In a city where the weather often seems like it’s out to get us, and the forecast is usually wrong, there is a man who keeps watch. Every morning at 5.30, he heads to his rooftop to test the air, taking readings with the tools in his modest home weather station. When he senses changes ahead, he takes to the online world, and tells the people of Hanoi what to expect. Then he buttons up his shirt and heads into his day job, no one the wiser. He is known on Facebook as Hanoi’s Weatherdude.
“I get lots of messages like, ‘Who are you, who are you’,” the Weatherdude laughs. I wanted to know, too, so we met in Hanoi on a typical grey afternoon. This is the boring time of year, he tells me, when everyone pesters him about the long-lost sun.
“Hanoi gets an average of four or five sunny days a month,” he says. “The sunniest time is coming in May.”
It’s the constant mist that I hate the most, I tell him. “That’s because all the warm air is coming in, and the cold air that’s been here all winter is kind of getting pushed out slowly, [so it creates condensation]. Once it gets hot enough, it sounds simple, but it’s true, it burns it off. The humidity can’t really hang out anymore, and then you have that dun-daaa, opening to the sky.”
In truth, Hanoi is not an easy city to live in when it comes to the weather. But the Weatherdude seeks to ease some of our atmospheric pains. “People trust me because I’m real, instead of a computer that tells them approximate numbers,” he says. After 16 years in Hanoi, he knows what to expect from the city’s weather patterns, but “there’s a little bit of luck in it,” he admits.
So who is this dude? A lover of nature; he studied environmental science in university, and worked as a park ranger in Canada. “I lived on the beach as a squatter for a while,” he adds. He came to Vietnam as a volunteer with VSO, working in a national park in Nghe An province.
Then he moved to Hanoi and did what most of us do, at some point or another; teach English. Since then, he’s broadened his educational scope, teaching high-school classes like Global Perspectives and Environmental Systems and Societies. Weather has always been a hobby for him, but he started posting his informal forecasts to Facebook about three years ago.
Though his students don’t know it’s him, they’ve liked his page, and they follow his updates. “It’s a good way to get my humanities students more involved in being outside,” he says. “Most of my students live in apartment buildings, and when the sun shines, they close all the blinds. It’s like there’s a new generation of people who are afraid of the sun.”
“The pollution is really bad [in Hanoi], but it’s also the geography. It just sticks between the mountains,” he explains. “There’s a few more particles in the air, and it’s definitely something to worry about, but you sometimes get expats that just complain all the time, and I don’t want to be that person who’s like, ‘Look, its more polluted than Beijing!’ It’s not… but it's getting there.”
Though the Weatherdude loves a good cumulonimbus, he doesn’t want to be doom and gloom about Hanoi all the time.
“If you can survive the weather and the heat, and the grey winters and the smog, and you can survive the traffic, then you can live here. Because everything else is awesome.”
To keep up to date with the weather, click on facebook.com/theweatherdudeinhanoi