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Gordon Hensman's Weatherview

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: March 29, 2014

  • The ill-fated cargo ship Napoli, as seen from the cliffs above Beer in Devon

  • The northern lights in all their glory

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THE BLACK COUNTRY –

Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution

Weather in Dudley

11th – 20th March 2014

SUMMARY

A very mild period, especially by day. Sunshine now reveals real warmth, so temperatures climb rapidly in bright sunshine. It was also mild by night with no air frosts.

For the first time for the last three months there was a wide range of wind directions, with even easterly winds. This was due to high air pressure displacing the dominating westerly winds, and as the centre moved relative to the Black Country, winds changed their directions.

Very little rain fell as the high pressure fended off Atlantic fronts.

TEMPERATURE

1. Mean maximum 14.3, 57.5F

2. Anomaly +4.7

3. Mean minimum 4.4, 40F

4. Anomaly +0.6

5. Average of max. & min. 9.3, 49F

6. Anomaly +2.6

7. Highest/date 17.9, 64.3F 16th

8. Lowest/date 1.6, 34.8F 13th

9. Number air frosts 0

10. Number grass frosts 2

11. Mean 30cm soil depth 8.2, 47F

PRECIPITATION

12. Days with rain/snow 2

13. Total fall 3.3mm

14. Wettest day 2.6mm 20th

15. Days with snow/sleet 0

HUMIDITY

16. Mean relative humidity 9h 74%

AIR PRESSURE

17. Average at 9h 1024mb

18. Highest/date 1036mb 11th

19. Lowest/date 1005mb 20th

WIND DIRECTIONS

N 2, NE 3, E 0, SE 0, S 0, SW 2, W 2, NW 1, CALM 0

BIG BANG

So we are one step nearer to understanding the origin of the universe – or so we are told. I rather think that many readers will share my bewilderment at the details of this claim. After all, it seems to me that it is just another piece in the jigsaw shoring up a theory. Theories have a habit of being replaced by another eventually.

However, it will give some readers confirmation of their own religious beliefs, or at least give them confidence that their beliefs are no stranger than modern cosmological ideas.

THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN!

Just as the "big bang" news arrives, it is discovered that a medieval Latin text, La Luce, written by Robert Grosseteste, an English theologian, of the 13th century, built on an Aristotelian idea that the movements of the stars can be explained by embedding earth in a series of nine concentric spheres that make up the universe. All this was revealed when a team at Durham University used modern mathematics to analyse his treatise on light.

Grosseteste suggested that the universe began with a flash of light which pushed everything outwards from a tiny point into a big sphere. He made the assumption that light and matter are coupled together and that the way they behave as the density of matter decreases produces waves of inwardly propagating matter, which finally form nine spheres. His ideas also pointed to the possibility of the multiverse. This is the idea that there is an infinite number of universes in which all physical outcomes are possible, and that we live in this one because it is well suited for life.

It is unlikely that Grosseteste though that there was a multiverse – this is a modern idea in cosmology.We are destined to hear a lot more about this!

SMOG, SMOG, GLORIOUS SMOG, it certainly won't clear the blood! (Apologies to Flanders and Swan).

I regularly refer to the dreadful smog which used to envelop the Black Country every still day in winter only forty years ago. I thank goodness (whatever that is), that the younger readers will never have to endure this gross pollution of their lungs – but it is still here! Not the UK, but in many developing countries, and has reached serious levels in China.

The Chinese have suffered severely from air pollution this last winter, but the Chinese Government have vowed that 60% of their cities will meet its pollution standard by 2020. They have promised to cut pollution released by industry by almost a third by 2017, and to spend $283 billion cleaning up Beijing and the surrounding area. The persistent pollution has led to the Japanese firm Panasonic paying its non-Chinese employees extra money by way of compensation.

It's reckoned that, worldwide, smog kills about 2.1 million people a year.

The WHO (World Health Organisation), reckons that pollution level should not exceed 20 mg per cubic metre. But it has exceeded 100 in Beijing this winter. I wonder what the pollution levels were in the Black Country more than forty years ago?

SYNOPTIC CONDITIONS

Eastern Asia is often covered by large areas of high air pressure in winter. These conditions lead to temperature inversions when the coldest air is resting on the ground, trapping pollution. Levels rise as more pollution from domestic and industrial sources pour their filth into the air.

London used to be particularly prone to this sort of situation as it lies in a shallow basin with the Chilterns to the north, and North Downs to the south. It was the turn of Paris this winter when levels reached 147 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic metre, resulting in the banning of motor vehicles every other day. In Great Britain these vehicles are the main source of air pollution now.

DOOMED CIVILISATIONS.

