Fifty years ago, in 1960, I recall the world’s first satellite weather photographs hitting the prime-time news. They revealed a grainy, black and white band of thin clouds shrouding the eastern coast of the United States. There was some detail thrown in there, a mountain ridge or maybe a shoreline?
But most of all, I remember the television interviews afterwards, the ones with incredulous scientists from all over the world discussing the images. Many of these people — like the viewers — were just beginning to grasp the implications of what the new technology they were witnessing could offer the world of the near future: advanced storm tracking, air traffic control, hurricane warnings, crop forecasting, military shenanigans, on and on and on.
Pretty heady stuff.
Long before the satellites came, I remember Grandpa Brandt stepping out the back porch screen door every morning, placing his hands on his hips and gazing along the horizon line and the tips of the trees, testing the Indiana weather. It was a routine he performed every morning. Sometimes he would wet a finger and hold it up to a breeze. Other times he’d lick his lips as if tasting something, or pick up a handful of dirt and crush it between his fingers, feeling the texture as it fell away. “Rain by noon. After that, it will be a hot one.” Done deal: the day’s weather forecast had been proclaimed.
This morning, a friend called and suggested I flick on my computer and check the weather; that he had just had 5 inches of rain dumped in his driveway and it was heading my way. Within seconds I called up WunderMap, where I spent about 20 minutes cycling through the video loop options. Never once did I consider the technology I was using.
After a while, I stepped out on my patio, placed my hands on my hips and gazed along the horizon line and the tips of the trees. “Rain by noon. After that, it will be a hot one.”
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Tim says: as I was getting ready to publish today’s article, I noticed the advertisement in the lower right corner of the WonderMap screen capture. I wonder what Grampa would have to say about all those hot cuties in the right hand corner vying for my attention?