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Weather permitting


I’ve never taken so much as one class in meteorology, but thanks to countless hours spent in the Google University classroom and staring at my beloved Weather Channel/weather.com, I consider myself a pretty fair forecaster.

Although, it has dawned on me as unusual that the yahoos who give us their informed best guesses in the guise of weather forecasts refer to themselves as meteorologists, which, in my mind, would be like taking medical issues not to a doctor but to a healthologist. Whatever they call themselves, they’re forecasts are neither very fore or cast.

Then again, I seem to recall a stretch of three recent days which featured wild, windy weather that culminated in a tornado outbreak one day; even warmer, windier weather the next; then a pretty if short-lived snow event on Day Three (and that day, of course, the temperature topped out around 55 degrees). Who could forecast that?

Every Kansan I’ve ever met exaggerates all the time, so it’s no wonder the oft-repeated mantra about Sunflower State weather is similarly hyperbolic: I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait the full five minutes for the weather to change.

Anyway, given the mercurial nature of the mercury around here, it’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on the weather, especially when venturing out on the bike.

I distinctly recall a recreational ride several years ago. I merely glanced at the blue sky and headed out. I made it to Lone Star Lake in record time and was enjoying myself so thoroughly — and was so surprised by how easy a time I was having — I continued on to Globe, then Overbook. I paused for a drink and a snack on the side of the road, swung my bike around for the return ride … and stared into a gray wall of fury. A front had blown in, giving me a lovely tailwind, but it had brought with it a mother of a storm, which made up for lack of lightning (thank goodness) with buckets of water, through which I slogged for a dozen or so miles.

I emerged on the far side where blue skies and chirping birds awaited. As I neared home, I encountered another cyclist just heading out. She gave me a most curious look as I pedaled past, my clothes still plastered to my body, hair soaked and, as far as I know, still dripping water on bone-dry pavement.

Since then, I’ve become quite proficient at reading radar and sonar and NexRad and all manner of meteorological dart-throwing devices.

Truthfully, though, a more esoteric skill is deciphering not the raw data, but the plain-language forecast.

I’ve taken a few such forecasts and translated them into more practical definitions, especially for cyclists.

For instance, when a summer forecast says “warm,” it really means, “blazing, melt-your-teeth hot.”

“Cool,” of course, means “colder than a witch’s zit.”

A few others:

Rainy: cats and dogs.

Breezy: windy as heck.

Windy: breezy as $*&%.

Unseasonably warm: see warm.

Slight chance for storms: unplug your electronics; she’s gonna blow.

Partly cloudy: can’t see your hand in front of your face.

Partly sunny: partly cloudy.

Mostly sunny: not even a hint of the sun.

Mostly cloudy: batten down the hatches.

Gorgeous: are you kiddin’ me? I’m not falling for that. Chances are, we’re in for rain, snow, hail, tornadoes, tsunamis and maybe even tropical frogs falling from the skies.

And then there’s POP, a meteorological term of such insidiousness it has its own acronym. The POP — or probability of precipitation — is especially tricky for cyclists, because it actually has two values depending on whether or not the cyclist has looked at said POP and, based on that figure, has decided whether to ride his/her bike.

I’ve calculated the formula for both and present them here:

If the cyclist did, in fact, go for a ride, the adjusted POP — when he/she is either at the farthest point from home on an out-and-back ride, or precisely midway between points A and B on a destination ride — is (100-POP)+POP. Thus, if the published POP is a mere 20 percent, (100-20)+20=100. Thus, any cyclist foolhardy enough to go for a ride with just a 20 percent chance of rain is 100-percent certain to get drenched.

However, if said cyclist were to keep the bike garaged for fear of rain, the adjusted POP is ((z4)-sin(POP)/y)0, where z and y, of course, don’t matter since, if I’ve counted all my left and right parentheses right, everything is multiplied by zero, guaranteeing that even if the skies are roiling and the wind is howling and lightning is streaking across the sky, if a cyclists chooses to park the bike and drive instead, there’s not a POP in HECK a single drop will fall.

Of course, he or she could always wait a couple of minutes. That’s bound to change.


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