The articles in your special section “The Life and Times of U.S. Weather” by David M. Ludlum and William B. Meyer in the June/July issue brought back an experience I had regarding the science of weather forecasting as it was known in the early 1950s—at least, how it was in New England.
At the time, I was business manager of the old Boston Herald . In our office we had a private dining room where lunch was served to the top brass and where we entertained visiting celebrities such as Congressman John McCormack, or Ted Williams, who was at the height of his baseball career.
In the fall of 1954 a bad series of hurricanes hit New England. So it seemed appropriate to invite an eminent meteorologist to lunch to tell us about it.
After the meal and the usual pleasantries, the expert settled back and in pontifical tones proceeded to give us laymen the real inside story. He said he would tell us why hurricanes were so terribly powerful. To start with, “They always originate and come in off the ocean, which, of course, is water. And do you know what water is? It is H 2 O (with great emphasis on the H). Now, you all know of the explosion of the new hydrogen bomb. What you don’t know or realize is that the H in H 2 O, water, is the same H that makes the hydrogen bomb so powerful. That is why hurricanes have so much force.”
We were all politely silent. At least we had learned something about why our New England weather forecasts had long been so undependable.
I hope and trust that the scientific background of our current batch of weather experts is better than that of forecasters in 1954. Personally, I find that relying on a ring around the moon and an east wind to predict wet weather, or a red sunset and dew on the evening grass to ensure a good day ahead, is still much more dependable than all the fancy television charts and newspaper columns from the National Weather Service.