Predicting the weather for 2017: sun in January but rain in July?

The Irwiegel rules throws up strange weather forecasts for 2017, including sunshine in the winter and storms in the summer

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
4 January 2017, 8:15am
A cold snap, but still temperate and beautiful sunny days even in December in Malta: Hofret ir-Rizz, in Rabat, basks in  the sunshine of the Christmas season. Photo: Chris Mangion
A cold snap, but still temperate and beautiful sunny days even in December in Malta: Hofret ir-Rizz, in Rabat, basks in the sunshine of the Christmas season. Photo: Chris Mangion
It may not have any scientific basis but a few farmers and villagers still cling to the Irwiegel, a traditional form of weather forecasting based on the weather patterns in the run-up to Christmas. 

Yet their beliefs may well be tested to the limit next year, with the 2017 Irwiegel Calendar throwing up some particularly unorthodox predictions. Indeed, the traditional winter months of January, February, November and December have been forecast to be the sunniest months of the year. In contrast, cloudy weather has been forecast for every day in April and May, while March, May and July have been forecast as the rainiest months of next year. Wind is expected to be strongest in April, May and July. 

In the days before barometers, weather radars and satellites, Maltese people used to rely on the Irwiegel to predict the weather in the year ahead. Between 13 December and Christmas Eve, they used to observe and record detailed weather patterns of each day, including shifts in the wind, the amounts of clouds in the sky and the presence or absence of rainfall and sunshine. Each day would then correspond to a month in the next year – the 13th to January, the 14th to February and so on, until the 24th which would correspond to December. Each day was then divided into the number of days of each corresponding month, thereby gaining a weather forecast for every day of the year. 

It is not a purely Maltese tradition and indeed similar variations used to exist in Sicily, France and other parts of Northern Europe, but has for some reason survived longer in Malta than in other countries. 

The Met Office dismisses the Irwiegel folklore entirely, due to its pure lack of scientific grounding. 

“I can’t understand it to be honest,” a bemused Met Office spokesperson said when asked by MaltaToday. “By luck, the Irwiegel could prove accurate but meteorology today has become so advanced in providing real data. Some people still keep the Irwiegel for the fun of it, I suppose…” 

Here’s the calends’ predictions for January 2017. See if they got it right...
Here’s the calends’ predictions for January 2017. See if they got it right...
Sean Vella Caruana is a 44-year-old engineer whose interest in the Irweigel was first piqued when he was a nine-year-old boy listening in on the conversations of his grandparents and his father’s teacher colleagues. In his free time, he now runs a Facebook page that posts monthly updates on the Irwiegel for the coming month. A full calendar of the Irwiegel predictions for 2017 can be downloaded from his page for €4.71. 

Yet he is clear from the outset that his calendar is not supposed to be taken as a serious weather forecasting alternative to the Met Office, but rather as a “a bit of fun” that can be freely interpreted as one pleases. 

When asked by MaltaToday to explain previous glaring shortcomings in the calendar, such as storms in July 2016, Vella Caruana laughed it off. 

“I see it all as just a bit of fun, as a way of keeping old Maltese tradition alive,” he said. “Most people who keep the Irwiegel do so with a pinch of salt, but for those people who are fixated with the Irwiegel, it becomes a matter of observation. For example, cloudy weather forecast in the summer months could be interpreted as high levels of humidity.”  

In a brief explanation of the 2017 forecasts, he said that Malta should expect nice weather in January and February but a longer winter than usual. 

“We’ll have to wait and see… sometimes it gets it right and other times it doesn’t…”