Pat Shingleton: "The Weatherstick and the Virazon..."
A “weatherstick” is made from a branch that was once attached to a portion of a tree trunk. Traditionally the balsam fir tree was used with the bark stripped from the stick allowing it to bend. If the stick bent skyward, fair, dry weather was expected and should it bend toward the ground, foul, wet weather could be expected. The stick was usually fifteen inches long and pencil thin and surprisingly displayed some assemblance of accuracy. The reason the stick bent was due to relative humidity. Coniferous and other softwood trees such as pine or spruce were composed of two different kinds of wood. Similar to the Rittenhouse Hygrometer, the top contains plain wood while the bottom is compressed wood. The stick moves because the wood on the bottom contracts lengthwise more than the top and it bends down. The opposite occurs when relative humidity rises towards its original position and from the weather folklore file comes this message: "Catchy drawer and sticky door, coming rain will pour and pour." This little ditty may be applicable to other parts of the country but for us, it happens all the time. Changes in temperature and humidity can cause our doors to occasionally stick and squeak with expansion and contraction. When it's sticky, the humidity is elevated with low level moisture activates storms. The author of the adage mentions "pouring" rain which is what we experience in the summer months with our convective afternoon showers. Here's another: "When the glass falls low, prepare for a blow..." The mercury barometer is the "glass" and when the pressure is low, the mercury level is low with unsettled weather. Back in the old days, these sayings were all that folks could rely on to determine changing weather. In closing, you’ll hear your favorite weathercaster mention sea-breezes and sea-breeze fronts... Sea-breezes along the Chilean coast are called “Virazon” that reach gale force and blow so hard they gather pebbles, hurling them at incredible speeds. Another name is the “datoo” that kicks up over Gibraltar while in Italy it’s called “ponenete” and in Morocco it’s the “imbat.” The “kapatilaa” of Hawaii and the “doctor,” in tropical regions, provide welcome relief from the day’s heat. Sea-breezes develop the same way, beginning as a gentle morning breeze and with the heating of the land, overlying air is also heated. After the warm air over the land rises, cooler air slips onshore to replace it. Similar to a cold front, the sea-breeze can push inland for over 100 miles.
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