Don’t Blame It on the Weather Man!
JOHN M. ELSON
J. L. RUTLEDGE
JACOB VENNING sat watching the loan company manager with look of dumb surprise on his sunburnt face. Later anger would get the upper hand, but at
the moment it was surprise. He had never doubted he would get the loan; could scarcely believe, even now, that the manager’s carefully-chosen words meant a refusal. He was so sure—two hundred acres just beyond the all seeded down. A few months hence it would be yellow with wheat, wheat that meant money double, yes foor times, the amount of money he was asking to carry 'r m over the intervening months.
Jacob Venning rose with that dull surprise still heavy The manager's careful explanation meant nothing to him. only words. He knew he couldn’t get the on tne security of his well-seeded acres, that much was clear, but the reason—perhaps it was not surprising that he could not understand.
Jacob Venning would have been still more chagrined had he known that only a matter of a few score miles away Elan Norman, with a two hundred acre farm like his own. with no better standing in the community, in fact with no visible asset that was absent in his own case, had applied for a loan to an agent of the same loan company and had received it without a moment’s hesitation on the part of the manager.
But the fact of the matter was that
the decision had really nothing to do _
with either Jacob Venning or Elan Norman. In both cases their personal credit was good. In both cases their prospective crop was the security. But in the one case the crop looked like a good security and in the other it was no security at all.
Back East in the head office an elaborate compilation of weather map data had shown that in one section the prospects for the year were good, and in the other section bad. And word had gone out accordingly to the manager in Venning’s section to curtail new loans, and as far as possible to recover those already outstanding. It was the “weather man” who was the determining factor.
As a matter of fact the weather plays a surprisingly large " part in commercial and financial transactions. It has been roughly estimated that the weather forecasts account for a difference of many millions of dollars in loans obtained on agricultural security. When the “weather man” foretells unfavorable weather conditions in certain districts many Jacob Vennings are going to find themselves hard pressed for money
irry them over to the next crop, and many Elan ¡'ans aro going to whistle cheerily as they get their lean from the bank or loan company, and ruminate that fanning isn’t such a bad game after all.
There is a flurry on the Chicago wheat pit. July wheat is off a point or maybe two points. It may be a rumor of a new disagreement in the troublesome Balkans, or a new phase of the ever-present disagreement with Germany. On the other hand it may be that a number of probable purchasers have ceased purchasing.
A Toronto broker a year ago had about decided to go into the wheat market for himself and his clients to the extent of $50,000. Going home at night he chanced to look at the familiar “probabilities” item in the evening paper. Somehow or other this deal he had in mind got mixed up with the probabilities. At home with his slippered toes toasting comfortably before the open fire, it occ u r r e d to him again. Possibly the warm fire suggested sunny days.
Anyway, he decided to figure out the possibilities.
Instead of going on the market, he made some investigations. The weather for the coming Summer showed a surprisingly uniform promise of favorable conditions. “Big crops,”
he ruminated. “Looks as though that price is high.” The result was that he did not buy wheat with that $50,000. Of course it may be any one of a thousand disturbing _ elements that causes a sudden change in the price of wheat, and then again it may be that a goodly number of men have been studying the weather maps.
Look at it any way you like, the weather plays a surprisingly large part in our daily lives. Just at first blush, it might seem that rain or sunshine could make very little difference; that people did not change their course of life just because they happened to go about their daily tasks under an umbrella or under a parasol. As a matter of fact, however, the whole of our social, business and economic activities are more or less bound up with the prognostications of “Old -Man Probs.”
It doesn’t take any great scientific intelligence to appreciate the fact that if it is pouring rain to-day a lot of women are not going shopping. It follows that theYelephone department of the store will carry an extra load, and that the normal method of doing business is going to be disarranged. But the influence of the weather goes even farther than that.
Guessing Wrong—Then Right
LAST August a large Toronto retailer made a -very J advantageous purchase of woollen goods. He was elated over the fact, and in conference with his staff it was decided to give these goods a fine send-off. They planned
Some Striking Weather Facts
The coldest temperature ever registered in Canada was at Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., Dec. 31st, 1910, when 79 below zerb was recorded.
