February 1, 2015 | Rome, Italy | Patchy rain nearby 4°C

Blame the insurgents

By Christopher P. Winner
Published: 2015-02-01

A blizzard's failure to blizzard can seem unmanly.
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actions of weather still have spunk, agents of its insurgent wing. These are granular soldiers that resist prediction to gain revenge on their satellite zookeepers. The insurgents just got the upper hand in New York City. Meteorologists looked at snapshots from their many orbital triangles and foresaw a blizzard. The city's mayor unleashed the bureaucracy of caution. The big city was pre-shut. The word historic was used and the Blizzard of 2015 anointed if not birthed when the snow began.

If only the insurgents hadn't moved their weightiest granules elsewhere.

Now, of course, there's second-guessing. How could veteran weather watchers be so wrong? How could the mayor be so taken in (mayors should know better, after all)? How, above all, could the snow not take its forecasting more seriously, as if the room had been decked for a ball no one staged? Why deprive a city of a blizzard it had already inserted into its legacy?

The forecasters laconically explained that they'd miscalculated. Their machines had said one thing but mischief-making weather, its eccentric insurgents prevailing over customary yes-men, had done another. The New York portion of the entertainment wasn't staged.

What a treat, at times, when science is inexact, leaving sure-thing gadgets perplexed. A Planned Parenthood planet has its advantages of course: some ailments can be prevented; some suffering averted; some bad weather foretold. But such a planet can also turn weather prediction into a serial novel in which readers become convinced all they need to do is sneak a few pages ahead to find the climax, if not the ending. Weather is particularly susceptible to the dogged side of human voyeurism because it takes actual shapes that seen from above play well to reaper-like menace: big white clumps, billowing circles, insect-footed curlicues. The idea of being exposed to such unsavory blots can seem humbling. Cowering and excitement join hands.

So when such a big white clump chooses to behave benignly, or by putting more anonymous rural terrain ahead of an eager big city, the big city can feel slightly offended, even deprived, its residents annoyed that their worry wasn't lived up to by facts, facts that are instead informed assumptions on which prediction depends.

It's as if a blizzard refused to man up or, worse still, was stricken with attention deficit disorder or performance anxiety, or both. The character of the limp blizzard and its wayward forecasters are jointly maligned as if atmosphere stood accused of telling a lie "What do you mean it's not coming?"

American culture is especially sensitive to inexactness when expected drama is withheld. Defending against blizzards or hurricanes means reaping later satisfaction that the defense was called for, which in turn validates otherwise precarious solidarity. Reality depends on disruption to fulfill itself, particularly in the case of weather. Bad weather is a kind of positive prophesy, part of a modern gift. Closing mass transit at night to then wake to rails adrift in snow-banks reassures citizens and soothsayers alike. Satellite science works. Close it to instead behold a dusting and intelligent people feel cheated, their time wasted, and time is money. Admission was paid. The show simply didn't happen. And even paranoia feels cheated.

Again, blame the insurgents. Appreciate their refusal to always capitulate, their vaudevillian side. And while you're at it hope the prophets are wrong in yet another prediction, about global warming, but if they're not also remember that the planet existed long before prediction, before science, before man, perhaps already preparing for the after.

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AREA 51

Christopher P. Winner

Christopher P. Winner is editor and publisher of The American. His column appears weekly.

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