No matter where I go, I hear people talking about the weather. When I get to the gym in the morning, someone inevitably remarks about the weather. When my husband comes in from his daily errands, he mentions the weather. When travelling by plane, the pilot usually announces the weather forecast at the destination and gives a temperature update before landing. The nightly newscast allows time for weather forecasts and regularly features video footage of severe weather events such as floods, fires or storms.
Weather affects us all. Everybody complains about bad weather and everybody remarks on the beauty of a sunny day. This is especially true after overcast and blustery days. When living in a country with four distinct seasons, and four ‘in-between’ seasons, it’s understandable that people notice even subtle changes in the weather. Variability of temperatures along with unpredictable changes grabs attention. In the area of Ontario where I live, the past week has brought mild temperatures of 10C, rain, and a snowstorm that dropped 15 cm of snow with gusts of severe wind — just to keep things interesting! Today it’s a sunny and bright winter day with temperatures just below zero but another storm is predicted for the weekend. It’s easy to understand why weather is a pre-occupation!
Talking about the weather is common in Canada, the US, and the UK. Weather is a universal conversation starter. Because the weather is such an easy conversation starter, newcomers to Canada in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes are routinely taught phrases for weather discussions!
Weather is something everyone experiences. It provides common ground for a social conversation as it is usually non-controversial.
In Britain, a comment about the weather serves as a greeting that requires little or no response. My neighbour who immigrated from the UK inevitably greets me with ‘Nice day!’ regardless of the type of weather. The inflection in her voice is equivalent to a friendly ‘Hello’.
Since childhood, I’ve listened intently to weather forecasts. Perhaps it’s because I grew up on a farm. People with a farming background know that a bad hailstorm can wipe out a crop of grain in less than 30 minutes or that animals will need more water when temperatures spike. Crops wither when rains don’t come on time or when too much rain causes mould. Animals need extra protection in severe cold or severe heat spells. Temperature extremes of any type create conditions for loss and devastation.
Predictions in The Farmer’s Almanac, an annual publication in Canada and the United States, guide seasonal decisions for farmers, fishermen, and gardeners. People believe the Farmer’s Almanac and faithfully purchase the publication every year. For city dwellers, it’s a good read and a great diversion.
Groundhog Day is another weather diversion. Every February 2, North Americans wait for their favourite groundhog to predict how much longer winter will last. In the US, it’s Punxsutawney Phil; in Canada, it’s Wiarton Willie. Superstitious locals and tourists attend festivals with food and fireworks to watch a groundhog emerge from hibernation and look for his shadow. When the groundhog sees his shadow, six additional weeks of winter are forecasted. When skies are overcast with no shadow, an early spring is predicted!
Knowledge of what to expect in terms of weather is essential for planning activities, especially activities that involve the outdoors. Weather alerts from Environment Canada or the US National Weather Service, guide decisions for travel, for choosing appropriate apparel, and for participating in sports. Storm watches and warnings, flood advisories, hurricane watches, and tornado warnings are issued to warn of danger. People in affected areas make decisions to seek shelter in severe storms or modify activities to stay safe.
For local forecasts, weather apps are popular. Satellite images, radar, and advanced meteorology provide weather warnings and storm alerts to a smartphone. My favourite is the weather network from Environment Canada, a free app that gives reliable information for weather at home, at the cottage, and in various places in the world. I look at the forecast every night before going to bed to know what I should expect in the morning. I also glance at 5-day and 7-day forecasts as I think of activities in days ahead.
In recent years forecasts are more reliable in predicting changes in the weather. Forecasts provide valuable information for talking about how much we love — or hate the weather. Weather is an inevitable topic of conversation — let’s enjoy the interactions with each other as we keeping talking about the changes mother nature brings.
I’m interested to learn how weather affects your conversations and decisions regarding activities. Please share your thoughts as a comment.
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