Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Four Seasons in One Day

In recent times, meteorologists have announced casually that the beginning of Autumn is taken as September 1. They clarify their point by stating that they need to work in three-month blocks for weather trends and related statistics.

Autumn, in fact, begins on or about September 23, which is the Autumn Equinox, that is, days and nights of equal length. The next major seasonal date of note is December 23 (Winter Solstice, that is, shortest day in the year), following by the Vernal Equinox in March (equal lengths again), and then the Summer Solstice (longest day of the year).   

Attentive readers will note that the distribution of these correct dates (both descriptively and seasonally) is also in units of three months. The meteorologists' contention for seasons beginning conveniently three weeks early in each case is therefore disingenuous.

Statistics using early data would lead to the conclusion, in the case of Autumn, for example, that Autumn included the first three weeks in September, which in temperate climates often spans a warm, dry period referred to as 'Indian summer'. Further, by ending at the end of November, in northern Europe at least, Autumn stats are spared the embarrassment of three weeks of icy December showers that would otherwise fall into the autumnal category. The result is that the manipulation of temperature and rainfall averages obscures true seasonal statistics.

There must be a logical reason for this shift of seasons. It may be that the levels of government benefits payments in certain sectors are based on statistical seasonal averages - winter fuel allowances, or similar - so that the massaging of weather data directly affects national funding to particular support schemes for families who require financial assistance.

In America, many years ago (perhaps even so today), there was a company named Morton that packaged table salt in a thick, cylindrical-shaped blue container. The picture on the container simply said 'Morton's Salt', with an image of a young girl holding up an umbrella. She was shown walking along in the rain, and beneath one arm she carried a blue container identical to the one on which she was depicted. The container's spout was open, and as the girl walked along in the rain, the salt was poring from the container behind her. The legend beneath the image read, "When it rains, it pours".

Apart from the beauty and zen-like brevity of the motto, one further point of interest was that the girl was wearing what was clearly a short-sleeved summer dress. 

Did she know if it was summer rain, or autumn rain? Are we now as she, in whimsical detachment, circling round and round in the wet, yet dry, a disreputable metaphor trailing away behind us, forever?

The forecast is unsettled.




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