Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Weather

(Mostly written in response to this issue on the Awesome Falsehoods list)

For those new to the format, there is a popular meme about things which computer programmers erroneously believe. This isn't intended to shame anyone - just to point out things which may not be immediately obvious to the neophyte.

There's nothing us Brits love more than moaning talking about the weather. And, just as Inuit speakers have hundreds of words for snow, so English speakers have hundreds of words for rain.

What's cold for you is not cold for me

I've visited countries where I was sweating as soon as I stepped off the plane while the locals were dressed in layers and shivering.

Similarly, I'm sure you've visited a blustery northern English town at night and worried that the hoards of teenagers on the lash are going to catch a chill.

It doesn't always snow at Christmas

A few years ago, I had the delightful experience of enjoying Xmas in the southern hemisphere. The weather was blazing hot - and several stores had artificial snow in the windows for a "festive" look.

There are plenty of calendars which have snowy motifs for December, even on the side of the planet where the Moon is upside down.

℃ ℉ °K

Perhaps the most obvious one. 100° may either be delightfully warm or fatal, depending on what system you use.

There are, of course, many different temperature scales. I recommend Hasok Chang's Inventing Temperature for more information.

And more?

Feel free to add your favourites in the comment box.

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8 thoughts on “Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Weather”

  1. says:

    Air temperature is the only significant indicator of how how it will feel.

    Plenty of IoT widgets and apps and things put the temperature alone and uninterpreted out there with nothing else to help contextualise it. But there can be a huge difference within 23℃ depending on whether you're in the sun or shade, whether the wind is blowing, and - crucially - what the humidity is like. Either give us all the data, or give us an approximate "feels like..." estimate.

  2. Merton says:

    I second first comment, it is NOT degrees Kelvin, just Kelvin. I am not knowlegable enough to explain why but I do know that this is true. A very common mistake.
    With respect to different words for snow: I grw up in Upstate New York. Average snowfall each winter (used to be) about 4 meters. Yes 4 meters. We had "terms" for different ypes of snow: corn snow, deep powder, wet, etc.
    And we also had several different types of snow shovels! Each was used in different situations, depending on the type of snow. I don't remember if each type of shovel had a different name.

    Remember Cheaper by the Dozen: experts Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth.
    They developed the idea (among many others) that for maximum efficiency you want different types/styles of shovels depending on what you were shovelling!
    Why do I know these things??


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