A temperature of 78 below zero wás'registered at Fort Vermilion, N.W.T., in Jan., 1911. N
By way of contrast it might be noted that in August of the following year 101 degrees was recorded there.
The highest temperatures recorded in Canada are as follows:
108.2 recorded at Medicine Hat in July, 1886.
108 recorded at Spencer’s Bridge, near
Kamloops, July, 1908. v
at Swift Current, July, 1886. at Swift Current, Aug. 6, 1893. at Toronto, July, 1911.
There is one wettest place in Canada. It is Princess Royal Island, B.C. During 1922, 174 inches of rain fell, and during November last, 35 inches. A fall of 7]/2 inches in one day is not unusual.
striking advertisements emphasizing thé phenomenal value offered. They attractively dressed windows that the window dresser viewed' with pardonable pride. They spent $900 that week offering the public these goods at prices that made them a real bargain, but all to no avail.
All during thatweek the sun shone brightly. Days of cloudless weather and burning sun kept people indoors or drove them from the city. Perspiri n g me n w h o passed the store
looked at that display of beautiful warm woollen goods almost with horror. At home the women read the store’s advertisements with only languid interest, and dia nothing. When the week’s sale was concluded the store manager ascertained the results achieved. The net result of this consideration was that the week’s business had left them just about that $900 to the bad.
This store manager, however, was wise enough not to blame the public, but to think the matter out lor himself. He figured that the weather had something to do with it,, and if it could operate as a deterrent, it surely could also be made to help sales. He studied the probabilities, and in place of woollen goods announced bargains in raincoats, rubbers, umbrellas. “Keep Yourself Dry” was the heading of his advertisement. When the copy left his desk the sun was shining brightly, and as far as appearances went this. sale was likely to fall as flat as the other. On the very day that quarter ' page appeared, however, it began to rain, and it rained with praise-" worthy persistence all that week. His suggestion caught the eye of people inconvenienced and made uncomfortable by rain, and it met a ready response. By studying the weather prospects he did enough business that week to offset the loss of the week previous, and to show a modest profit as well.
A store in St. Catharines has.kept a record of the weather for more than a quarter of a century. Comparisons by months are made for years back and this data provides almost invaluable sales directions, for there is a certain periodicity to climatic conditions. Judgments on this basis may not be infallible, but checked by references to the weather maps makes it possible to forecast fairly accurately what the average brand of weather at a certain given time is likely to be.
Of course there are other businesses where the weather becomes the essential factor. Take those whose concern is the making of ice cream. Hot weather means a steady line of customers at the refreshment parlors, and an enormously increased demand on the manufacturer. If he made a uniform supply every day in the month, he would either / be overstocked at one time or absolutely unable to meet the demand at another. The fact of the matter is that he makes his ice cream with one eye on the weather. And that eye must be fairly far-seeing, too, for many of these manufacturers ship their product several hundred miles and it has to be protected all the way and meet with a ready sale on its arrival.
Weather and Prices ,
TT MAY seem strange, too, that the weather should A actually be a determining factor in price, but it '' unquestionably is. In the early Spring a great quantity of fruit and vegetables are shipped from the Southern states to Canada. A year or so ago a Montreal wholesaler imported an early car of Florida cucumbers. They sold so successfully that he wired for two additional cars. They were shipped on the two following days. The first car arrived on a bright, sunshiny day, a day with the hint of Summer in the air. The salesman at the car door was overwhelmed with the rush of buyers and cleared his whole car in short order at four dollars a hamper. Back in the office there was a feeling of exultation, for would not another car be in on the morrow? That night it turned cold. In the morning there was a flurry of snow and the sky was overcast. When that car arrived, there was no flock of eager buyers. The salesman scurried about with the glad news of its arrival. But when he mentioned cucumbers, Jew and Gentile alike waved their arms in eloquent gestures of protest. The reluctant few that were lured to the car door, would buy, yes, they would buy at.a price, their own price, two dollars. This car of cucumbers had been bought at the same price as the first, its quality was if anything, better, it arrived just one day later, but it showed a substantial loss instead of a substantial profit.
