Friday, 4 January 2013

The weather - according to Admiral Fitzroy

When all else fails, look to the power of crystals - at least that is the claim of this nifty little thing I was given for Christmas.

The bearer chose well, what more fitting a gift could you give a newspaper man who writes, let’s face it, extensively (but not exclusively) about the weather.

The Admiral Fitzroy Storm Glass is a desk-sized barometer filled with liquid and crystals which change shape and position depending on the weather.

It was invented in the early 1700s when sailors would attach one to the mast of their ship and rely on the formation of the tiny white flakes for the outlook of their voyage.

Admiral Robert Fitzroy, Captain of the HMS Beagle while in command of Charles Darwin’s expedition, was fascinated with the instrument.

He conducted a study on its workings before refining its structure and publishing a set of guidelines on how readings should be interpreted.

A cloudy liquid with small “star-like’ crystals is a warning of thunderstorms, he deduced.

Large flaky crystals are an indication of “thick air”, and when the tiny white shards float at the top of the tube expect “wind in the upper regions” - the mind boggles.

This majestic piece of meteorological mastery has taken pride of place on my desk, much more fitting than a snow globe or paper weight, and I think it is going to come in very handy.

Now I know the weather, and predictions thereof, attract some criticism.

People lose a lot of sleep at reports of  snow in the next two weeks which fail to materialise before three.

Say it will be cold, but the thermometer fails to dip far enough to suit the critics, and you can rest assured of a barrage of complaints by the end of the week.

I am surprised and flattered at the immense amount of energy people put into this pastime.

Often they go to huge effort to chart dates and times and spell out intricate details of where the forecast was not spot on.

So I am hoping this latest addition to my armory may come in handy, at least for the slightly tongue-in-cheek purpose of this blog.

The plan is for a weekly weather forecast “as told by the Storm Glass” - please, before putting pen to paper, I make no guarantees and no promises.

This is a bit of fun.

With that in mind, here is the outlook for the week.

I am seeing large flaky crystals, two or three of which are floating at the top of the tube. The solution is clear.

A quick look at the chart reveals: 

Heavy air and frost, with snow (if it is winter) and overcast skies.

Hmmm - could this be warning of a cold and snowy time ahead......


  1. Let's see, how accurate are storm glasses? Ah yes, here we are:
    "the success of prediction was no better than random probability [...] temperature change is the sole cause of crystal growth in storm glasses"

    A fine addition to your armory.

  2. The trouble before your nose Nathan seems to be that you can never accept you are often wildly wrong! The more sensational aspects of some of your 'weather' reports printed in the Express warn of Armageddon like scenarios a little too often for my liking when a little more introspect would not be amiss.Weather can be a fun, interesting and often talked about subject, but with reporting,surely there should be an ethical element to report on what models indicate (None, can accurately predict weeks ahead).Some readers may justifiably get uneccesarily alarmed by what they read when the evidence does not support many of the sensationalistic aspects of weather reporting seen.