February 8, 2011

Red sky baloney

I BELIEVE IT WAS JESUS who spread the unconvincing rumor about a red sky at night being a sailor’s delight. In the Bible, (Matthew XVI: 2-3,) Jesus said, “When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering.” Ever since, His followers have done their best to make a convincing case for this meteorological mythology. But they haven’t convinced me. Like most met forecasts, even those from the highest and most impeccable sources in Heaven, this one is as likely to be wrong as right.

I mean, just think about it. Why should a red sky at night mean good weather the next day? What if there’s a cold front lurking just over the western horizon and it comes screaming through at 5 a.m.? Is that what you’d call a sailor’s delight?

And yet this old canard is quoted as gospel in all kinds of circles. Wikipedia, the self-professed font all knowledge says: “In order to see red clouds in the evening, sunlight must have a clear path from the west in order to illuminate moisture-bearing clouds moving off to the east.” So what? What about the new storm system roaring in from the west overnight?

“Weather systems typically move from west to east,” says Wiki. Yeah, right. Tell that to anyone in the path of a hurricane racing from Africa to America. Tell that to anyone cruising in the northeast or southeast trades. Typically, Wiki? Typically? Hardly. Only in a few places.

The same kind of brainless forecasting results from a red sky in the morning being a sailor’s warning, of course. And why always a red sky? I’m sure most of us have seen sunrises and sunsets where clouds were reflected in all kinds of gaudy colors.

Pink sky at night
Gay sailors’ delight

Orange sky at night
Fruit-lover’s delight

Almost any color of sky at night would be somebody’s delight. But not necessarily a sailor’s, no matter what the Bible says and Wiki regurgitates.

Today’s Thought
To talk of the weather, it’s nothing but folly,
For when it rains on the hill, it shines in the valley.
— R. H. Barham, The Nurse’s Story

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #157
More propeller facts:
-- A decrease of one inch in pitch is good for an increase in shaft revolutions of about 200 rpm.
-- By convention, propeller diameter is marked first, then pitch.
-- The colder and denser the water, the smaller a propeller should be. The rule, based on a starting temperature of 70°F, is that prop diameter should be reduced about 1 percent for every 10 degrees drop in water temperature.

“How do you like your new doctor, Ethel?”
“He’s great. So sympathetic. He makes you feel really ill.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually Jesus was making a point about the fishermen being able to discern the weather, but not the signs of the times...his disciples were fishermen.
So the saying goes back much further than that.
Nice try though! :)