Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail

Sun Patterns and Natural Randomness

Sunrise on a snowy day

Time for a bit of ramble.

At the heart of natural navigation there is potential for conflict.

If the sun did not behave with rational, dependable predictability then reading its effects might be a forlorn cause. We can say with great confidence where it will be in the sky at almost any moment in the future. And yet, nearly everything that follows the sun closely, from plants and animals to the weather itself, does not seem to have much fondness for rigid patterns or predictability.

This photo is an example. I could have worked out exactly the spot that the sun would rise and what it would do during the day years ago if I chose to, it would be a poor bookie who took bets on that sort of thing, but the weather… that is very different. The odds of me being surrounded by deep snow right now, particularly this close to the south coast, must be quite small. The seasonal fluctuations can be further complicated by the fact that we are now getting a lot more solar heat than we were a month ago: we are more than six weeks from the coldest time of the year in pure solar terms.

If we are looking at things that are removed from the skies, but are still strongly influenced by them then we are left with no choice but to look past the randomness, to look for clues in trends. Herein lies the conflict: we observe randomness and regularity in tandem. To resolve this and to have confidence in reading nature we must accept that there is randomness that lies with trends, which in turn rest on predictable patterns.

Accepting randomness, not being fooled by it as we search for sometimes hidden trends, that is where the science goes a bit quiet and the art lies.