Sean Moncrieff: Does Ireland need a full-time weather service?

Would we notice if Met Éireann went on the beer and left a sign saying ‘It’s bound to rain’?

Dressed to weather the storm: this chap has the right idea

Dressed to weather the storm: this chap has the right idea

 

God, I hate the cold. During these months I check the temperature every morning, long before I leave the house. Not just the headline figure either but what it will actually feel like.

Thus informed, I strategise my outfit accordingly. Rain will be a major factor, as will skin-piercing gales. Or it could be cold and sunny. Whatever the forecast, I choose a complicated combination of jumpers and linings, hoods or hats.

But meteorology isn’t an exact science. Some days it feels like it’s not a science at all. (This is off the point, and as much as I would never wish unemployment on anyone, but do we really need a full-time weather service? The entire staff of Met Éireann could go on the beer for the day and tape a sign to their front door reading: ‘It’s Ireland. It’s bound to rain somewhere.’ Would anyone notice the difference? How do we know that they haven’t been routinely doing this all along?)

I digress. Sometimes the weather isn’t quite as predicted. The wind can be far worse than anticipated; or it can have inexplicably died away, leaving me feeling sweaty and foolish.

Arctic trek

Yet what’s most baffling – and somehow galling – is how others dress. I can be decanted from the Dart ready for an Arctic trek, only to be confronted by individuals wearing light jackets, even T-shirts.

There’s no shivering: these people are strolling along like it’s T-shirt weather; as if being young (they are always young) and a bit stylish is enough to defeat the laws of physics and biology.

My kids don’t recognise weather either. They dress like they live in Miami, and seem constantly surprised when they encounter rain or wind

Some dress with the weather in mind, but as an affectation rather than protection from the elements: the prevailing conditions are no more than a catwalk setting for their stylish strutting.

There may be a scarf, but this will be whimsically thrown around the neck, loose enough to invite in the freezing air. Looking good is all the protection they need from pneumonia.

I have looked this up. It may be something to do with nerve receptors. According to some research, the receptors just beneath the skin react to temperature, but they can lie deep within the body as well: you can literally be chilled to the bone.

Oil supplies

It seems as if some of us have more of these than others. Of it could just be that I’m skinny. Or my age. My kids don’t recognise weather either. They dress like they live in Miami, and seem constantly surprised when they encounter rain or wind.

Or it could be that their generation spend so much of their lives inside. The thinly-clad people I see in the centre of Dublin are probably zipping from one centrally heated building to the next. Because they drive (or are driven), they have no need of a coat.

We’re burning our way through our remaining supplies of oil, gas and atmosphere, while losing our relationship to the outside world.

Sealed away in our structures, we’re far less aware of the moods of the planet we live on: that it can, at times, be a difficult place to survive.

I’m not saying this generation are environmentally unaware; of course that’s not true. But this awareness tends to be mediated through a glass screen and in the form of pictures of distressed, but cute animals.

In its variety, our planet can be far less photogenic. It can be drab and grey and painfully cold. But this too is precious, even beautiful. And on an instinctive level, it seems to be not just educational, but vital for kids to know first-hand what our planet is like.

Don’t mind getting them iPads to learn stuff. Get them jumpers.

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