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Gordon Hensman's Weatherview

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: May 18, 2014

  • Could Inuit hunters in kayaks such as these be the foundation for myths of mermaids and human/seal creatures?

  • Ice flows breaking away from the Arctic may have brought Inuit hunters all the way to the Orkneys during the Little Ice Age

  • Catching rabbits, the medieval way

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THE BLACK COUNTRY

Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution

Weather in Dudley for APRIL 2014

SUMMARY

April this year was a warm month, with no air frost and no falling snow. Rainfall was slightly above normal, with a long rainless spell from the 8th to the 22nd. Then, with a depression to the west, heavy periods of rain pushed the total rainfall towards the long term average in the last 10 days.

TEMPERATURE

1. Mean maximum 13.8, 57F

2. Anomaly +2.8

3. Mean minimum 6.0, 43F

4. Anomaly +1.7

5. Average of max. & min. 9.9, 50F

6. Anomaly +1.9

7. Highest/date 18.4, 65F 30th

8. Lowest/date 1.5, 34.5F 19th

9. Number of air frosts 0

10. Number of grass frosts 3

11. Lowest grass -1.0, 30th 19th

12. Mean 30cm soil depth 10.1

EXTREMES

A. Highest mean maximum 17.5, 63.5F 2011

B. Mean maximum 11.7, 53F

C. Lowest mean maximum 8.2, 47F 1986

D. Highest average 12.2, 54F 2011

E. Mean average 8.0, 46.5F

F. Lowest average 4.8, 40.5F 1986

G. Highest mean minimum 7.8, 46F 1992

H. Mean minimum 4.3, 40F

I. Lowest mean minimum 1.4, 34.5F 1986

J. Extreme maximum 25.5, 78F 16th 2003

K. Extreme minimum -4.6, 24F 11th 1978

RAINFALL

13. Days with rain 12

14. Total fall 65mm

15. Wettest day incomplete data

16. Days with snow falling 0

EXTREMES

J. Wettest month 155.1mm 2000

K. Driest month 4mm 1984

L. Wettest day 32mm 29th 1991

M. Most days snow falling 10 1970, 1983, 1994

N. Most days snow lying 9h 4 1998

HUMIDITY

17. Mean relative humidity 9h 76%

AIR PRESSURE

18. Mean pressure 1015mb

19. Highest/day 1030mb 15th

20. Lowest/day 1000mb 23rd

WIND DIRECTIONS

21. N 0, NE 2, E 2, SE 4, S 7, SW 2, W 5, NW 5, CALM 3

AMERICAN NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT

The above report – just issued – explains the effects of climate change on North America. John Holdren, the White House science advisor called it, "... the clearest alarm bell to date, signalling the need to take urgent action to combat the threats to America from climate change."

The main message is that climate change was [already] disrupting the lives of Americans ... and was doing so much more strongly than scientists had expected. This disruption takes the form of such things as extreme weather, sea level rise, the melting of Arctic sea ice and a shift in growing seasons. "Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate change-related changes that are outside of recent experience."

Sea level rise, which could reach 4 feet by the end of the century, is already causing dangerous flooding in Miami, Norfolk, Virginia and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Florida alone could face a $130 billion bill for flooding by 2100.

Drought and high temperatures are already baking California and Arizona and prolonging the fire season in other parts of the south west.

The north-east and mid-west are experiencing sudden torrential downpours leading to flooding. The north east has experienced a 70% increase in heavy rainfall events in the last 60 years.

There is a growing risk to water supplies because of sea level rise and flooding, and poor air quality as hotter temperatures cook the smog and soot from wildfires drifting across the country.

Apparently 89% of Americans rely on local television for their weather forecasts supplied by local weather forecasters, among whom there is a strong percentage who express doubt about climate change.

I wonder who finances these local stations – could they be the fossil fuel companies? The leading coal industry lobby group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, dismissed the report as, "... unsubstantiated scare tactics and hyperbole." Bear in mind that power stations are responsible for 40% of US carbon dioxide emissions. I don't think that 95% of the world's climate scientists can be dismissed so cavalierly by those with vested interests.

THIS MARVELLOUS BLACK COUNTRY

I have always been intrigued by the name "Conegre fields", however, I knew it was something to do with rabbits, which were introduced to this country by the Normans.