Every fruit importer knows how large a part the vagaries of the weather play in his business, and studies the probabilities with all possible care, for the weather is the largest single factor in determining profit or loss.
It is a ticklish matter, too, considering the fact that fruit and vegetables may be loaded in a car in the far south, with the thermometer frolicing around
the hundred mark, and less than a week later may be opened in a temperature of twenty below zero. All these conditions must be provided for, and the man who handles these perishable products must know his weather.
\\ hen such conditions are likely to prevail the ice with which the car started, and with which it has been systematically fed while passing through the warm southern states, may be allowed to run out, and in the place of ice sturdy little oil heaters are placed in the bunkers. Or it may be, if an unusually warm wave is on the way, and the northern importer fears that the car with its regular re-icing service will overheat on the way, he will wire the railway “Re-ice car so-and-so Potomac yards,” or at some other icing station. Thus he throws on the railway company the responsibility for locating that car and seeing that its bunkers are full of ice, and in case of dispute it robs the railway company of its one great argument that the importer did not fully consider the weather and protect himself against it. Other than that they can only raise the saving clause of their contract that frees them from responsibility for “an act of God, or the enemies of the Government,” both of which, as far as transportation company reckonings go, are grouped as more or less mean acts.
Many people cannot see, when we have hens with us always, why we should pay thirty cents a dozen for eggs at one time, and a dollar
Sunshine and Rain in Canada The percentage of sunshine Annual rainfall during daylight in inches from hours tabulated records coverfrom records ing 10—20 covering ten to years. I fifteen years
I P. E. I. Charlottetown .... 50 ,40 N. S. Kentville ....... 47 36 N. B. Fredericton ...... 50 46 Que. ", Quebec........ 47 41 Ont. Haileybur^ (north) . 56 32 Toronto (south) ... 60 34 • Man.. Winnipeg 60 20 Sask. Moose Jaw...... 65 14 Alta. Edmonton (north) .. 54 . 18 Lethbridge (south) . 7.0* .16 B. C. - Vancouver...... 55 6.1 Kamloops ....... 60 11 Summerland ....._ 61 . 4 9
Sunshine at Swede Creek, near Dawson City for July is 46 per cent. This place has a possible 602 hours of sunshine in July, which is almost twenty hours a day. Last year there were 275 hours of sunshine in July. Rainfall for the year 1922 amounted to 9.10 inches. . .
•Brightest Spot in Canada.
or a dollar and a quarter at another. Weather again. Our friend the hen may cackle pleasantly the year round but she only works with enthusiasm at her job when she is comfortably warm. Therefore in warm weather eggs are cheap and in cold weather'they are dear. Moreover, if all this continent were as cold as Canada is in Winter, eggs would be higher still in price. The saving factor is that when, Canadian hens are adopting a policy of non-co-operation, because ’ of complaints against the weather, their relatives in, say, southern Illinois, are basking in warmth and doing their duty. But there are variations to complicate this simple scheme of things, and they, too, have to do with the weather. ’
John Morrison, of the ninth line, drives in to town one day in July with a full load of eggs. It’s a blistering day, and he doesn’t feel any too pleasant about it. Hè feels a lot less pleasant when he discovers that the egg buyers are “off the market.”
It’s too hot for eggs. The produce-man knows that it is hot, and the weather man tells him that it is going to be hotter, and that means that his chances of getting these eggs in good condition, grow less and less as the weather gets hotter, and he sends out a general “stop loss order” to cease buying.
The hens of course don’t know this, and if they did they wouldn’t care. It was just the sort of weather that pleased them. But John Morrison did care and he probably dropped quite a slice of his religion, in pointing out just how much he cared. The house-wife also cared when a few days later, the weather grew cooler, and she wanted eggs, only to find' that eggs were a few cents a dozen higher, because the wholesaler had shortened his supply during the hot days.
These ramifications are a direct result of the weather.
