Steve Pike

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

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?

Ju­nior Champs

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.

Weather Tip

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.

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