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Friday, June 14, 2013

A Brand New Word!

This was a new one to me.
A co-worker sent me an e-mail Tuesday warning of a derecho. My immediate response was to inquire if this was a new menu item at Taco Bell.
The following promptly popped up on my monitor, sent by my co-worker to inform the unenlightened.

A derecho (/dəˈr/, də-reh-choh, from Spanish: derecho [deˈɾetʃo], "straight") is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a land-based, fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms often delivering torrential rains, flash floods, strong winds, and potentially rivaling hurricanic and tornadic forces.

Who would have thought weather-nuts are so touchy??

How could I have not known that, I wondered. Had I spent my entire time upon this planet living in a cave?

Which caused me to think of other meteorological/natural catastrophe terms.

Approximately 7 years ago, the news gave us a new word to add to our lexicon; tsunami. Which, everyone knows is Japanese for “harbor wave”. Or they don't know. It is a humongous wall of water. Until the terrible tragedy to hit Indonesia, who had ever (outside of geologists, and meteorologists) heard of “tsunami”? They were called tidal waves or “humongous walls of water”.

This in turn, brought to mind terms such as “wind-chill”, “ heat index”, “relative humidity”, “dew point” and others. Now, when hanging around the coffee station , everyone sounds like they moon-light as a TV weather person when discussing what is going on beyond the windows.

I sip my coffee asking myself “How did we ever survive before we knew all this?”

Take, for example, our recent derecho. Not only did we experience a derecho, but it was a very specific “bow echo/'low end'” derecho. What this means, I have no idea. Does this equate to golf, where being on the “low end” of the score card is good? Or, does it signify being on the “low end”, this was a small potatoes derecho? Further, the term derecho has its  roots in Spanish, meaning “straight” (see above) which confuses me a bit more.

See, when I was younger, a storm such as this would be referred to as “a really big thunderstorm with pretty strong winds.” The weather forecaster would say something like “Hey, we have a pretty good chance of having really big thunderstorms with some strong winds. You may want to bring light things indoors.”

Simple. To the point, and everyone knew what they meant.

Now, radio, television, cell phone, internet connections all carried constant updates as to the precise location of the storm, along with colorful images of rain-fall, wind velocities, and direction of anticipated travel.

See, years ago, the guy on the radio would say something like “We have a pretty big storm headed our way. I am looking out of our studio window, and see a lot of lightning out over the lake. You folks on the east side will be seeing some rain pretty soon.”

Again, simple, to the point, and concise.

Is my life improved because I can now see at what road intersection a storm is currently at?

If I am not directly there, it isn't going to impact me one way or the other. If I am directly there, I knew about it before the weather service did! So, this is rather superfluous information, wouldn't you say?

And, calling a big thunderstorm with strong winds a new name; what does that accomplish? Is “derecho” the meteorological equivalent of saying “super-size me”?

As the alerts came in I did what any red-blooded American does; I promptly headed out the door to watch the storm! Don't tell me you go downstairs, and hide under an old mattress. Uhh-uhh, I am not buying that. You know dog-goned well if you didn't go outside, you at least stood in your doorway watching. Come on, admit it.

Besides, I figured if this was no longer a really big thunderstorm, but now a derecho; well, by golly, I was going to be able to tell my grandkids about it.

Papa, tell us about the time you were out in the derecho.”

Well....I got pretty wet. And it was windy. Oh yeah, the lightning was pretty cool, too.”

Is that it?”

Yep, that is what sticks in my mind.”

Sounds like a really big thunderstorm with strong winds.”

Yep, pretty much.”

My question is this: Do we really need another term to tell us what we already know?

Examples of terms which do just that are:

Wind Chill: anyone can tell you if you go out on a blustery Winter day, you are gonna freeze! Bundle up! Heck, we knew that back in the 50s! It was called “freeze your ears off” cold.

Heat Index: everyone knows when you can see a haze in the air on a July afternoon, you are gonna be sweating. Does it make you feel any better having someone tell you it feels like a steam bath outside? If it is already 95° out, does knowing it feels like 115° help any? No!

Relative Humidity: relative to what? Death Valley? Humid is humid. Terms like muggy, sticky, unbelievably humid; those work just fine.

Dew Point: isn't that what you do when you go outdoors at daybreak, point to all the condensed water on the grass and car, saying; “Wow! Look at all the dew!”

Please note, I am NOT minimizing events such as tornados, blizzards, droughts; all are definite weather events. When a person says “We had a tornado.” you know precisely what they mean.

A blizzard is a blizzard, unless you are in a Dairy Queen. However, you can have a blizzard during a blizzard. People would probably think you a bit daft; but you can do so.

My advice: Weather Person, please don't over-sensationalize. We don't need additional words to elicit fear and anxiety, especially about something over which we have zero, zip, zilch control.

Thank you.

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