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Gordon Hensman's Weatherview

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: May 29, 2014

  • A bit of the Midlands on tour: the Stoke-on-Trent garden at the Chelsea Flower show in London, 2014

  • A crofter's cottage, relic of an age sadly passed

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The Black Country

Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution

Weather in Dudley for 11th – 20th May 2014

SUMMARY

This was a pleasant, warm spell with some hot, sunny days. Temperatures were markedly higher than average for mid-May. Rainfall was below average with one occasion with thunder.

TEMPERATURE

1. Mean maximum 18.8, 66F

2. Anomaly +3.1

3. Mean minimum 9.0, 48.5F

4. Anomaly +2.4

5. Average of max. & min. 13.9, 57F

6. Anomaly +2.8

7. Highest/date 25.1, 77F 19th

8. Lowest/date 5.6, 42F, 37F 14th

9. Lowest grass/date 2.9, 37F 14th

10. Mean 30cm soil depth 13.2, 56F

RAINFALL

11. Days with rain falling 5

12. Total fall 15.1mm

13. Wettest day 9.3mm 12th

14. Days with thunder 1 19th

HUMIDITY

15. Mean relative humidity 9h 82%

AIR PRESSURE

16. Average at 9h 1018mb

17. Highest/date 1035mb 15th

18. Lowest/date 1001mb 11th

WIND DIRECTIONS

19. N 1, NE 0, E 0, SE 2, S 1, SW 1, W 4, NW 1, CALM 0

MAY IN THE PAST

23rd The Chelsea Flower Show has taken place for, I think, about 100 years. As you might imagine, just about every type of weather imaginable has been experienced.

In 1935, exhibitors frantically tried to save their prize exhibits with heaters as snow blanketed the country. There was severe flooding in 1971 with the roof of the commercial stand collapsing under the weight of rain water.

In 2007, you may remember that we had the warmest April on record which made many plants bloom prematurely, resulting in some exhibitors using giant refrigerators to keep the plants cool. The previous year had been so dry that they had to sink a 100m borehole to get water for wilting plants.

25th 1846 A hot dry spell started, and it was especially dry in North West Scotland. This is the time of the year when the North West of the British Isles tends to be dominated by high pressure.

In this year, the winter had been mild but with spring quite cold. The crofting community was worried because their staple food was the potato, and this sort of weather did not suit the potato plant. They had avoided the worst of the potato blight which had devastated the potato crop in Ireland the previous year, but in 1846 conditions favoured the blight – the crop failed.

On and off, the crop failed most years until 1857, by which time the Highland clearances had begun, in favour of sheep. Go anywhere in the Western Isles of Scotland today, and you are bound to see the remnants of the crofters' homes.

27th 1821 This is the latest day that snow has been recorded as falling in the London area.

1860 Roads over the Northern Pennines were blocked by snow drifts 4 feet deep.

1940 As a result of a storm rendering the magnetic compass useless, the Fighter Command base at Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire had its runway severely damaged when a Royal Air Force Whitley bomber, leaving Dishforth, Yorkshire, dropped its full load of bombs across it. It turned out that they had mistaken the Thames estuary for the Rhine estuary, and followed it upstream. I wonder how many other incidents of "friendly fire" occurred during the last war. These were early days, and it took a while for Bomber Command to become a formidable force.

29th 1920 Around 2pm on a Sunday afternoon, the sky darkened and then the heavens opened with torrential rains. A small stream ran through Louth called the River Ludd, and in no time at all it rose 6 feet, nearly 2m. Suddenly, there was a deafening roar and apparently from nowhere, a vast torrent of water over 650 feet, 200m, wide swept through the town. Houses were engulfed and people drowned as neighbours watched. In one case a mother scrambled onto the dresser with her three children. One by one they drowned and she was also engulfed and lost her life.

Twenty-two people drowned and all six bridges were destroyed. Fifty houses were destroyed and a further seven hundred damaged.

To this day, no one has been certain of its precise cause, as the river should have been capable of carrying the water. It seems most likely that a bridge upstream became dammed with debris until the water pressure became too great causing the bridge to collapse suddenly, releasing the water.

