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Better Than Uncle Weatherby? Just Look Up!

Anybody born before 1970 can remember the newscaster/weatherman Tex Antoine, aka, Uncle Weatherby. While weather forecasting is far more reliable than ever before, it pales in our esteem for the mariner that can open the back door, look up, and pronounce, “nah, we’ll be coming home in a whopper. Tomorrow will be better.” And, sure enough, a half day later, it is pouring…
This is all about that mariner…
Clouds are Batteries
As I’ve stated in previous columns, clouds are batteries that store water and tremendous power. But the history of weather forecasting goes back to the dawn of time and is loaded with old wisdoms (“mare’s tails and mackerel scales make tall-ship captains take in their sails”) So, where does the weather, and these “sayings”, come from?
Part of the problem of weather forecasting was solved over a hundred years ago by British meteorologist, Luke Howard. Every country wanted to use its own language and definitions for naming clouds and their effects. Howard devised a system of nomenclature using – you guessed it – Latin. Meteorologists accepted his type/sub-type system:
Cirrus (“hair”) – wispy, high-level clouds that foretell a major weather system on its way (the mare’s tails)
Stratus (“layer”) – these cloud formations have no specific feature except that they only form at specific altitudes (see the diagram)
Cumulus (“pile”) – the puffy clouds than coalesce into the thunderheads we all recognize that then presages the near immediate arrival of a major storm.
Nimbus (“precipitating”) – we’re all familiar with these. By this time, it’s raining. And, the darker they are, the more water they are carrying.
Alto (“high”) – the second-highest. Cirrus’s and, often, the cumulo’s (thunderheads) are even higher.
Look Up!
Watching the weather over hours or even days, often subconsciously by that back-door mariner, adds to your skills in predicting the weather. And it is all about the sun, the sea and the land interacting.
The sun heats the land faster than the sea. The warm air rises, taking some moisture from bodies of water with it, and forms cumulus clouds. This vacuum effect then brings in cooler air from the sea to fill the gap created by the rising air over the land which creates a sea-breeze. The opposite effects happen at night. The land cools faster and the process reverses; this is called “convection.” Where convection is occurring, clouds are forming – and they are batteries storing up water and power.
Blankets presage Rain
Another sign that weather is approaching is when the sky cover builds and the sea-breeze stops… The cloud cover has now gotten so thick that the sun can’t heat the air underneath the clouds. That’s when someone mutters, “Please, let it rain and clear out this humidity…” The cloud is acting like a blanket.
Ancient mariners looked for clouds for two reasons. They didn’t know that convection was causing the wind but clouds meant wind. They also meant land. Convection first lines the shore line with clouds.
Some more proverbs:
“The moon with a circle brings water in her beak…”
“Rain before seven? Over by eleven.”
“Red sky at morning? Sailor take warning!”
BTW, if you are interested in being part of USCG Forces, email me at JoinUSCGAux@aol.com or go direct to the D1SR Human Resources Department at DSO-HR and we will help you “get in this thing…”

Filed in: U.S. Coast Guard Auxillary

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