2017 | 67 | 219-240
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Partlirajust ja ilmaparimusest

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The present study analyses St. Bartholomew’s Day storm – a storm that supposedly takes place near St.Bartholomew’s Day (August 24th) every year – a paroemia that has widely spread on the north-eastern coast of Estonia. The two questions analysed here are: firstly, whether such a storm is proved by the meteorological data and, secondly, whether it is reasonable to study weather paroemias. The present research makes use of the data about wind speed, measured in Jõhvi and Väike-Maarja weather stations during the period from 1966 to 2012. A more detailed analysis is dedicated to wind data around the old St.Bartholomew’s Day – the period around September 7th by the Gregorian calendar (August 12th till September 20th). According to wind speed data, it may be said that in north-eastern Estonia the end of August and beginning of September are rather windless. However, the analysis of the wind measurement data does not give a definitive answer to the question whether such a phenomenon as St. Bartholomew’s Day storm actually exists in nature. Against the background of relatively windless days, every windier day may be seen as stormy. The analysis indicates that the number of windy days around St. Bartholomew’s Day has constantly been decreasing over the last decades. This refers to changes in Estonian landscape, but even more so to changes in the climate. In the olden times, August and September were definitely much windier than today. Further research is needed to find out how windy the north-eastern coast of Estonia was around St. Bartholomew’s Day in the period before 1966. What is the benefit of such an analysis of weather paroemias? Proverb researchers have often viewed weather folklore somewhat condescendingly. It is true that weather paroemias do not qualify as the basis of scientific synoptic meteorology, and many paroemias have been borrowed from other cultures. For example, it is known that the St. Bartholomew’s Day storm tradition is Germanic and has reached Estonia via Finland. Weather paroemias, including weather proverbs, do not often follow the classical proverb rules. This is probably the reason why weather paroemias have been thoroughly studied neither in Estonia nor internationally. A study into weather proverbs potentially gives us knowledge about the worldview of our ancestors, culture distribution mechanisms, and also about the weather in the past. For example, it may be speculated that borrowed paroemias that fitted into the local population’s worldview or helped to better explain local weather phenomena entered common usage. If this is true, then it should be possible to find out from archived data when a particular weather paroemia became popular. This, in turn, enables us to use weather paroemias as proxy data for weather sciences. It may be assumed on the basis of old newspapers that the term St. Bartholomew’s Day storm became widely spread in the 1920s through to 1930s, when several well-documented storms indeed had devastating effects on the coast of north-eastern Estonia. However, this assumption has to be taken as a speculation, as several county newspapers, whose interest in the local weather was great, were established within the same period. A more detailed analysis of the St. Bartholomew’s Day storm tradition and other weather paroemias, however, requires a close cooperation between atmospheric scientists and folklorists.
  • Chair of Physical Geography and Landscape Ecology, University of Tartu, Vanemuise 46, 51014 Tartu, ESTONIA
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