Tag Archives: Weather

Summa Meteorologica

French illustration of the four seasons

After the manner of the Angelic Doctor, St Thomas Aquinas, we now inquire into the seasons of the year, whether they exist.

Objection 1: It seems that the seasons exist. Spring follows upon winter, winter follows autumn, autumn follows summer, and summer follows spring, in annual fourfold succession, as all attest.

Objection 2: Further, the seasons are observable in the changes they work upon plants in their sprouting, flowering and fruiting, and in the alterations of weather proper to each: cold and snow for winter, decreasing chill and intermittent rain for spring, heat and cloudlessness for summer, decreasing heat and intermittent storms and fogs for autumn.

Objection 3: Further, as it is written (and as Pete Seeger and the The Byrds have memorably repeated), “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Eccles. 3:3).

On the contrary, the seasons cannot be said to exist, but they belong to the imagination. They may be said to subsist by human custom, but not in the regularity of manner commonly ascribed to them.

I answer that the arbitrariness of seasons is proved by the fact that the “season” assigned to 45 degree north latitude on the Ides of October (autumn) is not the same as the “season” assigned to 45 degrees south latitude on the same date (spring). Furthermore, the meteorological characteristics commonly ascribed to the seasons (e.g. heat, cold, rain, snow, fog, etc.) express themselves with notorious irregularly. The present winter on the western coast of North America, for example, has proved markedly unseasonal with a superfluity of warm, rain-free days. Seriously, it was like 80 degrees the other day. What the hell is up with that? A more suitable manner of calculating seasons might allow for the irregular assignment of spring, summer, autumn, and winter days throughout the year based on actual weather conditions. By such a scheme, any day of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter – whether it occurs in February or in August – may be called a “summer day.” Likewise, any day of 35 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, or any day whatever with snowfall, may be called a “winter day,” even if it occurs in June. As prevailing conditions dictate, it may be that more summer days than winter days occur in the month of February, and more winter than summer days in the month of August. Likewise, the balance of the seasons need not be equally proportional but may favor summer one year, spring or autumn or winter the next.

Reply to Objection 1: Popular attestation, even if it be universal, does not establish the existence of any object or phenomenon.

Reply to Objection 2: At the equator there is no observable difference of vegetation or of weather to accord with the seasons as they are commonly differentiated one from another in more temperate regions.

Reply to Objection 3: The prophet Daniel affirms the arbitrariness of the seasons and their mere subsistence in custom when he says of God that “He changeth the times and the seasons” (Daniel 2:21). Further, human pretensions to meteorological knowledge are made null by our Savior himself when he says (Acts 1:7) that “it is not for you to know the times or the seasons.”

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The Rain It Raineth Every Day

It often occurs to me that I am a fool.  It happened again yesterday morning.  I was wading across a flooded intersection in San Francisco’s SoMa district.  My umbrella was tattered, my luggage soaked through but floating nearby.  If I can keep a grip on the bag, I thought, then at least I won’t drown.

The rain had beat at the windows all night.  Inside my tenth-floor hotel room I heard a loud treble moaning begin about 11pm.  A female guest in the grip of carnal enthusiasm, I thought.  But just as I began to feel embarrassed for her, I realized it was the wind.  In the morning the concierge asked if I wanted a cab.  “Don’t be silly – just a little rain,” I said.  A defiant whim: I would walk it, like Lear on the heath.  Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks, and all that. 

From Geary to King: thirty minutes on foot which I’d timed to perfectly coincide with the fiercest blast of the storm.  I pass it over without further comment, the trauma still being fresh.  I splashed into the office like a sea lion from the surf, out of breath, shedding rainwater in broad, cool puddles over polished wooden floors. 

“You didn’t walk all the way from the hotel?” my boss asked, incredulous.  “Was it not raining when you left?”

“No,” I said, “I was a fool from the start.”

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Three Paragraphs of Weather

Four days of rain in California is something of note.  The roof of our little home beats like a drum under a waterfall.  At night our dreams filter through purling treble notes that ring from the metal throats of gutters stretched under the eaves.  The soil drinks to reeling limit and vomits all excess onto walks and streets and courtyards.  In brief gaps between the showers, doves dive famished from the boughs to hunt for worms fighting up through liquid earth.

In Seattle, where I lived for twelve years, forty days of rain at a stretch was not unheard of.  I managed somehow to bear it, to claim to enjoy it.  When the dark and wet had found its way too far into my brain I would visit the heated cactus room at the Volunteer Park Conservatory, or sit for an hour under the lights in the butterfly garden at the Pacific Science Center.

Here summer consumes nine months of the year.  Sol reigns invictus from April to October but scatters himself a week at a time through the rest of the calendar too.  His banishment behind the clouds is always a piece of play-acting, all the better to astonish us into awed submission at his next revelation.  The weather prophets predict his return tomorrow.  Already the magnolia out my window is lit like a candelabrum with pink tongues of flame.

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