The weather figures as “exhibit A” in many disputes arising out of the various businesses mentioned. Acar of potatoes arrivesln Toronto from the great potato section of New Brunswick. It is found to be frozen and the buyer promptly makes a claim on the railway company for damages. Some considerable stretch of time elapses, for transportation companies are firm believers in the policy of counting nine before answering a hard word. Unless they are obviously at fault, the transportation company contends that the potatoes were not frozen in« transit. The claims agent may substantiate his case by a record of temperatures all the way from Woodstock, N. B., to Toronto. If this record shows that nowhere while the car was in its keeping has the temperature been low enough to offset the protection given by the stoves in the car, then the case automatically falls down, and the claim is disallowed. So the “weather man” becomes an important adjudicator and, more than that, he must have a’ long memory. For instance one of these claims received April 16, 1919, pertained to a shipment of potatoes made November 24, 1912. «
■ Weather and Claims
1 ' I 'HERE have been cases when the weather records A have been the last word in deciding the guilt or innocence of a man accused of a cardinal crime. A few years ago a man’s life did actually hang on a question of weather. A man was found in a lonely shack near Cal,^gary with a bullet through his brain. He had had a ■ neighbor, and the local gossip averred that there had been •bad blood_ between the two. The neighbor was arrested and put on trial for his life. Day by day the prosecution wove a web of circumstantial evidence about him. There seemed no flaw in it anywhere. The man had no alibi, nothing to prove his innocence. In the crowded courtroom there were few who believed him innocent. It was then that his counsel arose and calmly stated that the man could not have committed the deed because there was not sufficient light at the time for the accused to perpetrate the crime, under conditions as charged; that, indeed, under those conditions the injury could only have been self-inflicted. In the startled silence that ensued he produced his proof, the weather records of that hour of the evening when the crime was committed. They showed that there was darkness and heavy fog at the time, something that other witnesses had forgotten. From where the accused was supposed to have stood he could not have seen the murdered man. Because of the “weather man” the accused walked out of the dock, free.
Near Ottawa another grim deed brought a man’s life in jeopardy. There were blood stains on a feather bed, almost washed away but still Don’t Blame It on the Weather Man
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Continued from page 21
enough to identify them as human blood. If it could be proved that the accused had tried to remove these stains, the case would be the more clear against him, but the bed had been found out of doors and it might be he was not responsible. The records were searched, and told of heavy rains on that night. The accused was freed of that suspicion, but the kindly “weather man” could not lift the weight of other evidence, and the man was found guilty.
Only a few weeks ago a man was charged with manslaughter in a Toronto court. He had run over a boy pushing an express wagon.
“They seemed to spring out of the ground,” said the accused. “I didn’t know what it was.” A strange contention, yet the records of the Toronto observatory showed that at just that hour there had been a dense, low-lying fog. The boy actually had seemed to spring out of the ground, and the manslaughter charge was dismissed. Once more the “weather man” was the arbiter of a man’s freedom.
To the men on land the “weather mán” is often the subject of jest, or at best of incidental interest. To the comparatively few who follow his directions as they would follow the advice of a business partner, he represents a sober factor in economic life. But to the men who go down to the sea in ships he stands as a very real friend. The first forecast flashed every morning from the head office of Canada’s weather service is that of the weather probabilities at the Grand Banks. It is a guide to the men on the far off Eastern fishing banks, indicating to them whether they shall set or draw their nets. At the hour when most people are at their rolls and coffee, a little instrument in the gray stone building in Toronto is ticking off some such message as this:
To the banks and American ports: Strong winds and moderate gales, southerly, shifting to westerly and north westerly.
The flat, snub-nosed scows that cariy so much of the traffic of our lakes do so with their eyes fixed on the “weather man’s” signals. They steal from port to port in safety, despite their unwieldy bulk, because they have the forecaster’s word that for the next few hours at least there will be no storms. When the prognostications are unfavorable they hug port, in safety.
Noting the Rainfall
THE meteorological service, indeed, grew out of the needs of the navy. It was established by the British Admiralty in the early part of the last century, manned and directed by naval officers. Sir Frederick Stupart, the present head of the service in Canada, is himself a descendant of a naval officer, so the traditions are maintained. From this beginning, however, the field of its activities has widened immeasurably, but still it serves the navy faithfully, and is the friend of all those who sail the seven seas. Indeed, this is perhaps its greatest service.
