Weather Watching: The birth of forecasts
Before we start the show I just wanted to let you know that Mark Sanford and I are bringing the brains on live show to Boston. New York and Washington. Dc This spring for tickets and more INFO head to brains on dot org slash fans. We hope to see you there. And if you aren't in Boston New York or Washington DC. Don't worry we'll be announcing more cities in the coming months again. Get more INFO at brains on DOT ORG SLASH FANS? Okay on with the show. You're listening to brains on where we're serious about being curious brain. John supported him part by a grant from the National Science Foundation. How Nice Sandals Mark? Thanks Manica are they made out of newspaper? Yes they are. I made them myself. You know what I say recycle reuse and look really cool doing it and as long as I can. Steer clear of sharp rocks. Stay away from fire pits and look out for pedals. There super comfortable. Okay Oh hey I was gonna tell you what happened to the birds yeah. They stopped singing and those cows. They're all huddled together. Weird Oh hey check it out. Have you ever seen an do this? It's kind of like they're covering up the entrance to their home hold on no chirping cows and bunches and aunts protecting the entrance to their holes. All these creatures must be tuning into A. Oh no I can smell the rain coming to us. Oh Yeah Hey. That's what I was going to mention my sandals. I have to get back to brains on headquarters and put on my glasses made from recycled bike tires. Instead don't worry bring back I guess he didn't realize I'm carrying an umbrella and I wearing my rain jacket. And I'm wearing my galoshes. I mean I did check the weather APP before I left the house this morning. You're listening to brains on from American public media. I'm molly bloom and with me today. Our honor and poem from Atlanta. Hi To hi. Hello Molly so honored. This episode was inspired by a question that you sent us you wrote. How did weather forecasting come to be in? What did people used to use to predict the weather? So I'm just wondering how did this idea pop in your head well? Weatherman came to school and told us how they predict whether today with satellites and radar but I was wondering how they did it a long time ago when they didn't have those tools. It's a really really good question. So do the two of you check the weather forecast often. Well we sometimes have to since we play soccer like for practices and Games. If they're gonNA BE RAINED OUT OR NOT. Are there signs that you look for beyond the weather forecast to tell you what the weather's going to be like? Sometimes I look at the frost on the windows and sometimes when I wake up in the morning I can hear the birds chirping outside my window or I can look at the clouds. And if there's a lot of clouds maybe it's GonNa rain that day so if there are birds. Chirping wanted the birds chirping. Tell you usually they don't Chirp when it's about to rain so sunshiny weather. Do you hear that. Oh Yeah it looks like mark's trying to get our attention come in mark yes come in. Hey Pals I wasn't interrupting anything important was I. I mean we are taping an episode as we speak so it's about how people used to predict the weather. Great than this interruption is surprisingly on topic. Unlike the time you interrupted our aunt episode taping to tell me that you found your missing contact lens in your belly button all right all right look. I thought you'd WANNA know whatever. I was going to tell you that I smelled ozone outside. So don't forget your umbrellas when you head out ozone yeah ozone is a gas with a sweet kind of sharp smell sort of tingles. The nostrils it's made by bolts of electricity like lightning. So if you smell ozone there's a good chance of thunderstorms are coming. And then after the rain there's a different smell honor poem. How would you describe that smell after the rain? I think it smells sort of like damp and not like it's sunshiny at all. On how about you? And we'll see kind of wet. Yeah kind of wet damp and kind of earthy cozy and there's a name for that it's called Petra core it happens when raindrops kick up stuff. That's been dried up on the ground stuff like oils plant material and bacteria. Sometimes you can even smell Petra core when it's raining somewhere nearby. If the wind is blowing near direction people have been paying attention to signs like this from the natural world in order to predict the weather for tens of thousands of years poem. Can you think of any reasons why whether prediction has been such a hot topic for so long well weather is really important like when it snows you can get like buried in snow of it? There's a lot of snow yet. You don't want that. How about you honour. Well because you just want to know like what temperatures and stuff. Yeah you got to be prepared before cars or books or even concrete wasn't vetted