whether accurately forecast or not.
And for those who panic and rush out to hoard the necessities (and the not-so-necessary things) in response to a weather warning – well, if nothing else, they’re doing their part to contribute to a robust economy.