Observing life: If your shoes melt, don't panic
If you were looking to find the most monotonous job in the world, you could do a lot worse than that of a UAE weather forecaster in July. Monday: hot, humid and sunny; Tuesday: humid, sunny and hot; Wednesday: lots of heat, with high levels of sunshine and moisture. And so on. It makes you wonder if the local met office, rather than employing batteries of complex and costly equipment, wouldn't be better served with a decent thesaurus. Then, at least, we might get the odd "scorcher", or a day that's "sweltry". Indeed, given that this summer is lining up to be one of the hottest on record, we may even be looking at a need for compound adjectives, such as "shoe-meltingly". Such innovations, however, will not change the fact that meteorology here can be a relatively dull affair. For real drama, you need to be somewhere like the UK, where the weather is apt to go from sunny to rainy and back to sunny before you can say "climatronic pyrgeometer". This is why, in British newspapers, you tend to read things like "Sunny intervals, with a 50 per cent chance of rain" - which is another way of saying, "We don't know."
Things do get slightly more interesting here in the winter months, when the occasional rain shower has everyone reaching for their hazard-light buttons on Sheikh Zayed Road. Last year, Ras al Khaimah even had a snowstorm, which - despite consisting of about 17 snowflakes - attracted a flurry of media interest. "In the next few days the weather... will return to normal," said one Dubai weatherman, correctly.
This is not to belittle the work forecasters do here - if you're a fisherman or wadi walker, even the rarest of thunderstorms can be significantly inconvenient. That said, the job still doesn't have the kind of sheen it has, say, in the US, where forecasters have become key members of prime-time news teams. There, you need more than a grasp of meteorological principles. You need a good line in banter. You need the moves, the hair, the teeth. Here, meteorologists mostly toil away in anonymity. But this summer could change all that. In the coming months, weather forecasts will have implications beyond how long we need to leave the car running before driving to the mall. As one meteorologist put it recently: "What we are witnessing today is a heat wave affecting the region, but people should not panic."
Of course, the collective consciousness being what it is, there's no better way to inspire panic than telling people not to panic. Correspondingly, there's no better way to drum up interest in a weather report than introducing a little fear into the proceedings. As the heat rises, then, so too will the public profile of the region's weathermen. If they're really smart, they'll start putting those thesauruses to good use. This summer, you'll be frightened to learn, promises to be scaldingly, incandescently, jogger-threateningly hot. More details after the break.
Published: July 21, 2010 04:00 AM