Deducing Weather [chapter]

2021 The Climate Demon  
Deducing Weather The Dawn of Computing Our climate prediction story begins in the historic town of Princeton, New Jersey. The town was the site of a battle during the Revolutionary War; after the war, in 1783, Princeton served for four months as the provisional capital of the United States. Today it is best known as the home of Princeton University. Through the center of town runs Nassau Street, which began as part of a Native American trail that later became a stagecoach route between New York
more » ... and Philadelphia. This street marks the divide between "town" and "gown": To the north lives the general population of Princeton, and to the south lies the picturesque campus of Princeton University with its neo-Gothic architecture. On Nassau Street's north side, across from the university, there is a wonderful independent bookstore called Labyrinth Books. Here, for the affordable price of $7.95, you can buy yourself a whole year's worth of weather and climate forecasts. These forecasts are found in the annual edition of a little book called the Old Farmer's Almanac, which has proudly provided this service every year for more than two centuries. 1 For each of eighteen different regions of the United States, the almanac lists quantitative predictions of the average temperature and precipitation for each month of the year, as well as qualitative weather forecasts for individual periods of these months. The almanac even features a thoughtfully placed hole in its top left corner so that it can be hung from a nail in the barn or the outhouse, enabling convenient perusal of its folksy weather-related articles and tables. Historically, the almanac used a secret formula for weather forecasts, devised in 1792 by its founder, Robert B. Thomas. This formula is based on the premise that "nothing in the universe happens haphazardly, that there is a cause-and-effect pattern to all phenomena." 2 Thomas believed that the sun had an effect on the Earth's weather, and he credited Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei's seventeenth-century study of sunspots as a key part of his secret formula. Farmersthe almanac's original target customersneeded to know,
doi:10.1017/9781009039604.004 fatcat:diuwf4goc5chtjgxrqtprz32au