There are people who wonder just what purpose is served by the men who venture their lives in the frozen wilderness of the North and South. No small part of their service to mankind is in the broadened knowledge of atmospheric conditions in these great hinterlands. Not only do these explorers pay great attention to what the “weather man” can tell them of conditions, but they take their own observations; that, added to the data already available, serves to increase the world’s knowledge of the all-important subject of weather. Observer Bibby was sent by the meteorological service to Fort McPherson, to cooperate with Amundsen in his last voyage, and similar observers have been members of every Arctic and Antarctic expedition.
Even missionaries going to some remote northern fields are urged to take with them observatory instruments and-to send down reports. Bishop Stringer was for very many years an agent for the service in far Herschel Island. It is on this information, gleaned through far flung agencies, by wire and wireless, by aeroplanes and by kites that search the upper strata of the air, that the weather service is able to base its judgments so soundly.
It is estimated that eighty-four per cent, of the forecasts sent out are accurate. The v inaccuracies pertain rather to precipitations; for the foretelling of wind and storm, of heat and cold, the service is al-„ most letter perfect.
Even in the matter of rainfall the forecasts are mainly accurate. Now and then a disgruntled man may carry an umbrella under sunny skies because the “weather man” foretold rain, or may drip in misery because fair weather was assured, but on the average the “weather man’s” forecast is right.
Not only has the foretelling of the weather a surprising influence on our daily lives, but the records have also their influence. Down in the Maritime provinces they are burning electric lights by rain power. In only a few places throughout the three provinces are there waterfalls that make hydro development possible, and these are mostly located at almost inaccessible points, yet hydro development is marching steadily ahead.
It is doing so because far-seeing men have realized that rainfall is a latent power force. In certain seasons of the year there is a heavy precipitation that runs away, in creeks and rivers, to the sea, largely unused. To store this rainfall in the hills, in storage basins, where it can be piped down to great turbine generators, was the dream of the engineers. They studied the rainfall, through the rain gauges and water level gauges maintained by the meteorological service, and they found that their vision was well founded, that the “fall” and “run off” of water was sufficient, if preserved, to provide power through the dryest season. Now they have the great completed projects on the Musquash River near St. John, N. B., and at St. Margaret’s Bay, near Halifax, and at a number of other points—power derived from rainfall.
Target For Queries
IN THE West, too, many desert places are being made to blossom like the rose by the same simple method, the storage of surplus rain. To provide these storage facilities it is necessary to know how much provision must be made, and so the whole project rests on the word of the “weather man,” who can say what is the average rain-fall in any given section. So the “weather man” becomes a great giver of advice. If a municipality is about to build a new sewer, the councillors enquire as to the average rainfall, for the larger the sewer the more the cost, yet it is necessary to have it large enough to take care of possible rainfall, and only the “weather man” knows what “enough” means. If there is a bridge to be built, the “weather man” tells of the possible stress it will have to meet. He warns towns and cities of possible floods, and generally provides important information and help; by considering facts that no one else would think of considering; rainfall, depth of snow, the weather that brings rapid thaws, all littleunderstood factors in the comfort and safety of the public.
The meteorological service is the target for a wide variety of questions. One man writes from Long Island, New York, asking what part of Canada is most free
from thunder storms. Unfortunately he had to be told that they were more or less indigenous to all parts of Canada.
A farmer in North Dakota writes:
“Myself and some of my neighbors have been thinking for some' time of pulling up stakes here and taking up farming in Saskatchewan valley. The land agent here offered us some good farms near Irricana, Alta. Could you give us an idea of the rain fall and temperatures to be expected in this district in the growing - season, also the severity of the winter and whether cattle can be wintered safely?”
Weather and Health
ALL these questions are answered promptly and thoroughly out of the enormous mine of co-related data collected by the service. A. J. Connor, climatologist of the service, can tell you pretty well where the superlative of any given climate characteristic may be found. It is wettest around Swanson Bay, off the coast of British Columbia, and it is driest around the Ashcroft Valley, along the Thompson River, also in British Columbia.