people were watching the skies to try to predict the weather. The Babylonians use the stars and the ancient Chinese astronomers. Use the moon. Those Chinese astronomers invented a lunar calendar that predicted seasonal changes like major heat or cold. Do in my favorite clear and bright but none of this was very precise. You might figure out when the best time of the year to plant a crop. Is You know it's going to be raining later? That day at three. Pm in the afternoon. The ancient Greeks had God's who they saw as controlling different realms of whether for example. There was iris. She was in charge of rainbows. He Liz he controlled the sun and Poseidon the God of the seat. He controlled the storms over the ocean and his brothers. Zeus was kind of the god of all Gods and sometimes even called the God of thunder but really he pretty much controlled everything in the sky down in the mortal world Greek philosopher. Aristotle was trying his best to understand what caused different weather patterns. He wrote a treatise meteorology. Is that weird? Sound familiar to you. Have you ever heard of before? Yes I've heard before. So the Greek meaning of meteorology translates to of the atmosphere and meteorologists as we know them steady changes in our atmosphere. They steady rain win. Heat snow all that stuff. I'm sure you've seen meteorologist on. Tv well other cultures used aristotle's writings to make more weather theories for thousands of years after he first wrote about them and in the sixteen hundreds to new measuring tools really changed the game. That's when we get the barometer and the thermometer right. Those are some quality honors. We're going to be talking about those in a bit. Hang on you smell that ozone I gotta go find my galoshes by goodbye at least is interruption was on topic today. That is a very good point now before this downpour hits. Let's soak up some sounds. It's the talk here. It is all right. What is your guests? Let's start with you poem so that Kinda sound like someone getting crushed to me like something rolling and crushing something else and things crashing into each other excellent listening. What about you on our? What did you hear it sounded? Kinda like Something flapping in the wind at a beach like ten laughing at the beach or we're going to be back with the answer a little bit later in the show brands on. Let's get back to those two measuring tools. That mark mentioned the barometer in this thermometer. Thermometer measured temperature. That's how hot or cold. Dearest and barometers measure atmospheric pressure or air pressure is basically telling us how much the air is pushing down on us when the temperature changes that changes the atmospheric pressure warm air likes to rise and cold air likes to sink but the atmosphere wants everything to be balanced so if there is a low pressure somewhere air want to rush over there to even it out that makes wind and moves clouds around for more on this. Check out our episode. How do meteorologists predict the weather? Different temperature and air pressure combos. Add Up to make different weather patterns and if you can measure those two pieces you can get a pretty good idea of what weather is on the way. That's why the invention of the barometer thermometer are a pretty big deal. They were both invented in the sixteen hundreds in Italy but it took two hundred fifty years for someone to figure out how to use these tools to predict the weather. Oh Hi Paulina honor and poem. This is reporter Pauline. Velasco High Paulina. Hey Molly Hey Tom Hanan. I'm dropping by to tell you the tail of the first modern weather forecaster Admiral Robert Fitzroy Hoi Mei artist. High Fitzroy Blimey. If this isn't a great grew to be joining on deck. Thanks fits though you know. We're not currently on a ship. High right you are but I spent so long on ships that it's a force of habit as you can tell. Fitzroy was a sailor. He was actually the captain of the HMS Beagle. That's the ship that carried Charles Darwin to the Galapagos. Exactly Admiral Fitzroy spends over twenty years sailing around the world from Europe to what is now Argentina to New Zealand and eventually settles back in England in the eighteen fifties where he's put in charge of a new department in the British government that collects weather data at C. Thank heavens I'd gotten really tired of being out at sea and this was a perfect combination of my interests science and sailing sailing science. I guess that's kind of it. So fitzroy's collecting data about storms and conditions at sea for the government. But no one's really doing much with it until tragedy strikes. It was October eighteen fifty nine a huge storm hit the Irish sea off. The coast of Wales a steamboat called the royal charter sunk. Hundreds of people died rex. Like this happened all the time. It's tragic all those lives could have been saved if we could