Talking About The Weather
- Year 2014
- Location Dublin, Ireland
The nearly-universal human pastime of talking about the weather has taken on added political significance now that consequential weather phenomena are being linked to human activity. An observation as innocent as “Sure is hot outside” can lead to heated debates.
The “Polar Vortex” which recently affected large areas of North America sparked a renewed interest in the language used to describe weather phenomena. Though the term had long been used in scientific circles, and the phenomenon affected parts of Europe and Asia in 2012, it seemed to have been conjured out of thin air by North American media consumers who hadn’t heard it before, and it had overtones of officialness, scientificity, even intimidation. Other popular weather terms in English climatological and meteorological lexicons are more informal in tone, or are coined in reference to specific places and cultures (Jet Stream, El Nino, Nor’easter, etc.). Still others are not yet popularly known, because they describe weather events that are rare, or merely theoretically possible (Thundersquall, Haboob, etc.), and therefore the terms are still tucked away in specialized literature. If current predictions of more extreme weather in the near future are correct, many of these terms will make their way into popular usage, and brand new terms may need to be coined in order to satisfy the demands of increasingly unprecedented weather phenomena.
Talking About the Weather is an exploration into the evolving language of weather, in two parts. The “Official Terminologies” part of the project focuses on cataloging the scientific lexicon of weather-related language, and re-mixing it to produce new coinages (e.g. “pyrocumulus macroburst”). “Colloquial Analogies” looks at popular and historic American expressions that make comparative statements about hot and cold weather, often in poetic and evocative language (e.g. “Colder than a welldigger’s knees”). Research into these expressions reveals that they exhibit several structural and thematic patterns which may be employed in the formation of new expressions and variations on existing ones.
The first instantiation of this project appeared in an installation at Dublin Science Gallery, 2014. Images Courtesy Dublin Science Gallery