An online subscription is required to access the content on this website.
SUBSCRIBE TODAY to have total access 24 hours a day to the Newberry News.
2017-12-06 / Columnists

Just Bill

When It Starts Freezing I Know the Temperature
Musings from the Mind of Bill Diem

Just as I’m writing this, on a Sunday morning in France it’s about 30° F in Newberry and 28° C in Paris. Or, as my weather app tells me, -1° C in Newberry and -2° C here.

I have become used to the size of centimeters, meters and kilometers, and to grams and kilograms. Where an inch is about as wide as my thumb, a centimeter is about as wide as my pinkie. A kilogram is how heavy a package of flour is in the store that’s half a kilometer down the street. A big scoop of flour is about 100 grams.

But Centigrade has taken a long time. The only time it’s really easy is when we’re around freezing. Mr. Fahrenheit chose an almost random moment to establish his Zero, and he was left with another random moment when water boiled at 212° F. Centigrade’s Zero is when water becomes a solid and 100° C is when water becomes a gas.

I easily remember that in Newberry it freezes at 32° F, so a plus or minus of one or two degrees Centigrade are quickly translated in my head.

But when is it nice? What temperature needs a sweater, and what needs a T-shirt? I have to quote my pal, Steve Heisel, again, who taught me: “30 hot, 20 nice, 10 cold, 0 ice.”

My arithmetic brain remembers the formula that a C degree is 1.8° F degrees, and then it has to account for the 32° F = 0° C in making any translation.

When temperatures are below freezing, it takes my brain time. Someday it will be 0° F in Newberry, and I will have to divide 32 by 1.8 in my head and eventually come up with “about -18° C.” And over here, that is really, really cold—a temperature for the mountains, not Paris.

I say the climate here is about like Washington DC in America. Because the Gulf Stream moves warm water up from Cuba to the northwest coast of Europe, our winters are milder than Newberry’s, even though we’re further north. (48.8 degrees latitude vs. 46.4 degrees.)

It is a rare moment that on a cold December day it’s colder here than in the Tahquamenon valley. Snowflakes were in the air here a couple of days ago, and a Paris newspaper had a slide show of pretty snowflake pictures.

Last winter never a flake fell, although it did drop hail once that I remember, and once several years ago snow stayed several inches on the ground for a week. I found my winter boots and we walked in the woods.

We always have the weather to talk about here and in Newberry. Maybe some sociologist should study whether living in an area where the weather changes causes a society to be more talkative than in places where it’s always the same.

Return to top