Dudley's former Borough Archaeologist, (sadly not replaced after his retirement), John Hemmingway's excellent book, An Illustrated Chronicle of Dudley Town and Manor, explained that during the lean winter months, rabbits were their main source of meat and to ensure a supply they built homes for them called pillow mounds with a Warrener in charge. Of course many escaped to the wild and are now abundant everywhere.

RUN RABBIT, RUN RABBIT, RUN, RUN, RUN ...

The name for an adult animal was Coney, with the word rabbit used to describe their young. Somewhere along the line the name was transferred to the adult, and the young are now called kittens, but furriers still call their pelts coneys.

Conegre in Dudley had always been connected with Dudley Castle in medieval times, and in 1247 "Roger de Somery had a grant of free warren in Sedgley," highly likely to have been the Conegre.

So it can be seen that Conegre Field was the location of rabbit warrens – the "gre" being a shortened version of green.

Its relevance to modern times is that it was almost certainly the site of the erection of Newcomen's steam engine to pump water from the coal mines. It was the first time steam had been used for such a purpose, and if you would like to see what it looked like, go to the Black Country Living Museum where a working replica was erected a few years ago.

MAY WEATHER IN THE PAST

9th 1945 Weather forecasts, just like television programmes, had been suspended on the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. On this date the BBC resumed broadcasting forecasts, supplied by the Met Office, on the Home Service. In those days there were three programmes on the BBC wireless – Home Service, Light programme and, I think, the Third Programme. Television resumed in 1948, after being the first public television service in the world in 1936, which had ceased at the outbreak of the Second World War.

The forecast on the 9th was as follows. "Sporadic rain over the whole country with thunder in places..."

2006 Car owners in eastern England found their vehicles covered in yellow dust. It was pollen blown across the North Sea from the birch trees in Denmark.

10th 1818 The Times reported that an island of ice had been stranded on the island of Foula, the most western of the Shetland Islands. "This island of ice is said to extend full six miles in length, and, of course, is an object of terror to the natives."

Two months later The Times reported the possible origin of the ice: "Four hundred and fifty square miles of ice has recently detached itself from the eastern coast of Greenland and the neighbouring region of the pole."

Unusual though this may seem, it is by no means the only occasion when drifting ice has reached these northern islands.

During the coldest phases of the "Little Ice Age" – particularly between 1690 and 1728 – drift ice even brought Inuit and Sjo-Same hunters in their kayaks, to the Orkneys and Western Isles. The folklore of these islands is that they are half-human and half seal. Accounts of seal people and "mermaids" exist from 1676 to the mid-1800s. Early in the eighteenth century, an Indian man paddled his way in his canoe, up the river Don to Aberdeen. His language was unintelligible to the locals and theirs also to him. He died soon afterwards.

1955 Does any reader remember this record cold snap? Frost and snow used to be regular occurrences in May – in fact so regular that they acquired a name the "Black Thorn Winter", or the "Festival of the Ice Saints". "Cast ne'er a clout 'till May be out", is also a reflection of the regularity of these late cold spells.

1698 had the coldest May on record "...there fell snow which if the ground had been hard as in winter ... it would have been ten to twelve inches deep", according to reports in the church annals in Norfolk.

1935 Snow fell as far south as Cornwall.

1315 "God sent a dearth on earth, and made it full hard." The harvest was a disaster, causing the Great Famine from 1315 to 1318, resulting in the death of about 10-15% of the population.

13th 1857 The sixteen year old Prince of Wales, Albert, rode to the top of Helvellyn in the Lake District, and had luncheon and sherry cobblers made of sherry and frozen snow. They picnicked at 950m, 3,117 ft, altitude in snow.

Picnics had become popular and Mrs Beeton, in her Book of Household Management, recommended the following menu for a picnic:

"A joint of cold roast beef, a joint of cold boiled beef, 2 ribs of lamb, 2 shoulders of lamb, 4 roast fowls, 2 roast ducks, 1 ham, 1 tongue, 2 veal and ham pies, 2 pigeon pies, 6 medium-sized lobsters, 1 piece of collared calf's head, 18 lettuces, 6 baskets of salad, 6 cucumbers. Stewed fruit well-sweetened; 3 or 4 dozen plain pastry biscuits, 2 dozen fruit turnovers, 4 dozen cheesecakes, 2 cold cabinet puddings in moulds, 2 blancmanges in moulds, a few jam puffs, 1 large cold plum pudding..." No I'm not joking!

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