One of the most significant civilisations in the past was on the Indus River, in what is now Pakistan. It flourished from 2600BC to 1900 BC. The British excavated Mohenjo Dara and other cities in the 19th century, and found a high level of civilisation with planned cities, mains drainage, water supply and latrines.

New evidence has found that the civilisation was destroyed by climate change when there was a shift in the monsoon rains. The monsoon weakened abruptly 4,200 years ago.

The evidence came from deposits on the bottom of Kotlar Dahar, a lake nearby. These showed that it was deeper from 4,500 years to 3,800 BC. The deposits also show that there was a severe weakening in the monsoon after 2200 BC. It appears that a similar shift in the monsoon destroyed the Tang Dynasty in China around 900 AD.

MARCH IN THE PAST

21st This is the date of the spring or vernal equinox when the sun is vertically overhead at the equator, at noon, and the length of day and night are equal all over the planet. Apparently, this is the average date of the first mowing of the lawn. It is a date that has moved steadily back from when it occurred at the end of March, a couple of generations ago – not because we are keener on getting that glorious lawn look, but because temperatures are a little higher now. I mowed my lawn for the first time a couple of weeks ago – testimony to the very mild winter and ten days of dry weather. Grass usually starts to grow when the temperatures rise higher than about 5, 41F.

22nd 2013, Last year, 10cm of snow fell on Dudley. Next day on the 23rd, saw the depth increasing to 21cm, and this lasted until the end of the month and the first two days of April.

23rd 1946 A fantastic display of the Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis – was seen from Scotland. The northern part of Scotland gets several days a month when they can be seen at night. In 1938 they were seen as far south as Southern Europe.

24th One of the most tragic peacetime naval accidents occurred when HMS Eurydice sank off the Isle of Wight. Her loss put an end to the long naval tradition of the days of sail, as all subsequent vessels were made of iron.

Eurydice was a Royal Navy training vessel bound for Portsmouth. A sudden squall and blinding snow caught the boat and blew it over to starboard. All but two of the 370 crew, trainee sailors and passengers were drowned.

1978 The Amoco Cadiz supertanker split in two, after running aground off Cape Finisterre, Brittany. High winds prevented the salvage operation, so that 223,000 tons of oil spilled into the English Channel. The gooey oil formed an oil slick 800 square miles, 1,287 sq.km, in extent. This was at that time the world's worst oil spill. It caused incalculable damage to marine life along the coast on both sides of the Channel.

25th 1564 A storm uprooted several trees on Seathwaite Fell near Borrowdale in the Lake District. Entangled with the roots of one tree were unusual grey-black stones. Shepherds in the area started to use them to mark their flocks, but because they were a bit messy to handle they encased them in wood. The pencil had been invented, and the rocks were made of graphite.

26th 1997 As warm tropical maritime air approaches our shores from the south west, it is cooled as it passes over the chilly water around our coasts. The conditions are then ideal for sea fog to form.

On this date the container vessel MV Cita (Italian for city), on her way from Southampton to Belfast, went aground off Newfoundland point in the early hours. She was running on automatic pilot, so undoubtedly the officer on watch would not have been over conscientious in his duty.

Two hundred 40 foot steel containers were washed up on the nearby shore. There was an amazing variety of goods – computer mice, house doors, golf bags, granite headstones (how did they float ashore?) fridge magnets, fork lift trucks, Ben Sherman shirts, bales of raw tobacco and trainers (left and right feet packed in separate containers – how frustrating!)

The law on salvage states that salvors (yes, there is such a word), have to report salvaged goods from a wreck to an appointed official who is designated Receiver of Wreck. Salvors have salvage rights but if the Receiver wants to repossess them, he compensates the salvors.

In 2007 the MS Napoli also spilled her cargo on the coast of Devon after she was abandoned in severe gale force winds and the crew rescued by RAF helicopters. A bonanza for those who sought the role of salvor – and there were many!

27th 1980 The North Sea accommodation platform, the Alexander Kielland – the size of a football pitch – collapsed in a storm. It drowned 123 personnel, 180 miles off the Scottish coast. An international rescue effort involved 47 ships, two planes, three diving vessels and 23 helicopters. RAF crews in British Westland Sea Kings had every avionic feature possible – including automatic hovering capability. Unfortunately, the weather was appalling, but nevertheless, they were able to save 89 men.

BRITISH SUMMER TIME

You will be putting the clocks back shortly, thus gaining an extra hour of light during the evening – losing it early in the morning. It started in May 1916 as a wartime measure to allow maximum exploitation of daylight – thereby saving hundreds of thousands of tons of coal. It remained all the year round during the Second World War until October 1945 and again, experimentally, from February 1968 until 1971.

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