When I was a little girl, I used to attend a daycare in Alabama called Mother Goose. Even though I was only a toddler, I have very vivid memories of my days spent there.
During nap time, we would rest on cots and listen to the radio. Instead of sleeping, I preferred to sing and even dance to the radio songs… which often got me in trouble. Well it was the early 80s, and Fleetwood Mac would often play. I was mesmerized by the voice of Stevie Nicks.
There was a song called Sara that caught my attention. My sister’s name was also Sara… and I thought how does this lady singer know my sister!!!
So the obsession started.
Once I got a little older and understood how the radio worked, I still loved me some Stevie Nicks. But the scientist in me eventually wanted to correct Ms. Nicks.
The song ‘Dreams’ ~
Oh, thunder only happens when it’s raining / Players only love you when they’re playing / Say women, they will come and they will go / When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know
A meteorology professor in Australia said it best… “Cool meteorological metaphor, Stevie. But unfortunately, not scientifically accurate.”
It can completely thunder without rain.
Dry thunderstorms are a major cause of wildfires. Dry thunderstorms are most common in the western United States late in spring and into early summer when monsoonal moisture is absent in the region. Rain evaporates before reaching the ground in a dry thunderstorm, but lightning is still a major hazard.
When rain evaporates before reaching the ground, it’s called virga.
Virga is from the Latin word virga, which means primarily “branch” or “rod,” but can also refer to a streak in the sky suggesting rain. Our featured word, which dates to the mid-20th century, is only the latest in a series of words from this root. “Verge” (which originally referred to a rod or staff carried as an emblem of authority or a symbol of office) dates to the 15th century. The rare noun “virgate,” which refers to an old English unit of land area, came from “virga” by way of the Medieval Latin virgata (also a unit of land area) in the late 17th century. The more common adjective virgate, meaning “shaped like a rod or wand” arrived in the early 19th by way of Latin virgatus, meaning “made of twigs.”
So Stevie should sing instead… Thunder can happen when it’s raining…. or Thunder only happens when it’s lightning.
But then again, Stevie can sing whatever she wants. She can do no wrong in my eyes. I’ll just continue to sing along.
(sources: NOAA, National Weather Service, Fleetwood Mac, and National Geographic)