I don't know what Californians do for small talk. The weather, really? "Um, it's sunny again."
At least Ohioians have constant entrees into conversations. Become aggravated as we will with Ohio weather's bipolar tendencies, it is our perpetual muse for superficiality.
But I'm going to venerate superficiality for once and come out in favor of talking about the weather. How we love to hate such small talk—in theory, but, oh, how often we participate in such bland dialogue.
Yes, talking about the weather is trite, superficial and mundane, but it reaches out. It tries—in the most innocuous way. It offers more than "how are you?"..."fine." Because, of course, answering that question truthfully to someone you barely know is uncomfortable. It's too much.
Weather is universal; it's a shared experience. Talking about it signals a desire for a connection, however small and/or trivial. If just 'I want to acknowledge and not be rude to you.'
You can rely on the weather to provide a common ground with which to share with someone you obviously have no common ground. For instance, I imagine I could talk to Ann Coulter without verbally slaying her if we restricted the conversation to weather. Sometimes, I imagine, people have to talk with Ann Coulter in a non- O'Reilly Factor setting, so the weather is where it's at.
Superficiality has its place and function. Let's not deny anymore our dependence on barometric pressure and stratonimbus clouds for our social survival.