Objectivity and the weather

Published 11:31 am Friday, May 23, 2014

To be such a readily and broadly quantifiable phenomenon, the experience of weather is an extremely subjective thing. To one person, 72 degrees feels like paradise; someone else considers it an excuse for a sweater. Snow isn’t one of the nice four-letter words to the folks who have to drive to work before the road has been plowed; to a child, though, the same snow can represent days of magical, school-closing entertainment.

And even an individual’s memories of the seasons change from one year to another, so that harsh conditions in retrospect tend to become even more extreme and of longer duration than they were in reality.

Thus it is that simple, subjective descriptions of the changing seasons can so ineffectively explain the objective dynamics of high and low temperatures, of rain and sun and wind. A mild spring slowly building to summer feels entirely different to the homeowner who can postpone cutting his grass than it does to the farmer waiting for the soil to reach a temperature suitable for planting. To the former, it is money, time and effort saved; to the latter, it is just the opposite.

This slow-starting, mild spring has been a similarly mixed blessing to folks in Western Tidewater. Many have enjoyed the thermometer’s seeming reticence this year about breaking into the 90s, though nearly everyone but the ducks must be over the rain by now.

Area farmers, especially, have been alternately watching the skies and testing the ground for weeks. Some already have abandoned early wheat crops beaten down by long, hard rains, and they are now hoping for better results with a cotton crop delayed by the same rain.

Others have struggled with their strawberries, as a long winter and a cool start to spring pushed back the picking season and frustrated all those who’d been dreaming for months of strawberry shortcake and strawberries-n-cream.

Still, growers are hopeful, and — just as the sun will very likely rise again tomorrow — July and August will almost certainly be hot and humid in Southeast Virginia. With just a little bit of luck, growers should be able to overcome their rough start and bring in a fine harvest.

Meanwhile, nobody’s likely to complain about a couple more mild days. By the end of August, they’ll all have been forgotten, anyway.