Weathering the storm of our ever-changing forecasts

A remarkable thing about weather is that it will do what it wants to and when it wants to.

Just when you get used to its oddities, it changes.

It happened again this week. The national media has only just now caught up with the fact that regional parts of Australia are really in tough times, after years of sub-average rainfall.

Suddenly, everyone was crawling over each other to get cameras out into “the bush” to show images of country heartbreak, dead and dying livestock, crying farm families, vast brown paddocks.

One network sent its cameras into country Queensland to capture this rural crisis … except, when they got there, they couldn’t film that, because … it was raining.

Not enough to break the drought, but long enough to get capital city viewers to wonder what was happening on their “reality” show that day and to find something else to get edgy about.

Weather can be an obstinate bugger. In Bendigo, the media cycle was also getting focused on failed rains this week. 

On Tuesday, it pelted down, cheering many and soothing the soul with the sound of plump raindrops on corrugated roofs all over central Victoria. Again, it wasn’t enough to make up for many months of low rainfall, but it was enough to top up some tanks, dams and spirits.

With the weather, it’s a matter of what goes around, comes around.

We always think that anything other than average is climate change, and sometimes it is. But sometimes it’s just weather.

We’ve never understood it. I once saw a brilliant description of the difference between weather and climate. Climate is what you expect will happen while weather is what actually happens.

Even the word “weather” is odd from a historical sense.

It doesn’t appear in many ancient languages and when it does, it often just refers to rain, “wetter” (Old German) or to storms. In Old Slavonic, it is “veder” which meant good weather, not bad. And in Old English, it referred to sky, breeze, storm and tempest all at the same time.

There is a theory that the word “weather” used to once refer more to time than what was happening in the skies. 

One of the advantages of getting older is that you cease to be surprised by weather. It gets hot in summer, cold in winter and something else in other seasons. This still seems to puzzle people.

In Australia, it gets dry and then it gets wet. We despair and then we rejoice. We wear Speedos and then we don’t – and for that people are cheered.

In many ways, there’s no such thing as bad weather, there’s just different weather.

Except for national TV networks, who think every kind of weather is a shocking assault on our society, probably the government’s fault and a chance for ratings– until it changes into something else. Some dry weather makes some of us happy, such as tourists on Bondi Beach but annoys the heck out of farmers.

On the other hand, the rain this week which had farmers dancing naked in the paddocks (while no-one was looking) really annoyed city dwellers who viewed it in terms of slippery roads, stern police warnings, damp coats and ruined umbrellas. In the end, it’s weather and it will always be different.