Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What will the weather be tomorrow ?

Weather forecasting is not an exact science. Even if weather forecasting services are using more and more powerful computers to run their scientific models, there will always be time when smooth changes of weather can hardly be predicted. I know a bit about that because when I was younger, much younger (20 years ago), I did my military service in the French weather forecast service Meteo France. I was writing some computer software for the French navy.

[Interestingly this has something to do with the fact that I collect frog stamps ! Let me tell you the story. When I finished my service, my colleagues offered me a set of four plastic frogs as a farewell gift (frogs are often seen as a symbol of weather forecast, but I’ll come back on that later). They were really cute and around me, my friends started to offer me any sort of frog shaped objects. Each time one of them would travel somewhere, he or she would bring me back a frog made of plastic, wood, stone, whatever. Even myself I participated to this game : I remember visiting all the shops of Sienna to find an alabaster frog ! My collection became quickly too big and I decided to stop. But when I decided to come back to stamp collection, ten years ago, and when I decided to have a topical approach, I naturally chose frog and toad on stamps as my main topic. I did not expect that ten years later I would be in front of a collection of more than 500 stamps !… But let’s come back to the main subject of this post].

Since ancient times, observation of the behaviour of some animals (and more precisely observation of any changes in the behaviour of some animals) has been used by some as a tool for weather forecasting. Of course it does not allow long term weather forecasting, but it may help to know if it is going to rain in the coming hours or not. At least this is a common belief that can be found sometimes illustrated in folk songs. What is the link with philately ? Well, this is exactly the subject of a set of stamps issued by Finland on the 27th of February 2008. The set contains five self-adhesive stamps that are sold in a booklet. Here is a picture of the five stamps and the verso of the booklet.
From top to bottom the stamps picture the following animals :
- a fish : according to the documentation given by the Finish post : if the fin of the perch is spotted then the summer weather will be rainy. If the fin is glossy an stands up, the summer sun will stay in the sky.
- a sheep : fair weather is coming when the sheep stand around lazily. Rainy weather will soon come if the sheep in the pasture are gambolling
- a frog : still according to Finish post, a frog hops onto dry land when rain clouds appear in the sky. Dry weather comes when the frog makes long hops.There are some other versions regarding the ability of frog to announce rainy weather : if the frogs croak during the day, then it will rain. According to another belief, if you put a frog in a jar with a small ladder, the frog will climb to the ladder if the rain is coming. The frog will stay at the bottom of the jar, if the weather is dry. The frog is very often used a symbol of weather forecasting.
- a swallow : the twittering of the swallows start the summer with fair weather clouds. When the swallow soars high in the sky, good weather rushes everywhere.
- a snail : if a snail crawls along the ground with its horns drawn in, soon the rain will come. But with its horns out, the dry weather is coming !

Here is a picture of the FDC of this set of stamps, with a cute postmark picturing a snail.

Finish post also issued a set of maximum cards. Here is the card with the frog (of course ;-) ).
And the cards with the other animals.
On top of these philatelic products, Finish post has issued a set of postcards illustrating the same animals but with explanation (in three different languages) about the belief attached to each animal. Here is the one with the frog, and below a picture of the full set of cards.

As you can see this is a nice addition to my frog stamps collection. This is the first time I think that a stamp issue links the frog with the weather forecast. So this is a very interesting issue for me. Thanks again to Kalpana would drew my attention to this issue.

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