IT’S been a weird old week of weather and in one wacky example, just plain bizarre. As Hurricane Matthew began to make landfall on Tuesday in Haiti, the island culture we associate with the mystical arts of voodoo, a weather guy called Matt Devitt broadcast his forecast on Florida TV station WINK.
When Devitt was heading into the office, he couldn’t have foreseen how his day was about to go pearshaped. Actually, let me revise that. His day went decidedly “skull-shaped”.
An infrared image by a Nasa satellite revealed the rather disturbing profile of a ghoulish skull, with the eye of the storm and the skull one and the same.
Devitt went on to Nasa’s Facebook page after the broadcast to affirm the authenticity of the creepy visage: “I can confirm this satellite image of Matthew’s landfall is REAL and not Photoshopped. Captured this morning during my weathercast. Freaky!”
An atmospheric scientist at Nasa’s Earth Science Office, Paul Meyer, told CNN that the skull’s “teeth” were cold convective clouds.
Surely they’re having us on? It would appear not. Why would Nasa lie about the source of the image? Besides, if there is a secret Photoshopper at the parastatal, he is dicing with the end of his career.
Stu Ostro, senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel, who first tweeted the image, was also adamant it was no fake.
But something else really struck me. This skull-faced zombie was roaring over the indigenous origin of the religious practice of vodoo – famous for scary rituals and priests with rolled-back eyeballs.
Perhaps exaggerated by Hollywood and populist media, we also associate it with bootyshaking, pin- pricked dolls, flesh-eating zombies and ... er ... effigies with skulls that give us the heebies.
Of course, Doomsday preppers and religious fanatics are pointing fingers and shouting. Although this was no nuke holocaust come home to roost – chickens feature a lot in vodoo as well, actually – to many it was an apocalyptic sign straight out of hell itself.
“The dark lord has shown himself ” commented one person on a weather site that carried the story.
You might remember the famous lyric by Michael Stipe of REM who sang: “It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)”. But judging from the social media comments about the end of the world, and the general outpouring of calls for collective penance, quite a few people don’t feel fine.
Others, of course, saw it as a more humorous coincidence, likening the image to an effigy of the comic book character Ghost Rider or even The Grinch.
To add to the strange coincidences, consider that in the bible the book of Matthew deals with the end of days, and the natural disasters that befall the world, later so enthusiastically linked to our era by Nostradamus in medieval times.
Of course, big storms are becoming more common as the effects of climate change gather momentum.
And I guess with all visual and numerical information that is churned out by computer models and satellites, every now and them a random weirdness spits out: literally a ghost in the machine.
Or not? What do you think?
SOUTH AFRICA has also been getting its fair share of weather anomalies. It’s a bit early in summer for the big cyclone swells that normally begin after Christmas, but the East Coast has been getting a pounding east swell, and Durban has had waves for four straight days. It’s also brought sublime conditions for the Billabong SA Junior Championships in Jeffreys Bay, with the top Under-18 surfers in South Africa are revelling in perfect waves. The competition ends tomorrow.
TODAY there might be 2- 4’ surf but the winds look fresh southerly, and perhaps some onshore W in it. This is not ideal for Muizenberg either, which looks 2’ and onshore.
Tomorrow, much calmer winds, with smooth glassy seas and light winds, but very little swell action.
Pick of the surf could be Muizenberg which might be fun 2’ maybe a little more with a bit of southerly in what swell there is. Should be waist to chest high and glassy for most of the day.
SPRAY IT! Kommetjie’s York van Jaarsveld in action at the SA Junior Championships in Jeffreys Bay.
The infrared satellite image that created all the fuss.