Friday, July 13, 2012

It's raining, weathermen

Unexpected puddles can be troublesome 

Meteorology has to be one of very few professions (along with politics) where you can get it wrong, week after week, month after month – yet still hang onto your job.

Harri, like all outdoor writers, spends an inordinate amount of time online checking the short and long-term weather forecast and, as a couple, we perhaps discuss the weather more than most.

At the very least, it’s helpful to know whether it’s opportune to fill the space in the bottom of my day pack with a lightweight kagould or our miniscule Past Times picnic rug. On a more serious note, we want to stay safe and well in the mountains and that means wearing suitable clothing for the weather conditions (which always poses more problems for me than for Harri!).

First, there are the shoes – do I wear heavy, ankle-high Karrimors or my favourite Brasher sandals (my first present from Harri)? Perhaps I should hedge my bets with Salamon cross-country shoes – or would my feet fare better in last year’s waterproof Teva Itundas?

With fleeces of every style, weight and fitting filling my wardrobe, deciding which one to wear on any particular trip presents another pre-hike dilemma. Chunky and warm could turn out to be a life-saver (quite literally) on a freezing mountain top but is cumbersome to carry if the sun puts in an unexpected appearance; the stylish, light-weight choice ties neatly around the waist but provides little protection in a gale force 7.

Leg attire is just as troublesome. Long trousers? Shorts? What about that pair of zip offs? Long johns worn under trousers equals cosy, but overheating could become an issue during a tough ascent. Warm socks, cool socks, running socks, no socks?  

Decisions, decisions. Every hiking trip throws me into a quandary, and it’s one made worse by the weathermen’s inability to forecast accurately more than an hour or two ahead.

For near ombrophobes like me (I hate the rain and avoid walking in it whenever possible), it’s important to have specific advance warning of a soaking, however the language used in weather forecasting is becoming as vague as the read-into-it-what-you-will wording preferred by astrologers.

Wikipedia describes meteorologists as being ‘best known for forecasting the weather’ (my italics) and with phrases like ‘likely to’ and ‘expected to’ peppered throughout the Met Office and BBC weather pages, it’s difficult to believe there’s any science at all behind the current predictions.

Clouds often behave in mysterious ways

With 2012 likely to go on record as the wettest summer since records began, I suppose meteorologists can be forgiven for offering a tiny glimpse of hope every few days – though as Nietzsche argued ‘in reality, hope is the worst of all evils because it prolongs man’s torments'’.

The relentless rain hasn’t spoilt all our fun – we did manage a 90-minute walk around Rhiwderin and Rogerstone this morning with just a light sprinkle of the wet stuff falling on us (me in  waterproof, Harri without) – but how much nicer it would be if we could roam the mountains in tee-shirts, shorts and sandals. It is summer, after all.

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