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Gordon Hensman's Weatherview

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: May 23, 2014

  • Antarctic ice is melting, but the great catastrophe could be two hundred years away ...

  • The Icelandic volcano erupted in spectacular fashion and grounded planes for weeks

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The Black Country

Birthplace of Industrial Revolution

Weather in Dudley for 1st – 10th May 2014

SUMMARY

This was a warm ten days, in keeping with the preceding four months. Rain fall was above average.

TEMPERATURE

1. Mean maximum 15, 59F

2. Anomaly +0.4

3. Mean minimum 7.0, 44.5F

4. Anomaly +0.8

5. Average of max. & min. 11. 52F

6. Anomaly +0.8

7. Highest/date 17, 62.5F 4th

8. Lowest/date 1.6, 35F 3rd

9. Lowest grass/date -0.8, 30.5F 3rd

10.Mean 30cm soil depth

RAINFALL

11. Days rain falling 9

12. Total fall 29.6mm

13. Wettest day 10th

HUMIDITY

14. Mean relative humidity 9h 75%

AIR PRESSURE

15. Mean pressure at 9h 1014mb

16. Highest/date 1029mb 3rd

17. Lowest/date 1006mb 10th

WIND DIRECTIONS

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

MAY IN THE PAST

15th 1697 According to TORRO –Tornado and Storm Research Organisation – the severest hail storm to strike the country occurred on this day. The storm was graded H8 out of a possible 10. Apparently, the grading was made possible by assessing the reports of damage. The hailstones were up to 4ins, 110mm, in diameter – about the size of tennis balls – enough to kill!

17th 1935 King George V's Silver Jubilee was spoiled by late snow and frost. Heavy snow fell in Cornwall and Devon and the Yorkshire Dales were buried in a couple of feet of snow with villagers having to dig themselves out of their homes.

The Rickmansworth frost hollow (no longer existing), recorded England's lowest ever temperature for May: -8.6, 16.5F.

In South Wales and Kent the fruit harvest was ruined as frost destroyed the buds and flowers.

Late snow is not all that uncommon in these blessed isles. In 1955 the Black Country, Birmingham, the Cotswolds and Chilterns had their worst snow for sixty years, but the last time the London area had substantial snow was in 1923.

18th 1891 There was a huge fall of snow to mark the Whitsuntide holiday. The spring that year had been very cold to the extent that it was called "the year with no spring". East Anglia had 15cm, 6inches, of snow.

Whitsun is a Christian festival occurring seven weeks after Easter.

19th 1989 The annual Ten Tors adventure training weekend on Dartmoor had to be abandoned because of heavy snow. In 2007 the event was abandoned when a fourteen year old girl was swept away by a swollen brook and drowned.

20th 1989 The FACup Final at Wembley saw 250 spectators treated for heat exhaustion as the temperature soared to 30,86F, as Liverpool and Everton battled it out. Did you know that the FA cup Final has never been abandoned and there is an 80% chance of the day being dry?

21st 1950 The longest recorded tornado to occur in Great Britain cut a swathe from Berkshire to the north Norfolk coast. Eyewitness accounts speak of a cat raised high up, and poultry plucked of their feathers. A trail of de-roofed sheds, slates removed from roofs, corrugated iron roofs destroyed, overturned hen coops and countless branches were left as the tornado leap-frogged from one place to another as it travelled over 100 miles in four hours.

22nd 1867 The weather was unseasonably cold and very windy on Epsom Downs as the Derby was run. There were ten false starts. Hermit was an unfancied horse, but for some unaccountable reason charged from the back and won the race at 66-1. As a result, the date was moved to the 31st in the vain hope of getting better weather – the weather on this date proved to be equally bad!

EL NINO

We are going to hear a lot about this ocean current phenomenon this year as there is a great deal of evidence that a strong El Nino is developing and could last several years. So what is it? The easiest way to understand this phenomenon is firstly to be familiar with the ocean currents in the Pacific Ocean.