RECENT WORLD WEATHER EVENTS

APRIL 2014th

For many years Cherrapunji, a small town in Assam, India was regarded as the wettest place on earth. It lies in the foothills of the Kasai Hills at the head of the Bay of Bengal. Saturated winds from this warm sea are forced to rise over the highland, releasing heavy rain – especially during the Indian Monsoon. However, rainfall was measured at Kauai, Mount Wailealeale, in the Hawaiian Islands and it was found to be more than that at Cherrapunji. Rainfall in La Reunion in the Indian Ocean is another place vying for the title of wettest place.

The World Meteorological Organisation panel has concluded that Cherrapunji now holds the world record for two day rainfall, with 2493 mm, 100 inches, recorded on 15th-16th June 1995. This exceeds the previous 48 hour rainfall record of 2467 mm on La Reunion in April 1958. La Reunion holds the record for the most rainfall over periods of 12 hours, and 24 hours – in 1996 – as well as 72 hours and 96 hours in 2007.

If you want to know about climate extremes, then Google WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes, which is the official listing of weather and climate extremes.

2nd-4th Severe thunderstorms and a few tornadoes affected parts of Kansas and Missouri. Storms also tracked across Arkansas causing a great deal of damage, but fortunately no casualties.

4th The Solomon Islands were hit by flash flooding which killed at least a dozen people, and left thousands homeless. This flooding is regarded as the worst in the country's history.

7th-9th A very severe storm system affected parts of central and northern Argentina. At least three people were killed. Over 50 mm of rain fell in Buenos Aires in less than 6 hours causing flash flooding which also affected Rosario, to the north west.

11th Queensland, Australia was affected by Tropical Cyclone Ita, which made landfall near Cape Flattery. Gusts of wind reached over 100mph, with a central pressure of 995mb. Cooktown had 165mm, 6.6 inches, and Cairns 132mm.

15th Detroit has officially broken its record of the snowiest winter ever, with 94.8 inches, 8 feet. The previous record was 93.6 inches in 1889-81. I just wonder whether a difference of 1.2 inches is within the boundaries of observational error. If you have ever tried to measure snowfall you will know what I mean!

23rd Sandstorms and gales accompanied by snow, swept many parts of north-west China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. It damaged farms and disrupted traffic. The local power supply was paralysed and bus services suspended.

27th At least 17 people were killed by tornadoes as a huge storm system swept across the central and southern United States, sixteen of the victims were in suburbs of Little Rock Arkansas. Tornadoes also struck Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said 10 people had died in Faulkner Country, 5 in Pulaski County and 1 in White County.

28th The tornado season was well under way in North America in April. Six deaths were reported from Alabama and seven in Mississippi after tornadoes struck. Several tornadoes flattened buildings, overturned vehicles and brought down power lines.

30th The Florida Panhandle and the Alabama Gulf Coast were hit with widespread flooding with people stranded in cars and homes. One woman died when she drove her car into flood water. As much as 15 to 20 inches of rain fell in Pensacola in 24 hours.

SAHARAN DUSTFALL

As many readers will remember, the Black Country and other parts of the British Isles had falls of dust which covered the roofs of cars at the end of March and the first three weeks of April.

This dust was traced back to its origin in Libya, southern Tunisia and Algeria. Passing high over the Atlas Mountains, the air continued over the Mediterranean Sea near the Balearic Islands (Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza), the eastern Pyrenees and the English Channel. Some more dust falls were traced to Western Sahara and Morocco and Algeria, and passed westwards over the Canary Islands. Further dust falls continued to the end of the month.

NEW ZEALAND WEATHER IN CHRISTCHUCH

April started with a prolonged spell of anticyclonic gloom, with only 30 hours of sunshine in the first 20 days. An unusual feature was the rainfall of 67mm when air pressure was so high, during the first two weeks.

Tropical cyclone Ita gave 66mm on the 16th-18th with destructive winds felling local forest stands – although it was the West Coast of the South Island that suffered the most. This same location was affected by 99mm of rain causing extensive flooding and landslides.

Rain also affected Christchurch. Total rainfall reached 236.5mm –the average is 51.8mm. The cloudy skies kept up night temperatures well above average with 10.1 [average 7.4]. Maximum temperatures were well below average at 15.8, [average 17,63F].

The mean temperature for the month was above average at 12.9, 55F [average 12.2], due to the high night temperatures. There were no air frosts.

Just for comparison, April in New Zealand and Australia, is equivalent to October in the UK.

For the curious, there were 4.2 earthquake aftershocks on the 12th and 15th.

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