Friday, July 12, 2019

Telegraph operators and weather

From Hannah Fry’s review of Andrew Blum’s The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the Forecast :

By 1848, more than two thousand miles of telegraph lines had been laid across the United States. They were a technological marvel, but they were prone to problems when it rained. Every morning, telegraph operators checked with their colleagues in the surrounding cities to see what the weather was like. “If I learned from Cincinnati that the wires to St. Louis were interrupted by rain,” one operator was recorded as saying, “I was tolerably sure a ‘northeast’ storm was approaching.”

The effect was to change people’s perception of time and space. Being able to communicate through the telegraph might have made the world seem smaller, but those weather reports also made the world bigger, creating distance between places on a map.
I told my mom — who watches the weather with intense interest — about the role of the telegraph in forecasting. Who knew? Neither of us.

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