It was the sunniest of times, it was the rainest of times. It was the era of smog, it was the era of clear skies. It was the epoch of high wind warnings, it was the epoch of calm breezes...
05.08.2009 - 08.08.2009 25 °C
I write this sitting in my flat in London, overhead fan whirling at top speed trying to keep me cool on a hot and overcast day, and I realize I have no idea what the Humidex is today.
I recently returned for a very short 5 day stint to Toronto. It was a whirlwind tour of family, friends and responsibilities like renewing my passport and cleaning out my storage locker.
It had been 8 months since my last visit to Canada and in that time I have certainly done my share of settling into England. This has allowed me to view Canada with a touch of the eye of a foreigner. A few things I noted are that chicken wings are better in Canada, beer is REALLY expensive in Toronto, the trains are slow and expensive and the buildings are really tall and shiny.
Mostly though, I noted the difference in the weather forecasts.
The weather forecast in London will be something like this: “Today will be a mixture of rainy and sunny periods with a high near 24. This evening will clear, temperatures a mild 15. Tomorrow, starting sunny, getting overcast in the evening with a high of 22.”
That’s it. The weather map in the back shows cloud cover, rain and the occasionally wind direction and speed. All very simple to answer the three primary questions “Do I need a jacket?”, “Should I take my sunglasses?” and “Should I take my umbrella?”
In Canada by contrast, you practically need a science degree to understand the weather forecast. Not only will they tell you basic information like “rainy,” “sunny,” or “snowy,” but you’ll get probabilities of precipitation, amount of precipitation (snow in centimetres, rain in millimetres), percent of cloudy cover, cloud ceiling height, humidity, humidex (impact of humidity on perceived temperature), wind direction and speed, wind chill (how the speed of the wind impacts the temperature), barometric pressure and whether it is rising or falling. Canadian weather men tell you about where the high and low pressure areas are, and how the jet stream is impacting the weather systems from west to east of the country.
That is, you will admit, a lot of extra information just to answer those three primary questions “Do I need a jacket?”, “Should I take my sunglasses?” and “Should I take my umbrella?” Of course, that’s because in Canada you often have to ask not just if you need a jacket, but also mittens, a toque, snow shovel, winter boots, snow pants, face-warmer, salt, emergency food rations or bear repellent.
The two countries do share something in common when it comes to the weather forecast, though. More often than not, the forecast is wrong.
The safest thing… Always carry an umbrella, sunglasses and a jacket. To paraphrase Dickens, it is a far, far better thing that I do, being prepared for any weather eventuality, than I have ever done before (when believing the forecast); it is a far, far better peace of mind that I have in carrying both an umbrella and sunscreen than I have ever known previously when having to choose between them.