have warned them about the storm. So that's what Fitzroy set out to do. The government gave him the authority to officially issue storm warnings and share them with the world. And how did he do that in the eighteen fifty? I mean there were no radios or TV's or phones even true but there was plenty of new technology after all. It was the height of the Victorian era. The first modern railroad was built. New sewing machines were invented to tiger fee was taking off and we the First Electric Telegraph the Telegraph. That's like the thing that sends telegrams exactly so back in that day you didn't have cell phones texts or facetime. You had to send letters and that took a long time the Telegraph on the other hand. It was nearly instantaneous. If you had an emergency you could send an electric message from Your Telegraph to Telegraph station. In a far off place it was just a series of beeps but someone on the other end. Would interpret the beeps transcribe the message into words and then deliver the message to the person you were trying to reach right away and what I did. Was I combined the use of the barometer and the genius of the Telegraph to send out warnings when storms. Coming like a forewarning a forecast. What a great word forecast forecast forecast really rolls off the tongue. Doesn't it well? We still use it today on. Monroe fitzroy started using maps to put together weather charts. He sent out parameters that they called Fitzroy's storm barometers to small fishing villages around Britain and those people would telegraph him with data from those barometers which led him. No storm was brewing in that area. Then I'd use the Telegraph to send urgent messages back to them. If I calculated that a storm was heading their way then they could batten down the hatches and he'd also forward the weather reports to the newspaper. August first eighteen hundred and sixty one and I quote in the North moderate westerly wind and the forecast fine. That was the first ever weather forecast published in The Times newspaper. It had predictions for several cities. London Liverpool Copenhagen in Denmark Byron in France. And I was right. You're and don't be shy. You also became very famous oh please just a tad. Famous people became obsessed with forecasts. Farmers could figure out how to take care of their crops. Better sailors and fishermen could stay safer out at sea. People use them to plan outdoor fairs and even to pick their outfits and the Queen herself once asked for a weather prediction for one of her trips. That's right the queen. These scientific weather forecasts were the basis for our weather reports today. Good now we have other tools to like satellites and computers come pewter what. Don't worry about it admiral. Thanks for all your hard work. Yeah we owe a lot to you and your forecasts cold blimey. Thanks you too. And thanks for telling us the story. Paulina my pleasure. Come on Admiral. Let's get Outta here way. Anchor and hoist the Mizzen. Have I ever told you about the time? We ran some icebergs in the straight image. Do you have a question you want to hear answered on the show for mystery sound you think can stump US maybe join? Send them all to us at brains on dot org slash contact. That's what we were sent this question. My name is glory from Shanghai China. My question is apparently dead. How does it grow? We'll have an answer to that during our moment of And will read the most recent list of names to be added to the brains honor. Roll all at the end of the shift to keep listening. You're listening to brains on for American public media. I'm molly I'm poem and I'm honored and it's time to hear the mystery sound again here. It is one more time last time we heard crushing crashing wind beach. Three of any new thoughts. I think that I'm I definitely heard some wind there in the end. So I'M GONNA say some wind. And maybe like the waves and wind in the waves. Excellent Galvin stay with my I can you remind us what your guests was atlas alike a tent flapping at the beach in the wind. Excellent hearing all right. Let's hear the answer. Dallas does sound A camping on the beach with twenty mile an hour winds hi. Our names are Isabella in greener grass. Georgia we are camping on the beach at Thornhill. Broome can't grounding California. The win was fashion made. The temperature feel colder camping. What's fun because the stars in the mood for so bright? We didn't need flashlights in. We've got to go into the by really excellent honor. You were like completely correct attent blowing on the beach. How did you do that? I don't know? Have you been in a tent during a windy time before? Well we haven't paid. We haven't been camping but we've we've had a beach ten before so that is like a situation you have found yourself in before were there is something being blown about on the beach. Yeah we have another little game for you play. It's