Not long ago (right now, in many parts of the world, for many people), time is much more than an elevator conversation. Whether it rains or not, whether it freezes or not, whether the temperature rises or stays cool, is a matter of life or death. And that’s scary. Very afraid. A fear that eats at you and doesn’t let you sleep. A fear, a very human need to know what gave birth to horoscopes, card spreaders and, yes, cabañuelas.
There’s always a time to say enough. That can be understood, as can be understood so many other pseudosciences that accompany us today. However, as Juan Jesús González Alemán recalled, “today we can issue a prediction for the weather that will be in the next 5 days with the same probability of success as the 24-hour forecasts had in the 1980s.” I mean, it’s time to say enough is enough.
But what are cabañuelas? The cabañuelas are the Hispanic avatar of the rudimentary traditional systems that tried to predict the weather. These types of systems have accompanied us throughout history (in fact, we have a record of their use in ancient Babylon thousands of years ago) and have emerged in all civilizations. In fact, the cabañuelas pretend to be a systematization of that popular knowledge in order to predict the weather of the following year.
In essence, it is a “popular calculation based on the observation of atmospheric changes in the first 12, 18 or 24 days of January or August”. To the information that they “extract” from the first two dozen days of the chosen month, the little fish add an enormous amount of observations that go from the particularities of the wind or the clouds to the behavior of the animals or even the humidity that accumulates in the stones in the area.
Beyond all that, cabañuelas, like traditional almanacs, are based on a broad historical data base on time and on different strategies to “specify” annual variations. The problem is that, with very few exceptions, the procedures used by pigeons and astrologers have no predictive value. None.
None?. It may seem excessive. Above all, if we take into account that just a few weeks ago the current predictive models showed all the problems they had in projecting scenarios as enormous as those of a hurricane in the middle of the North Atlantic. But the truth is that it is just the other way around: all current technology (and, believe me, there is a lot of it) is not capable of seeing accurately beyond 14 days. What can traditional methods do in a context, in addition, of climate change?
The golden age of media cabañuelas. And yet, boosted by media virality, this type of pseudoscientific practice has been in the limelight for many months. The problem is that this has implications: not only do they contribute to the discredit of meteorological information, but they also cause many people to make vital calculations based on generic, vague or directly false information.