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From Her-a-canes to Atmospheric Rivers: The Evolution of Weather Patterns and Terminology

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Phyllis McCrossin Avatar
weather patterns,hurricane names,atmospheric river,arctic blast,solitude,baking bread

A Shift in Hurricane Names

For those who may have missed it, it’s raining a bit in California. For those who don’t get sarcasm – it’s raining A LOT in California.

As someone who has been fascinated with weather since childhood, I can attest to the fact that weather related things have changed over the years. Not just weather patterns, which some of us attribute to global warming, but knowledge about weather patterns and terminology as well.


Until 1978 hurricanes were named after females. I recall when I was in grade school my older sister telling my father it was because they were Her-a-canes, not Him-a-canes. She was being sarcastic, but to an impressionable child in elementary school it made sense, although even at that young an age I found it annoying. My father simply grinned and raised an eyebrow when I blurted out, “Well, that’s not fair.”

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The first hurricane named after a male was Hurricane Bob, in July 1979. Bob seems like a pretty innocuous name. It seems as we become more sophisticated hurricanes are given more ominous names and weather terminology continued to change as well.

The Evolution of Weather Terminology

In the 1960s and 1970s when the temperature dipped below zero, it was because a cold front was moving through. If meteorologists knew it was because of an “arctic blast,” or “arctic clipper,” we, the masses, were never informed of such. We were told it was a cold front and it was moving in. Although it was probably coming from the north, we didn’t necessarily question where it was coming from, there was no need. It was coming. Period. The end. Bring the livestock in, check the water pipes to the barn and resign yourself to hauling buckets of water from the house to the barn for the horses.

Being a child, I lived for snow days. There was a phone number you could call to get the latest weather forecast. I believe it was sponsored by the radio station WHTC in Holland. From late November through early March, I must have called that number at least five times a day. There was no weather channel to check, and the nightly news offered weather forecasts during the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. news. If one wanted a weather update you called the weather report number. I learned at an early age to listen with anticipation to the barometric pressure. Falling pressure meant a storm was due — and the strong possibility of no school.

weather patterns,hurricane names,atmospheric river,arctic blast,solitude,baking bread

Embracing the Atmospheric River

This weekend’s “weather event,” in California is called an “atmospheric river.” I think as a kid we would have been told “a lot of rain clouds are headed down the coast.” At any rate this weekend it’s raining along the coast and snowing in the mountains. Some areas have flood warnings.

King, Petra and I are laying low in the trailer. Petra is not impressed. There are kids in rain gear riding their bikes around the campground loop where we are camped, these are the children with parents who are not afraid of a little wet. Petra thinks she should be able to go out and join them. Problem is, it’s actually “misting” out. She’s not a water dog. In fact, she doesn’t like walking through the rivers of mud that are accumulating outside our door. King will snap on her leash, open the door and she will stare out at the wet mass for a few seconds before King pushes her out the door, telling her, “You got me up. I have my coat and boots on. You have to do something.”

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Once she reluctantly ventures out, they are gone all of three minutes and come back with muddy feet and wet coats. It’s okay, everything can be cleaned. Mud is not permanent.

A Rainy Retreat: Campground Life

weather patterns,hurricane names,atmospheric river,arctic blast,solitude,baking bread

A benefit of the rain (besides filling reservoirs) is it has kept a lot of campers away for the weekend. Our campsite is still isolated. We will enjoy our solitude. The few children here are fun to watch from the warmth of our trailer.

Embracing the Indoors

In the meantime, I will bake bread. King will watch old westerns. Petra will stretch out and snore.

As we reflect on the changing weather patterns and terminology, it’s evident how our understanding of weather has evolved over time. From gender-named hurricanes to the fascinating concept of atmospheric rivers, weather forecasting has come a long way. And as global warming continues to influence our climate, who knows what other weather-related surprises await us in the future?

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As we cozy up in our trailer, I can’t help but feel grateful for the opportunity to witness these weather changes while enjoying the simple pleasures of solitude, warm bread, and classic westerns. After all, in the world of weather, change is the only constant.

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