Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet!

by Jonas Olsson (SMHI)

At the (very good) HEPEX 2023 workshop at SMHI (Sweden) recently, we were asked to select a song that reflected our career. Interesting exercise, but quite difficult to come up with a clever answer on the spot.

But, I continued thinking about it, and after a while I came to think of Jackson Browne, one of my favourites. On the album “Late for the Sky” from 1974, by some (including me) considered a masterpiece, side B starts with the song “The Road and the Sky“.

Already the first line of this song is pure poetry: “When we come to the place where the road and the sky collide“.

Then the third verse goes:

“Now, can you see those dark clouds gathering up ahead?

They’re gonna wash this planet clean like the Bible said

Now you can hold on steady, try to be ready

But everybody’s gonna get wet

Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet

Thus, here we have elements of extreme rainfall, severe flooding and a hint of climate change by the reference to this planet. It seems quite unlikely that Jackson Browne was aware of climate change in the early 1970s, but he does have a deep interest in environmental issues.

[Oh, of course, let’s also try getting a more “intelligent” response…

Jonas Olsson: “Was Jackson Browne aware of climate change in the early 1970s?

ChatGPT: “While Jackson Browne may not have been a prominent environmental activist in the early 1970s, he did demonstrate an early awareness of environmental and social issues in some of his songs from that era. One of his most famous songs, “Before the Deluge“, released in 1974 on the album “Late for the Sky”, contains lyrics that reflect concerns about the state of the world, including references to pollution and environmental degradation.“]

Anyway, in a forecasting context, I find the last line in the third verse of the song “The Road and the Sky” particularly insightful and timely. Things that never has happened before may happen; black swans do exist. From what I heard, this was one aspect during the flooding in Germany (and elsewhere) in summer 2021; the forecasters (understandably) hesitated to issue a red alert, as the forecasts indicated something they had never seen before.

[source: here]

With unprecedented extremes waiting to happen as climate changes we must, as Jackson Browne sings, try to be ready. Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet.


  1. Thank you for this post! We are slowly creating a “hydrological music” playlist. The road and the sky will be surely included.
    By the way, we just had floods in parts of Southern Brazil that were more extreme than anything that was observed before (
    At the same time, drought in the Amazon, that may be not the more extreme on record, are having extreme impacts on aquatic wildlife. (
    Thank you!
    Walter Collischonn
    Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul – Porto Alegre – Brazil

    1. Glad that you liked the post, Walter! Looking very forward to the playlist.
      And thanks for sharing the news about the Brazilian wet/dry extremes. these are strange and worryig times…
      All the best,

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