PACIFIC GYRES

An ocean-wide swirl of water in a clockwise direction is a permanent feature of the North Pacific centred around 30 degrees north.

There is a similar pattern of circulation in the South Pacific, only in an anticlockwise direction, centred around 30 degrees south. A very cold current of water, originating in the vicinity of Antarctica, flows northwards along the coast of South America. It is called the Humboldt or Peruvian Current, and when it reaches the equator, 0 degrees, or just a little southwards, it turns westwards.

It not only brings cold weather from the vicinity of the Antarctic, far north into tropical latitudes, but also mineral rich water which supports an abundance of plankton and vast shoals of fish which feed on the plankton. It is one of the most prolific fisheries in the world, and used to support a fertiliser industry as guano – bird droppings – was dug from the rocks. The guano accumulated to some depth as the climate is arid with only rare rainfall to wash it away.

REVERSE FLOW – EL NINO

From time to time this pattern is disrupted – the cold water fails to push westwards, and very warm water from the equatorial counter current – which is normally a bit further northwards – surges eastwards bathing the normally arid and chilly coastlands with warm moisture laden air. The resulting heavy rains cause tremendous amounts of erosion on land and completely disrupt the fishery. Warm water from the west deprives the other side of the Pacific of rainfall with consequent crop losses and in Australia an increase of forest and bush fires.

So large is the Pacific – nearly half the earth's surface - that this reversal of normal weather patterns has an effect worldwide, from altering the Indian Monsoon to causing abnormal weather in Europe and North America. In Western Europe, greater extremes of weather can be expected, to judge by past performances – 1997 being the last.

LA NINA – SOUTHERN OSCILLATION This is the name give to the normal pattern at its strongest, causing the aridity of South America's west coast to be even more intense and the rainy weather in the west of the Pacific in South East Asia and North Eastern Australia to be even rainier.

ANTARCTICA – SHOULD WE WORRY?

For the last 10 or 15 million years at least, the Antarctic Continent has been sited over the South Pole. It became rapidly glaciated with streams of ice debauching into the surrounding Antarctic, or Southern, Ocean. It is convenient to divide it into the Eastern and Western Antarctic Ice Sheets. The latter is about one quarter the size of the former. The major difference between the two is that the Western sheet is resting on sea water in places and also on a series of islands.

The latest information is that it is certainly collapsing as increasing melting saps at its base. The forecast is for a sudden surge as most of the ice pours into the sea, raising world sea levels. The only consolation is that it will take place any time between 200 and 900 years time.

Apparently, there are one or two enormous glaciers which are holding up the rest of the ice sheet, chief of which is the Thwaites Glacier. When they give way the rest of the ice will rapidly flow into the sea raising sea level by about 10 cm per century. Between 1992 and 2011, Thwaites has retreated 14 km, Pine Island glacier 31 km and Smith-Kohler glacier by 35 km.

One hope is that the icebergs calved from the glaciers may block the flow of warm water under the ice, stopping the retreat at least temporarily.

IT'S ONLY TEMPORARY

The statistics show that the rate of global warming slowed down over the last decade, and this has been the straw that warming deniers have grasped at with avidity. Well, folks, we witnessed the eruption of 17 volcanoes (remember Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland), between 2000 and 2012, and each of them ejected dust, gases and even acids into the atmosphere – some of it into the next layer 28km up – the stratosphere. Small but significant amounts of sulphur dioxide in the form of tiny droplets, reflect incoming solar radiation back into space. This helped to slow global warming.

In addition the sun was unusually quiet, air pollution from China's coal-fired electricity plants and the deep sea currents in the oceans, helped to keep the temperature up – for the present!

The fact is that the emission of carbon dioxide by human activity has increased steadily and shows no indication of slowing down, so unless a practical and realistic method of carbon dioxide extraction from the atmosphere is devised, continued global warming is inevitable.

More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means more long wave absorption of heat radiated from the earth's surface – it's just the laws of physics which dictates this – not obsessed climatologists. Any slowing of the rate of warming is temporary.

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