MARTY RUSSELL: Meteorologist correct term for predicting this storm

Most predictions don’t have a very good track record like, say, predicting when and where the next terrorist strike may occur. Take the current heightened state of alert that has the U.S. closing embassies throughout the Middle East and Africa.

Is it just me, or does it seem like the “intelligence” that move is based on, namely uncharacteristically open “chatter” among known terrorists that would seem to be saying, “Hey look over here,” really means we should be looking over there instead? Is it the old bait-and-switch routine or are our enemies really so dumb as to announce their intentions in advance? That’s hard to predict.

And, speaking of predictions, where is Miss Phyl when you need her? Phyllis Harper, as many Journal readers will recall, was this paper’s resident expert on weather predictions for many years and wrote regularly about them in her column. Not a meteorologist, she relied instead on the folk ways of predicting the weather, the signs people used to rely on before radar and satellites and maps.

If she were still with us, I’d like to hear what she had to say about the upcoming winter. Miss Phyl used to say you could predict the number of snowfalls in the coming winter by the number of foggy mornings in August. Well, I’ve counted at least one foggy morning already this August here where I live, and I can recall at least four in July, which was unusually mild this year. Is July the new August?

And was that a woolly caterpillar I saw the other day on my porch, another sign of a cold winter according to Miss Phyl, or was it just a lucky earthworm that won the lottery and bought itself a fur coat?

I’m no meteorologist, but I do feel comfortable making a prediction about an upcoming storm due to hit this weekend, a meteor storm. And, by the way, why are weather forecasters called meteorologists when the profession has nothing to do with meteors? Shouldn’t they be called weatherologists? It comes from the Greek “meteoros” meaning “lofty” or “in the sky.”

And in the sky is where the meteors will be this weekend. The annual Perseid meteor shower, the biggest and usually best of the year with up to a shooting star per minute visible, peaks this Sunday and Monday. Because there will be no moon to dim the view, it should be particularly good this year. Just look overhead late in the evening or early in the morning to catch the show.

And while you’re looking, give a shout out to Curiosity, our roving reporter on Mars. The little robot celebrated its first year on the Red Planet on Tuesday and recently reached the one-mile mark in its travels on the surface. That’s not a long way but only because it’s found so much to stop and examine in that first mile. Here’s to many more.

MARTY RUSSELL writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at

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