Press Box

The Times’ Weather Poet

For readers of the Washington Post, the outlook for last Wednesday was unexceptional. “Mostly sunny and warm,” the weather box in the front-page header predicted. Ditto Thursday.

In essence, the New York Times’ Washington edition did not disagree. And yet lurking in the Times’ report was a touch of whimsy, a suggestion of unexplored possibilities. “Brighter,” it said, the day would be, “and a bit less humid.” As for Thursday, “ample sun” would be provided. “Ample for what?” the reader might wonder. And will a “bit less” in the humidity department accommodate a walk to work or even a drink after work at an outdoor cafe? Checking the more detailed outlook on page A13, one was further alerted that, come the morrow, “a mixture of puffy clouds and wispy cirrus will cross the sky …”

Alas, the Times’ Weather Poet makes only occasional appearances. Nor do the constraints imposed by space and subject matter permit a fully developed lyricism. Yet, much can be conveyed by a few well-chosen words. Consider, for another example, Tuesday, May 16, when readers were apprised that while the day would witness “fading sunshine … Tomorrow, perhaps a shower.” Such is life. Or Thursday, June 8, when the Times’ national forecast predicted that “a strong warming trend will blossom in much of the East.” Blossom. No doubt the perfume was enchanting.

Or the following Wednesday, when the reader was put on notice that the next day would be not “hot and humid,” as the Post would boringly have it, but “sultry.” Sultry. Now, that’s an evocative word. It reminds me of a naughty ditty that a British friend of my father used to recite: “When the weather is warm and sultry, I scarcely think of adultery. But when Jack Frost is in the air, au contraire …”