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Talking about the Weather

” attributed to Mark Twain or Charles Warner.



” Professor Higgins’ advice to Eliza Doolittle.



” Gwendolyn in “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

Weather is sort of old fashioned. It’s been around as long as Earth has had an atmosphere, and it remains a powerful influence beyond human control.

But Mark Twain was wrong: While everybody does talk about it, we all also do a great many things about it. We choose to travel or to stay at home. We adapt clothing, food, dwellings, resources and activities to accommodate the weather, or its long-term average, climate.

Scientific, mathematical weather prediction has been around for more than half a century, based on observations of the atmosphere, increased understanding of its processes, development of computer equipment and the creation of algorithms to integrate all these elements. But before weather forecasting reached such sophisticated heights, observation and coincidence gave rise to many folkloric weather signs.

In the small farming community of my childhood, for instance, we all learned rhymes like the following along with our Mother Goose:

“A rain in May is worth a load of hay

A rain in June is worth a silver spoon

But a rain in July isn’t worth a fly!”

And there are the farmer’s hopes for a moist growing season followed by clear, dry weather for harvest.

Or, take the familiar proverb “red sky at morning, sailors take warning, red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” It isn’t a reference to the sailor’s propensity to party. This one has been around a long time ” The Christian New Testament refers to it (Matthew 6: 1-3) ” and it has a scientific explanation. It works like this:

The “red” that appears at sunset or sunrise refers to this sun’s light passing through a lot of particles (dust, smoke, etc.) in the lower atmosphere. The particles scatter the short wave light ” the blue and violet light ” leaving the long wave red and orange light. High barometric pressure holds more particles lower in the atmosphere. High pressure is also usually associated with fine weather.

A red sunset means that the fair weather of high pressure is the coming weather, since weather moves generally from west to east. A red sunrise, on the other hand, means the high pressure has moved to the east and a low pressure cell will usually follow, bringing unstable or stormy weather.

Here are some other bits of weather lore (of varying accuracy). See if you can complete them:

If a new moon occurs between noon and two p.m.,______ will follow soon.

The best time to paint a house is in the______ (a moon phase).

If a tree splits its bark in winter, it will be a(n)______ spring.

You can find the answers at the library in “Country Wisdom,” by Jerry Mack Johnson. Other weather lore books at the library include “Weather Wisdom,” by Albert Lee; “Blame it on the Rain: How Weather Has Changed History,” by his daughter, Laura Lee; “Freaks of the Storm: From Flying Cows to Stealing Thunder,” by Randall Cerveny, and “Watching for the Wind,” by James Edinger.

10031 Levon Ave., 582-7846

Read Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” and watch for information about a weekend of related events in the spring, sponsored by the Friends of the Truckee Library and Sierra College’s Institute for Sustainability.

Meets monthly at the Library. Participants at the book group meeting will receive a coupon for 15 percent off a one-time book purchase at the Bookshelf at Hooligan Rocks. Everyone is welcome.

Now through February, 2008 for ages 5 and up. Sign up anytime at the Library

All regular children’s programs are held when school is in session.

Tuesdays at 10:30 for ages 2 to 3 years

Wednesdays at 10:30, for ages 6-24 months

Thursdays at 11:15. For ages 3-6

Stories, songs, and fingerplays in Spanish and English

Fridays at 10:30 and 1:30, for ages 3-5

The Library’s Literacy Program is in desperate need of more tutors to serve a waiting list of learners. Training will be held at the end of January. For more information call Rolann at 575-7030.

Portraits by Truckee artist Raphael Jolly

Over the fireplace: “Evening Light on Dry Mountain,” acrylic on canvas by Mike Bond.

c. “A la Recherche du Temps Perdu” at almost 1.5 million words (“Atlas Shrugged” has 645,000; “War and Peace” at 591,552; “Les Miserables” has 513,000 words)


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