Your Guide to New England Weather ... or Not

NEW Englanders can be forgiven for thinking theirs is the most contrary weather in the country. They believe they know rain as well as the residents of Seattle; snow as well as the residents of Buffalo; and wind as well as the residents of the United States Senate.

But New Englanders have a point. While the weather in many places is hard to predict, six years of living in the Boston area have convinced me there is something to that old adage that if you don't like the weather here, wait a minute.

So as a help to visitors, or even to those who have lived only a short time in New England - say, 20 years or so - I offer here my Guide to Interpreting New England Weather Forecasting, or, Meteorological Rules to Remember.

1. The Theory of Misread Warmth. All temperatures are taken from a thermometer on the top of a building at Logan International Airport in Boston. The weather service puts a space heater by this instrument in the winter to keep it from freezing and places it in a refrigerator in the summer to keep the mercury from boiling out. So, always expect it to be 10 degrees cooler in the winter or 10 degrees hotter in the summer than forecasts say.

2. The Inverse Theorem of Coastal Precipitation. If the weather service predicts a heavy snow or rain storm, it will not rain or snow. If the forecasters say it will not rain or snow, it may or may not. But if they predict only a light rain or snowfall, stock up on canned food. Another implication of this theorem is that the lower the probability the weather service gives that a hurricane will hit your area, the more likely it is to do so.

This theorem is supplemented by the important Corollary of Precipitation Gradation and Location: If the meteorologists say it will snow 6 to 8 inches in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and southeastern Massachusetts, 4 to 6 inches in central Massachusetts and Boston, and 2 to 4 inches in Vermont and New Hampshire, the actual amount of precipitation will be reversed north to south. It will snow heavily in Manchester, N.H., and not in Providence, R.I. This is important to remember if you are a skier, since there's nothing like a quick run down Smith's Hill, in front of Rhode Island's state house.

3. The Inverted-Bumbershoots Rule: If a forecaster tells you to carry an umbrella to work, don't bother - it will be too windy to use it.

4. The Radial Invalidity Hypothesis: Any forecast for the city of Boston will be invalid outside a five-mile radius around the Hub. This is typified by the all-too-common experience of looking out a window at a monsoon while the radio announcer in the Prudential Tower cheerfully bids you to expect only a slight probability of light showers.

5. The Unintended Consolations Effect. No matter what else happens, there is always reason for cheer. However bad the weather is in Boston, it is always worse on New Hampshire's Mt. Washington.

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