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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Back in the day, I took weather records, thirty years' worth.

Submitted: May 30, 2019

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Submitted: May 30, 2019



We’re being pushed along a tack where there’s a danger in linking weather to climate change. There are causes, if we choose look for them that might tell us why there are weather anomalies that make us think they relate to climate change. A recent report on our news said this has been the mildest autumn on record, which sounds suspiciously like a warming of the climate! But records only began in the early 1900’s so geologically speaking, a hundred years is a mere blink of a Tyrannosaurus’ eye.

With a few colleagues, I took the weather readings at the same weather station for thirty years. The 9:00 am readings were for the Met. Service while the 1:00 pm readings were for the Forest Service during the fire season and for my own interest during the winter. At the end of my tenure, I tallied those records, again for my own interest, but specifically looking for trends in rainfall. To me at the time, rainfall was important because it related closely to vegetation growth, lambing and tree establishment.

We had a standard Met. Service weather box installed outside and in the open, as regulations directed. A weather box is used to standardise readings at least in New Zealand and hopefully worldwide, but I not certain about that. Nowadays the bulb of the thermometer is supposed to be at 1.2 metres above the ground, but back then it was breast height, four foot six inches, a comfortable height for reading the various thermometers. The box we had was about cubic yard, painted white with a weather-proof roof. The sides were slatted all around, making the temperature measured ‘in the shade’. Inside the box was the main thermometer standing upright on a wire rack. There was a maximum/minimum thermometer also, its little marker had to be adjusted back to the present reading each day with a magnet. There was also another thermometer with a wick attached dipping into a bottle of water, its reading compared with the main thermometer told us the humidity. Outside there was a maximum/minimum thermometer lying on wire pegs just above the grass that gave grass temperatures. There was a rain gauge with a copper bucket inside, the measuring vessel was kept in the weather box. We also had wooden sticks that we weighed which gave us an idea of the moisture content in the forest understory, it gave us a measure of the fire danger. Taking the readings wasn’t onerous, it took about ten minutes a day.

New Zealand has a maritime climate because we are small islands surrounded by sea – well that’s what islands are. Basically that means we have reasonably high humidity, no extremes of temperatures between night and day and as land warms during the day, the rising warmed air is replaced with cooler air coming off the sea, which translates to sea breezes. Of course we experience storms coming up from Antarctica and heatwaves from the landmass of Australia so the unpredictability of our weather is predictable.

Crunching the numbers, I found that rainfall, despite the droughts and floods, the average of twenty one inches generally held true. If there was a dry year, within a couple of months of the new year, the rainfall deficit would be made up, usually causing the following year slightly wetter. Rain fell randomly through most months except for June, which was always the driest month, sometimes with no precipitation at all. But the wettest month ever was a June when in a twenty-four hour period, seven and a half inches fell. In 1982 we had a one hundred year flood, which caused many of the culverts on our forest roads to be washed out. Almost as soon as repairs were made, another hundred year flood washed them out again! All of which indicates that rainfall here is totally unpredictable.

Some say that rising temperature is the topic of the decade and sure enough my calculations revealed an upward trend since the weather bomb of 1975, when the dog was blown off his chain! It was just a trend of yearly averages increasing slightly as time went on. Sometimes marginal, but by the end of my tenure, the difference from year one of the readings was just over half a degree! The figures didn’t lie, but the trend did! When the weather box was established, the surrounding area was barren and exposed. But we were gardeners and foresters so slowly the area became sheltered, especially from the cold, southerly Antarctic blasts. The Easterly moist-laden winds that spoil a pleasant, sunny day could no longer exert their full influence either, so the humidity reduced as well. Frost days were less too but for temperature records, the one from the main thermometer in the weather box, was held up as being gospel.

I don’t believe that any of our records over thirty years represents climate change, but I will concede that our seasons have shifted by about three weeks, so autumn isn’t over here yet, and guess what? Foul weather is predicted in two days, with snow is expected!  Anyway… I don’t understand how a world average temperature can be calculated with any accuracy, any mathematician will tell you that you can’t average averages, so any calculation is liable to have flaws and so the data can be easily manipulated. How many weather stations have been like ours, where basic conditions have changed since they were established? If basic data is flawed, there’s no way we can trust the theory.

There were other weather readings, we used the Beaufort scale to estimate the windforce and we had an arrow to show its direction. We had to identify the cloud types, the percentage of cloud cover and the direction it was coming from. There was a definite correlation between cloud cover and temperature. Has anyone noticed that when the sun is out, you are more likely to sunbathe?

Yes the influencer of our weather and our climate is the sun but assisted greatly by water, otherwise known as clouds. The conundrum for politicians is: how do we tax the sun? Yes, it’s impossible! Ok, then the day will come when they decide to tax water emissions – but wait, my records show that clouds actually have a cooling effect!





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