Columns

2017.05.17 Isobar

By DAVID GREEN

Isobar pulled a fast one last week, submitting his weather report shortly before deadline and not giving us enough time to explain what the heckfire he was talking about.

George Isobar is a member of the National Weather Service Cooperative Observer program. I’m not sure how he was labeled “cooperative,” but he does observe the weather daily and sends reports to the weather service office in White Lake, Mich., every morning.

He says that he used to get paid for doing that work every day—he thinks it was $33 annually—but that ended several years ago and now it’s strictly a volunteer model.

He thinks about that on winter mornings when he has to bring his rain gauge into the kitchen, melt the snow, measure the melted precipitation, return the gauge to his back yard, and then try to get an estimate of snowfall that varies from his front yard to his side yard to his back yard.

Isobar’s last report was an unusual one and had this headline: A month of blather and kelch. He had been reading a book by the British author Robert MacFarlane called “Landmarks.” It’s described as the language of landscape and lists several glossaries of British and Irish words to describe weather, terrain and other natural features.

Crizzle, for example, is the sound of open water as it freezes (Northamptonshire). A klett is a boulder stuck in the earth on a shoreline (Shetlandic).

Zwer is the sound that a covey of partridges makes when it rises into flight. Summer geese is a Yorkshire term to describe the steam that lifts from the moorland when the hot sun shines after a heavy rain. I’m sure you’ve seen it before, if you were paying attention.

Back to Isobar’s report.

He was going mostly for weather words to describe what happened during April. He mentioned the franklins, the time after the last frost. He mentioned rafty weather that’s damply cold.

There were April days of blather and kelch—heavy rains—and days of dag and dinge—the weather where rain drops spit down for hours.

Dringey weather is a light rain that’s still capable of soaking a walker. A shuggy day is also drizzly, while burley-burley refers to lightning and thunder.

A skiff is a light rain and a shepherd’s flock refers to fleecy, fair-weather clouds. When a stormy wind makes a singing sound as it blows around a structure, that’s called a teasgal.

Isobar seemed quite taken by the word wimpling. It’s the sound that a bird’s wings make as they rush through the air. Frighten a nearby dove in your back yard and the wimpling will be present.

Isobar talked about watery-headed farmers (worried about too much precipitation) looking out at the ognel (wet, heavy soil).

Remember looking out the window and seeing light snowflakes falling like ashes? That’s a blenk.

Pingy weather is cold weather and it  sometimes makes a person want to crool—huddle together with others to keep warm.

Isobar is always quick to point out that he’s an observer, not a forecaster. That seems to be proven every time he dares make a forecast. He was concerned in his weather story about pulling a flinchin on his readers—the false promise of better weather.

He started off his report talking about twire, speat and dwindling, but he no longer remembers what they mean. Don’t ask Google; only MacFarland knows.

There was a bit of a debate last Tuesday, but it was too close to deadline to take action. Colleen insisted that a sidebar should be written—that’s newspaper talk for a shorter story related to the main story—to explain what Isobar was referring to. I think she called it a lost opportunity or something like that.

Kym, on the other hand, knew that deadline was approaching and proclaimed the story to be a great exercise in inferential reading. After all, she’s a retired teacher.

Me? I was with Kym making inferences. I love it when we make our deadline and it happens so infrequently. I said I would explain it all the following week in By the Way.

Isobar is still reading his book and urges everyone to spuddle around the garden, scunge through the woods or plodge right into the creek. It’s spring; now go out and enjoy it.