James Griffin 's Opinion

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

James Griffin: Spouting off about the weather

2 comments
James Griffin. Photo / Dean Purcell
James Griffin. Photo / Dean Purcell

Hi. Thanks for seeing me at such short notice. I always thought coming to see someone like you, that there'd be a couch. Not that I'm saying there's anything wrong with sitting in a chair, it's just a couch is what you expect - like in those American movies where people lie on couches when they see their shrink. Or is "shrink" an offensive term in your profession? Sorry if it is. Another cock-up on my behalf. Go me.

You want me to tell you a little something about myself? Well, um, I'm Paul and I work as a meteorologist for the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. That's Niwa to you. We're the guys who supply the data that all comes together to provide what civilians call the "weather forecast". Weather, you could say, is my life.

I know to many people this seems incredibly sad. The only thing that rocks this guy's world is the weather? How tragic is that? But if that's true, how come the weather is the one thing that everyone talks about all the time? Does that make everyone else tragic too? Sure, the weather - and the guy who is interested in the weather and likes to talk about the weather - is an easy target for ridicule at parties.

But, if we're being totally honest with ourselves, isn't the weather the one thing that unites all of us?

Yeah, I take the weather very seriously. Maybe too seriously at times and sometimes I shout at people who are ignorant in weather-related matters. But that doesn't make it entirely wrong when I get extremely upset and have a small breakdown when the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition or the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust or whatever they're called are taking my beloved Niwa to court, claiming we falsified our temperature records just so we could climb on to the Global Warming bandwagon. Is it wrong to have a passionate reaction to something so inherently unjust?

Okay, yes, at school the other kids laughed at my interest in barometric readings and cloud formations but I knew, even back then, that the weather rules us all. We all answer to the weather - lawsuit or no lawsuit. This I know to be true, just as reliable records over the last 100 years confirm a warming trend of 0.91 degrees Celsius over that period, is also true. Be afraid, my friends, be very afraid - the numbers do not lie.

But it goes deeper than just that, if you know what I mean. We at Niwa speak a truth that certain business interests do not want to hear - just as Galileo spoke truths about our universe that certain interests back then did not want to hear. And just like Galileo we, too, are persecuted.

How best to explain my feelings of persecution? Isn't it obvious? Take, for example, the way every time we issue a weather warning suddenly the media turns it into a "weather bomb". We didn't invent the term weather bomb, by the way. Well, yes, it was Brian from the Wellington office who first said it, as a joke - meteorologists usually have a wicked sense of humour - but the media somehow got hold of it and have bastardised it for their own foul purpose. Media bastards.

Sorry, I get a bit agitated at times - they call me Cyclone Paul round the office. But I hate, really hate, the way when we do predict a weather bomb and somehow, because of the vagaries of nature, it turns out to be a bit of drizzle, suddenly every motel owner in Northland is jumping up and down and claiming it's Niwa's fault they're going out of business.

We can't be expected to get things right all the time. We just can't. It's like people expect meteorologists to be psychics, but we're not. Well, there is one meteorologist who is actually a psychic but we only employed her because no one else could figure out Auckland's weather. And even then she only gets it right occasionally. Sure, that's more than we ever managed but it only proves what I'm saying. It's weather, people, it's not an exact science, okay?

And yet suddenly we're being taken to court because somehow we caused Global Warming. Well, that's what it feels like to me and the rest of us at Niwa. How wrong is that? Doesn't that make you want to take off all your clothes and climb on to the roof of the Niwa building and shout the weather forecast at passing traffic? Isn't that what rational people do when confronted with a great wrong? Apparently not, so they sent me to see a shrink.

Can I lie on your floor a bit? It helps calm me down.

- NZ Herald

James Griffin

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

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