called the law of your the way it works is our town. Crier is going to say a piece of weather lore and I want you to say what weather event the town crier is talking about. So here is the first piece of Lore. Rudd Sky at night sailor's delight Red Sky at morning sailors. Take warning okay. So does this describe one the fact that sailors hate read because it clashes with their uniforms to Red Sky in the morning shows that a high pressure system has but at night it shows that one is on its way towards you or three red sky at night means snow in the morning poem. What is your one two or three? I think I'm GONNA go with the second one. Honoured you agree you're correct. It is number two so the way the sun is seen through dust trapped by high pressure systems will make the sky appear red. And if it's in the morning that means it's already by it's in the East but if it's in the West that means it's on its way toward you. All right here is piece of floor number two when when does won't open and the salt clogs the Shaker though weather will favor the umbrella lawmaker. So does that refer to number one the high humidity before a rain storm number two pranks pulled by local umbrella makers or number three high winds. Make it tricky to pour salt and open windows. So the talking about one high humidity to pranks or three high winds. What do you think on her? I think it's one poem. Do you agree yes. You are both correct. High humidity makes windows harder to open and salt gets moist and comes together. So when it's more humid that means there's more moisture in the air and it's more likely terrain okay. Here is lower number three. When March blows its horn your bond will be filled with hay and corn. Okay so does this. Describe Number One. Hay and corn grows better when serenaded by trumpets number. If March is Windy you better fill your barn with hay and corn to keep it from blowing over or three if march is full of thunderstorms. Your crops will do well. So that's number one. Hey in corn like to hear trumpets number two. If it's Wendy you need to keep your barn from falling over or three thunderstorms means your crops are GonNa do well poem. What do you think I think? It's number three K. Honor what do you think you are right? It is number three so thunderstorms happen. When there's big temperature differences between the sky and the ground so that means if it's unusually warm in March it could mean a better growing season very nice work honor and poem got more road to you so as we've talked about before people had weather apps where they could see a ten day forecast. They looked to nature for signs of what the weather would bring. We wanted to learn more about what looking at plants and animals instill tell us about whether climate so we asked Theresa criminals to join us. She's in ecologist and the director of the USA phonology network. Welcome Theresa thank you so much. What is phonology phonology is all about? When things happen seasonally in nature it refers to not only the leaves coming out on trees. But it's when those things happen things like when flowers open when birds migrate when insects hatch from their intact eggs so has to do with when those things happen because it happens at different times different states or different parts of the world and also it can vary from year to year so like what kind of behaviors and parents do you look for so on the most basic level. We are keeping track of when things are happening all year long. Ideally all across the country and so we have a we run a program called nature's notebook that anybody can participate in and how that works. Is you go out into your backyard? Say or your front yard and you choose a couple of plants that you're interested in keeping track of and you can keep track of animals as well and what you do is multiple times over the course of the year like maybe once a week or every couple of weeks you'll go out and look at those plants and look for those animals and if you see them then you write down what you see and you indicate whether you do see open flowers or ripe fruits or whether the seeds are blowing around or whether those animals have babies with them and we're able to analyze those data to be able to understand how things are changing and what's happening in a given year. Do you just try and figure when it's going to happen or do you also try and figure out how they're doing things? Yes both both because if we can figure out how the how is really what are the conditions that are associated with that thing happening so for example we think about say lilacs one. Is it that that actually will push a lilac to finally open its flowers? Researchers have identified that generally it has a lot to do with how warm it is and a certain amount of warmth that we have to have that plant be exposed to trigger. It's opening opening. Its flowers and once. We're able to