Madonnas, Macphersons and meteorologists

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The Independent Culture
We are all fascinated by the weather, but few of us understand what is really going on up there among the clouds. This new daily feature will remove the mist from our weather view.

Let me make one thing clear from the outset: I approach this subject from a position of almost ideal ignorance. Come scattered showers, come sunny intervals, I watch Michael Fish and his shoal of forecasters as intently as anyone, yet, seduced by their lilting delivery, I never know at the end whether or not it is going to rain tomorrow.

That is all going to change. For too long, I have looked at the daily weather map and understood nothing. Every day I have been excited by those symbols of warm and cold fronts - or Macphersons and Madonnas, as I have come to think of them - and wondered what made them warm and cold, how they decide what direction to point in, and why only dentists and meteorologists use the word "occluded".

I have wondered why the weather is fair in Faro, cloudy in Calgary, sunny in Sydney, and pissing down in Paris. Why are the nitrogen dioxide and ozone levels so Good, Good, Good? And where is Akrotiri anyway?

Armed with the collected experience of the greatest weather men, from Aristotle's Meteorology to Ralph Hardy's Teach Yourself Weather, I hope to discover why the weather forecasters are so confident that there will be gale force winds in Scotland and the north of England today. Is it because the isobars are so close together on Low E, which has finally made its way across the Atlantic, and cold air flows from areas of high pressure into areas of lower pressure, forcing the warmer air upwards - or is wind, as Aristotle maintained, simply evaporation pulled round by the movements of the heavens? Watch this space. All will be explained.

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