Thursday, February 7, 2013

Vagaries of Weather

Most of our friends are enthused about pleasant weather--“Sunny and warm with low humidity, gentle breezes and a few picturesque clouds.” Perhaps other acquaintances are moved to grouse about unpleasant weather--“Excess cold, too much rain and wind, too hot, too dry, or too stormy.” Some weather forecasters and weather channels virtually make their living on weather commentary, feeding on the average person’s fascination with the weather.

A recent meteorological event in our area defined the term “vagaries” when applied to weather. The event made me search my memory for other weather vagaries I have experienced. Vagaries are defined as “unexpected, inexplicable, and erratic changes or actions.” Pleasant, tranquil weather may be desirable, but my scientific curiosity is more piqued by unusual events such as winter weather episodes ordinarily typical of summer. Lightning, thunder, and heavy rains fall into that category.

One recent day our area experienced three lightning, thunder, and heavy rain episodes in fifteen hours, unusual for January in northern Illinois, especially with temperatures in the high 50s F. Together, the three storms produced nearly two inches of rain, a great blessing for a drought struck region which received only two-thirds of normal rainfall in 2012. During the first storm, in addition to sudden thunder claps, a constant, low, thunderous roar was present overhead for over thirty minutes until the storm passed. The next day we received six inches of snow and the temperature dropped to -6˚ F. A local reporter stated the excess snow received this winter may not relieve the current drought, but a climatologist from Iowa said, “Moisture is moisture and we will take what we can get.” To that, I add, “Amen.”

The optimism our farmers experience even in winter, long before crops are planted, mirrors an agricultural principle understood by the ancient Israelites. Water in winter is important even though spring planting is months away. Water infiltrates the soil deeply and is important for sub-soil moisture needed when seeds are implanted. The drought of summer 2012 impacted not only last year’s harvest, but it will impact the coming year’s harvest should rain not replenish the earth during autumn and winter. Such rains are tantamount to the biblical “early” rains spoken of in Deuteronomy 11:13-15. “Latter” rains just before planting in the spring, together with the early rains in previous seasons, produced plentiful harvests. The following link deals with a previous post on “early” rains:

Scripture sometimes deals with the vagaries of weather. The Book of Job preserves many stories of harsh and sometimes violent weather. Psalm 29 is an unusual commentary by David, the psalmist, in which he deals with a storm of wind, rain, thunder and lightning from a tempest at sea which ventured over the biblical territory of the Cedars of Lebanon. That storm destroyed some noble trees. Then it burst onto the desert. We might speculate that some needed rainfall may have accompanied the desert tempest. Lightning and thunder events and other harsh weather incidents are sometimes spoken of as the “Voice of the Lord” and a sign of his glory. I am reminded that my recent experience with unusual winter lightning and thunder also brought our area needed rains for future crop plantings. Last summer was practically tornado-free in much of the Midwest. Thunderstorms were also scarce, and needed rain was in very short supply.

Each time we consider the vagaries of weather--the unexpected, the inexplicable, the erratic, and even the harsh and chaotic episodes--we would do well to consider the upside of these unusual events. Scripture counsels that the strength, glory, and majesty of God are manifest. The wisdom of God exceeds man’s wisdom in our knowledge of atmospheric science.