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  • Writer's pictureJohn McLachlan

The Weather Forecast Should be a Thing of the Past

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

I have been a weather forecasting addict for as long as I can remember. I now live full-time on an island off the coast of British Columbia but in my youth, my family holidayed here. Along with my brother and friends we were always outside in those days (no video games, screens, iPads, and even TV was very limited). I think it was perhaps partly because of this that I became an avid weather forecast nerd.

In those summers of the 1960s and early 70s I couldn’t wait for the evening news broadcast that came through to our black and white TV (with rabbit ears) to see Bob Fortune on CBC Vancouver present the weather forecast by using a giant chalkboard where he’d make big broad sketches to show the weather patterns approaching the coast and indicate temperatures.

I did occasionally hear the weather on the radio if my Mom had it on during the day, but really, I was hardly ever inside during those summer months. Dinner, followed by about 30 minutes of the evening news on TV was our total media consumption (ok, once in a while I watched an episode of Adventures in Rainbow Country just before dinner).

I started to record the weather each day in a notebook. I’d try to predict the weather by reading the signs in the sky such as cloud types, or the wind patterns. On the coast, subtle changes in the wind can tell one much about what’s going to happen. If I do say so myself, by the time I was 13 years old, I was pretty accurate at predicting the weather about three days out just based on looking at the tell-tale signs outside.

On the rare occasion as a teenager when I might wake up really early, I’d tune in CBC on my Lloyd’s flip radio to hear the marine weather forecast that was read out by a thin voice telling what kind of swell there was at this or that buoy on the coast and how a such-and-such millibar low was approaching.

Here’s a video on YouTube showing the same radio model I had.

In the early 1990s I signed up for an “online” service called CompuServe on a thing called “The Internet.” They had a weather section and one could see a rather crude satellite look at whole regions of the continent. Wow, this was a dream come true. I could now see what was coming from afar, just like the real weather”men” could.

But while visiting the little island, dialup internet wasn’t quite there yet so I used another service where I could call an automated number at the local weather office in Comox and hear Hamish Murray read the forecast. This was so amazing to have all that information delivered right to my landline phone. I made multiple calls every day that I was vacationing. How exciting.

Of course, the World Wide Web came in the late 90s and that changed everything. With dial-up access now, I’d look up the weather on my PowerBook computer I had with me. It wasn’t long until the smart phone arrived (I was at its launch in San Francisco, I might add) which had its own weather app. Weather forecasts by the 2010s were easy to see and were everywhere you had a device. Heck, now some apps tell you “It’s going to rain in 12 minutes for 33 minutes.”

Then came along electronic weather stations. I had to have one of those. I use one from Netatmo now which has additional modules such as the rain gauge which I use. It registers precipitation in .1 mm increments.

Here’s the thing: with all the information available now forecasting weather out to 14 days, and my constant looking at the forecast even though for 99.9% of the time, it’s really irrelevant (I walk the dog when the dog needs walking, I do outdoor activities or not depending on whether is dry or not, I can tell in the summer it may be hot, etc). In other words, unless there is some giant storm or heat wave coming, these forecasts are almost entirely useless (and they are often very wrong and/or inaccurate).

Over the span of my life the amount of information flow has increased and increased and yet, I’m starting to wonder what good it does for us on a normal, day-to-day basis. It feeds some obsessive behaviour.

I’ve taken some brief “detoxes” from looking at weather forecasts and I’m starting one now. It’s funny, but when I have done this, my relationship to the weather changes for the better. I feel less like a machine always tuning itself up and more like an animal who doesn’t worry or think about it. It’s way better, but a 60 year-long addiction to looking at the weather forecast is quite a break to make. Hopefully there really is a higher power in the clouds that helps me out as I step back from the madness of checking the weather forecast multiple times per day.

Everyone complains about it but no one does anything about it. Guilty.

A “Qualicum” wind coming up on a summer afternoon. I know what that means.

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