figure that out and say it has to be exactly this warm for those many days in a row and then that plant will flower. That is information that we can use to predict or forecast into the future when it might flower in other years or in other locations and so we actually have Several forecasts that you can view on our website that show you when things might happen like when my ex lower or when different insect pests might be active. There's a a common one called Eastern Tent Caterpillar. That you might be familiar with. They are little caterpillars. That make really big. They look like spiderweb nests kind of in the Crotch of branches of trees and they can eat the leaves of the trees that you WanNa keep and so people generally tend to think of him as their favourite species and we make maps that help predict when those guys are going to be out and about so then. If you're interested in trying to control them then you can anticipate when they are going to be out in crawling and try to take action and maybe capture them. So what can we learn from phonology? Phonology is a great indicator for when things are happening and how things are changing. It's one of the best indicators that we have of how plants and animals are responding to especially changing climate conditions. And it's really valuable for figuring out and planning when to take Management actions like again if you WANNA control for those Eastern tent caterpillars or other pest. Insects Even when to start taking your allergy medicine because if it's an early spring league this year you're going to see an early. Start to the allergy season because what triggers allergies is flowers opening and pollen flying around and that tends to happen earlier in a warm spring year so really keeping track track of these very simple events occurring in nature can affect on a multitude of aspects of our lives everyday lives. Thanks for being here today. Theresa thank you poem at Hunter. It's been so fun to chat with you. Humans have been looking for weather patterns for thousands of years. The invention of the thermometer and barometer helped us better predict store and the Telegraph helped us share those early predictions far and wide. He consulted a lot about weather and climate from watching nature though. That's called phonology. That's it for this episode of brains on brains aren't is produced by Mark Sanchez. Sandton Matoco Wilhelm and Molly. We had engineering help from Johnny Vince. Evans Mike Middleton and Veronica Rodriguez and production help from Christine Lopez and Rosie to pont special. Thanks to wing see Strickland Kevin ranker Melanie Rene and Josh Holt. Brains on is a nonprofit public radio. Podcast find out how you can support the show by visiting brands on dot org slash fans now before we go. It's time for our moon of if Harris dead how does it grow? That's a really great question while your hair itself is actually dead. The Falcons from which it grows from in your scalp is alive. I'm Dr Roxana. Donald Chew I am a dermatologist. Which is a doctor that takes care of your skin your hair and your nails a hair follicle is the part of the hair dots living. It's like the seed from which the haircut rose. It's a collection of cells and these cells and proteins work together to create the hair which gets pushed out by the time. The hair grows out of the skin. Adopt Point it's just a collection of proteins is not really alive anymore. Which is why doesn't hurt. When you cut your hair. As hair gets pushed up through the skin it passes by an oil gland and this oil clan as oil to the hair to keep it soft and is the reason that hair is shining but this oil also makes your hair greasy. Which is why. You've probably noticed that you need to wash your hair The hairs on the back of my neck are standing with excitement as I get ready to read the latest group of listeners to join the brains honor roll. These are the friends who few our show by sending in questions. Drains and mystery sounds Anderson. From Boise Idaho. Miriam from Cincinnati. Alex Los Gatos California Brianna from Yucca Valley California Brook from Eudora. Kansas Elijah from Atlanta Nolan from Norwell Massachusetts Lilia from Lancaster Pennsylvania Andrew from Concord California Lauren and John From Sunbury Pennsylvania. Georgina and Michaela from Toronto. 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Eight and from innisfail Ontario Qantara from Missouri. Amelia from Dallas. Ronnie from Boston Linkin from Elo days. Texas you off from New Plymouth New Zealand Natalie from Power Tan Virginia Zephenia and Karen from Gilroy California River from Denver. Paul from Eudora. Kansas Lisa from finance pen Cambodia some oil from Wall Ingong Australia. Cedric and Morgan from Arlington Massachusetts. Ceylan Ethan Incur- from Saskatoon Saskatchewan What we back soon with more answers to your questions. Thanks for listening.