The weather: it’s what everyone talks about when they don’t know what to talk about. This implies that the weather is a topic of minimal interest, trivial and unexciting. Well, in my opinion this assessment couldn’t be more wrong!
What about when the weather makes it rain frogs, or fish, or hailstones the size of kittens? What about when a tornado picks up your bath tub and takes you on a tour of the neighbourhood, a bolt of lightning makes your skeleton glow in the dark or a random tropical air burst turns an average nippy winter week into a rather beachworthy hot spell? Yes, all these interesting happenings and more are caused by the weather in some way or another.
Weather is defined as ‘the state of the atmosphere at a single time and place, in terms of things such as temperature, moisture, wind velocity, and barometric pressure.’ It is surprisingly often confused with climate, which is actually the long-term combination of weather patterns and seasons observed in an area. The study of weather is called meteorology. Weather maps, those things with swirly lines and H’s and L’s and things on them that the TV presenters gesture at knowledgeably, are properly called synoptic charts.
As exciting as Melody and Brenton (the weather reporters) try to make it sound, my hometown Adelaide’s weather is usually not very stimulating. Whilst folks here get excited about piddly hail, trees falling onto houses and flash floods across Port Road (whoa), some parts of the world are home to weather conditions that would literally blow us over. For instance, in Punta Arenas, near the southern tip of South America, the winds coming off Antarctica are so strong during summer that the inhabitants of the city have to hold onto ropes attached to buildings and poles to avoid the embarrassing and painful experience of being blown down the street.
Mawsynram, a charming town in India, receives an average of 12 m of rain a year. Yes, that’s metres, not millimetres! It also goes by the name of ‘wettest place on Earth’. In the Atacama Desert in Chile, on the other hand, some weather stations have never received rainfall. Ever. Plants survive in the Atacama by catching sea mists that roll in every so often from the Pacific Ocean. Crafty devils.
There is a storm in Venezuela that literally never stops. The Relámpago del Catatumbo (Catatumbo lightning) storm cell occurs due to the charged gases (ions) formed when rising hot air collides with cold Andean winds. It happens where the Catatumbo River meets the waters of Lake Maracaibó, and creates storm activity that can be observed on most days of the year, up to 400 kilometres away. It is considered the single biggest generator of ozone on Earth and produces almost continuous lightning activity that is confined to a relatively small area around the river mouth.
Icy mountain ranges aren’t usually associated with tropical downpours, but the famous monsoon weather pattern in Asia/Oceania is actually a direct consequence of the presence of the Himalayas stuck in the middle of the Asian continent. Without these 8000m + peaks, there would be no barrier to the hot air coming off the Indian Ocean and Siberia would probably be a lush rainforest rather than a fairly chilly desert. Bear Grylls would have to go someplace else to miraculously find dead moose and use their skins for capes. Incidentally, don’t get me started on Bear. The guy goes around ripping the heads off frogs to survive, but then goes and wanders off into the desert without a hat on.
So, enough fun weather facts to ‘wet’ your appetite? When you’ve stopped laughing at my irresistible and totally hilarious pun, let me know! More on frogs and fish later. Don’t tell Bear Grylls though.