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Weather's closing in

Posted by Ward Fredericks on December 13, 2003

In Reply to: Weather's closing in posted by Shae on December 12, 2003

: : : : : The current weather where I live has been extremely stormy for the last few days. But for some brief moments we've received glimmers of sunshine.

: : : : : This morning started out dreary, then the sun shone briefly. As the heavy clouds came over again, my partner said, the 'weather's closing in'.

: : : : : I've heard this often enough, but it's an odd thing to say really. ie. Weather is a generic word which covers all types of weather, inclement, fine, dry, wet, hot, cold, whatever. So to begin with, why do we know and assume that when such a comment is made, that the 'weather' being described will be stormy, and why 'closing in'?

: : : : In the U.S., I haven't heard "Weather's closing in." I've heard similar remarks, such as "Looks like we're going to get some weather," which is equally open to the same objection. We always have some weather.

: : : : "Closing in" at least has the merit of suggesting that feeling of being trapped under storm clouds that you get when there'

: : : Since 'weather' is, by definition: the state of the atmosphere with respect to heat or cold, wetness or dryness, calm or storm, clearness or cloudiness, then to say that it is 'closing in, seems reasonable if clouds, mist, rain, etc., conspire to restrict visibility. However, to say we are 'to get some weather' implies that it has previously been absent and since this cannot be it's preferable to qualify the type of weather expected.

: : I have heard this expression in the US and I have actually seen the weather closing in. While living on the plains of central Texas, we regularly raced down the highways pursued by columns of thunder clouds dragging ominous trails of grey precipitation behind them. Sometimes we weren't fast enough and we'd be caught in a deluge so strong the cars on the highway were forced to slow to a crawl or even to stop until it had passed.

: Ship and flight crew use the word 'weather' as shorthand for 'bad weather.' An airport control tower might warn an approaching aircraft of 'weather crossing the field' and I've heard a pilot requesting permission to alter course to avoid 'that weather ahead.' An observer on a ship might remark that 'we're heading into weather."

:::: I agree. As a pilot, I can tell you that the expression has a real manifestation. When the weather 'closes in' it truly brings the horizon in on all sides, and being under a blanket of sow or ice is one of the things old pilots like me like to avoid. I suspect this phrase, like so many in our great language, has some implicit editing in it. It probably means, as suggested earlier, that (Bad) weather is closing in and that some action is probably prudent. When flying a small plane, that action would be a 180 degree turn and land, or perhaps some prayers and hope that the instrument flight training is up to date.
We have a lot of phrases in English where the adjective is silent, and clear to native speakers.