As a young reader, I didn't really notice the weather in the stories I read. For me, reading was all about the characters, not the descriptions or the settings.
Then I read Farley Mowat's Never Cry Wolf and A Whale for the Killing - then so many more of his books. That's when I noticed weather can be more than an inanimate background setting. It can be as powerful as the characters themselves. In some cases, the weather becomes a character.
Here in Northern Ontario in January, snow is always on our minds. We know how to shovel it, drive in it, swear at it, play in it, differentiate between the different types, and when it's perfect snowman & snowball making weather. So, right now, the main characters in my current story are travelling through some mountains and encountering various types of snow conditions. Little do they know there's a major snowstorm headed their way and they're going to be trapped.
I can handle that. I know exactly how the snow will fall, what the temperature needs to be, how the wind will swirl, how it feels to breathe in a blizzard, what the effects of so much snow will be on travel, survival tips, what NOT to do, how to handle the loss of power in the cold and the emotional impact of it all. I even think I can do it all without using a single cliche!
But hurricanes? Tornadoes? Tsunamis? Desert heat?
Probably not yet. I can rely on my imagination, research and conversations with people who've experienced these things, but for me, it's not the same. If I was a writer who used more description, maybe then. But right now, I don't feel I have the expertise with that style of writing or with those weather conditions to pull it off. Hopefully with more practice at including description, I'll be able to handle it.
How about you? Are you comfortable writing about the weather you don't know well?