– Autumn/Winter 2000
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A barometric low hung over the Atlantic. It moved
eastward toward a high-pressure area over Russia without as yet
showing any inclination to bypass this high in a northerly
direction. The isotheres and isotherms were functioning as they
should. The air temperature was appropriate relative to the annual
mean temperature and to the aperiodic monthly fluctuations of the
temperature. The rising and the setting of the sun, the moon, of
Venus, the rings of Saturn, and many other significant phenomena
were all in accordance with the forecasts in the astronomical
yearbooks. The water vapour in the air was at its maximal state of
tension, while the humidity was minimal. In a word that
characterises the facts accurately, even if a bit old fashioned: It
was a fine day in August 1913.
- Robert Musil, The Man without Qualities
The 20th century has witnessed the general disappearance of the two: figures who, for more than a thousand years, have represented a direct human relationship to the weather, namely the agricultural worker and the sailor. For most people living in the West, the weather no longer determines, and barely even modifies, daily behaviour beyond changes in clothing or mood. Weather-proof shelters and weather-isolated work and leisure activities have contributed to making the weather an event to be watched and contemplated from the safety of the home. We might even say that our very modernity has been achieved in direct relationship to our increasing ability to control weather by keeping it away from our day-to-day life. Nation states produce their identities, in part, through the measure of the extremities in their weather, and the way in which their populations