“Whoa, it’s so hot today you could fry an egg on a sand dune.” That might make more sense if you think of it written in Arabic. And, it probably would help if you considered that all of us — no matter who we are and what we do and when we lived — whine about the weather.
“Whoa, it’s so hot today you could fry an egg on a sand dune.”
That might make more sense if you think of it written in Arabic. And, it probably would help if you considered that all of us — no matter who we are and what we do and when we lived — whine about the weather.
I was reminded of this recently when I was sent an email containing a media release that carried the headlines “Ancient Arabic Writings Help Scientists Piece Together Past Climate” and “Iraqi Sources from 9th and 10th Centuries Give New Meteorological Insights.”
Suddenly I got the image of researchers reading a bunch of letters from a legion of great-great-great-great — well, a lot of greats — aunts that begin with whatever the Arabic words are for “we were supposed to have the family reunion today, but it rained all day, even though the weatherman said it was supposed to be only party cloudy. ...”
As it turns out, researchers consulted more traditional sources — “the writings of scholars, historians and diarists in Iraq during the Islamic Golden Age between 816-1009 AD for evidence of abnormal weather patterns.”
That educational effort being acknowledged, I still know firsthand that, when looking through the journals of family members who have passed on, you can encounter a multitude of entries that start with such observations as “I swear, this is the hottest and driest summer any of us can remember.”
A generalization in English or Arabic is still an exaggeration.
The writer of such an ordinary whine wouldn’t know he might one day be contributing to the gathering of climate data. He would just be complaining about the temperature being “at least 100 in the shade” and trying to keep sweat from smudging the writing on his journal page.
Surprisingly, the researchers found out that the temperature being recorded in ancient Arabic writings was abnormally cold.
“Climate information recovered from these ancient sources mainly refers to extreme events which impacted wider society such as droughts and floods,” said lead author Dr. Fernando Domínguez-Castro. “However, they also document conditions which were rarely experienced in ancient Baghdad, such as hailstorms, the freezing of rivers or even cases of snow.”
Correct translation of the document in which details of any of those events are given is a necessity, of course. We wouldn’t want history to record a blizzard in Iraq when actually the writer of the letter or journal entry was just making sure posterity knew that the day he did something or other that he wasn’t about to do was “the day that it snows in Baghdad!”
Which, strangely, gives me an idea for playing with future meteorological researchers’ minds.
What if I wrote a journal? Each day I could scribble in entries mentioning the weather — fake weather, the kind that will fascinate future scientists. I could name it “Global Warming Era writings” and note on the inside cover, “Save until at least the 29th century,” so my descendants don’t throw it out with my old copies of Golf Digest.
Wouldn’t scholars studying ancient American writings in the future be surprised?
“It says here that it ‘wasn’t so much the heat as it was the humidity’ that was unbearable when it was 115 on Christmas. And later he claims they had to cancel the usual Fourth of July fireworks because of ice and snow. ...”
Contact Gary Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.