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CINDY DAY: Veer to clear

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" - Bob Dylan. 
This lovely weather vane would do just fine, but knowing what to do with that information, is a different story.
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" - Bob Dylan. This lovely weather vane would do just fine, but knowing what to do with that information, is a different story. - 123RF Stock Photo

Atlantic Canadians are fortunate in so many ways – not the least of which is our proximity to the ocean.

When I lived in Ottawa, the neighbours on either side of me were from the east coast. When they learned I was moving to Halifax – 20 years ago now – they were both very jealous. They told me someone born by the sea could never stay away. That seemed odd at the time – I get it now. But I digress…

Each day, I prepare a marine weather forecast for those who take to the water, be they commercial fishers or boating enthusiasts. In describing the changes in the wind direction, I commonly use the terms “veering” and “backing.”

Those two words came up recently in a lovely handwritten note sent in by Mr. Libbus of Sydney, N.S. He was going through some old papers that belonged to his father who passed away 25 years ago. Among other things, he came across a few yellowed pages, torn from a small book. His father must have been a weather enthusiast because these pages contained old weather sayings. As I read through them, I could almost hear Grandma’s voice reciting the old weather rhymes, until I came across one that I had never heard before: “A backing wind says storms are nigh; a veering wind will clear the sky.

Like so many, it is very accurate.

The terms were originally meant to describe surface winds, where they either veered or backed around the compass. Veering is a clockwise change with height, distance or time; backing is a counter-clockwise change.

Winds are named according to where they originate: westerlies blow from west to east and so on. Fair-weather winds generally blow from the west or north while bad-weather winds usually howl from the east or southeast. If you notice the wind backing – shifting counter-clockwise – expect the weather to worsen. Likewise, if the weather has been poor and the wind starts to veer – clockwise – you should see a change for the better.

Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.

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