Check it Out: Can’t control weather, but can learn about it



According to the calendar, spring has officially arrived. According to me, winter is ignoring its exit cue. Does talking about the weather ever make you feel like we all just circle back to that old line, “can’t live without it, can’t live with it?” It’s one of the few topics to unite every inhabitant on this planet. While Northwesterners are complaining about the cool temperatures and lack of sun these days, I’m certain that right now someone on the other side of the world is griping about being too warm. If you ever struggle to find something to say to another person, you can always bring up the weather.

What makes meteorological events so fascinating to us? Here’s my theory: despite incredible technological advances in predicting the weather, we still have very little control over it. While we have evolved beyond blaming weather disasters on the antics of mythological gods such as Thor, we experience the same unpredictability and helplessness as our medieval ancestors whenever atmospheric conditions turn nasty. If we can’t control the weather, we at least want to understand why it does what it does.

H. Michael Mogil, the author of “Extreme Weather,” knows that human beings have been and always will be curious about the weather. Writing with the knowledge and experience of a 40-year career in meteorology, Mogil takes the reader on a tour of climatic extremes from tropical cyclones to desert dust storms. I found his chapter on tornadoes to be especially enlightening considering the recent outbreak of deadly storms in the Midwest. He also tackles complicated issues such as global warming and long-term climate change.

If our lack of spring weather is getting you down, consider a change in latitude for a little change in attitude. But if you can’t get away, a hurrah to Ra (ancient Egyptian sun god) couldn’t hurt.

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at She blogs at