.In fact it is dry there practically the year round. It is coldest around the Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes, where it has dropped to 79 degrees below zero, without the inhabitants thinking that it was a fact worthy of extended comment. The warmest part, generally speaking, is in southern Ontario, though July days ,around Medicine Hat not infrequently find the thermometer - registering 100 degrees, which is pretty well a maximum for Canada. The same temperature is frequently recorded in some of the interior valleys of British Columbia, though the province generally has about as equable a temperature as is found in any part of the Dominion.
The weather man has a good deal to do with our health as well as our daily occupations. Within recent years a special medical body, in which Canadian medical men have a large part, has been organized. It is known as the American Climatological and Clinical Association. Its purpose is mainly the study of the effects of climate on disease, and the reports and discussions of the association show how thoroughly and constantly the physicians and investigators are considering the effects of weather on the human race.
The war enormously again enlarged the field of usefulness of weather information. In fact an intensive study of weather forecasts is a vital part of modern military strategy. The new great guns brought new problem^ of air resistance that it was the work of the weatherman to solve.
The development of flying has been largely dependent upon the study of atmospheric conditions. In the early days when these conditions were not so well known, the history of flying was one of persistent tragedy. But the war, with its unusual need brought about intensive • study of atmospheric conditions and air currents, and made it possible that the eyes of the army should be dependable eyes. Air velocity of winds, high and low pressure at different altitudes, are as essential information to the aviator as the three R’s to the school boy. The aviator has the utmost respect for what the Meteorological office tells him; information gained through sensitive instruments sent up in air balloons to search the upper atmosphere.
It is becoming even more important now as the aeroplane comes into commercial use. Great paper and oil interests have their aeroplanes flying over the hinterlands of Ontario, Quebec and the far West. Over trackless wildernesses where no landing is possible, to the far forests of northern Quebec, up to the fringes of the Hudson’s Bay or into the rugged fastnesses of the Peace River, the aeroplanes of commerce find their way in comparative safety through the guidance of the sober men who sit in common-place offices and laboratories,studying zones of high and low pressure that tell of fog and wind and storm. _ _
Even has Effect on Music
THERE are many more mundane business puddings into which the “weather man” dips his thumb. A number of pianos made by a large English firm were brought to Canada a little while ago. The firm was justifiably proud of its product, and when they received word that their pianos were out of tune, that the surface was warping and splitting and that the fine cabinet work was showing signs of disintegration, they were naturally grieved. A little study of the matter, however, showed them that they were not directly at fault. Their pianos were made for the British Isles, and the comparatively damp climate to be'found there, and they did not take kindly to the sharper, dryer climate of Canada. The reverse of this incident is also on record. fVn Ontario manufacturer of chewing gum, who had hiade a commendable success with his Canadian trade, sighed like Alexander for new worlds to conquer. He naturally thought that a good gum for Canada would be a good gum for England, provided he could make the Englishman look with favor on gum-chewing. As a matter of fact the problem was complicated by the fact the chewing gum did not appreciate the damp climate any more than the piano had appreciated the dry. It arrived as a soft, sticky and gelatinous mass that was not likely to appeal to a people who were not greatly given to chewing gum. Of course it was the weather, and when the “weather man” had his say in the matter that Ontario manufacturer was able to modify his process to meet the changed climatic conditions.
Even within the confines of our own country somewhat similar problems arise. A Canadian manufacturer had the laudable idea of capturing some of the toy trade formerly held by German firms. The toy of which he was most proud was a talking doll. The talk part originated from a small diaphram inside the body, made of a plastic composition like gum. When displayed in Ontario stores the doll talked with praiseworthy loquacity, but shipped out to Alberta it became strangely mum, and nothing in the world would make it breath a syllable. When these voiceless dolls were returned to the factory in Ontario, they talked as well as ever, and the manufacturer was" at a loss to understand until someone suggested that possibly the weather had something to do with it. That idea was investigated, and another quality of gum provided for western dolls, who therupon obligingly talked just like their counterparts in Ontario.
Little things and big things, matters of business, matters of life and death, all are influenced by conditions of the weather that we rarely consider until it goes to some manner of extreme. Yet m failing to consider it we are losing touch with one of the vital factors in our daily lives.