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Gordon Hensman's Weatherview

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 20, 2014

  • Wren's spire (since repaired) atop St Bride's Church, which was struck by lightning

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The Black Country –

Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution

Weather in Dudley for 1st – 10th June 2014


This was another warm period, especially by day. It was also wet with almost the entire month's average rainfall – although not quite as wet as the end of May. The 9th also brought us our first thunderstorm of the summer.


1. Mean maximum 19.0, 66F

2. Anomaly +1.6

3. Mean minimum 10.3, 50.5F

4. Anomaly +1.2

5. Average of max. & min. 14.6, 58.5F

6. Anomaly +1.4

7. Highest/date 22.1, 72F 6th

8. Lowest/date 7.4, 45.5F 5th

9. Lowest grass/date 6.3, 43.5F 1st

10. Mean 30cm soil depth 14.7, 58.5F


11. Days with rain 8

12. Total fall 52.1 mm

13. Wettest day 14.9 mm 4th

14. Days with thunder 1 9th


15. Relative Humidity 9h 73%


16. Average at 9h 1015 mb

17. Highest/date 1025 mb 1st

18. Lowest/date 1006 mb 4th


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


1903 In 1902, the volcano on Martinique – Mont Pelee – threw out millions of tons of ash into the atmosphere. The dust and a cocktail of chemicals travelled around the globe high up at the top of the troposphere, and into the next layer of the atmosphere, the stratosphere. As so often in the past, this cooled the lower atmosphere, reducing temperatures by a few degrees – enough to make very noticeable changes to the climate all over the earth. The summer of 1903 was undoubtedly a stinker! The weather was cold, cloudy and rainy.


13th 1967 A cricket pavilion in Melksham was lifted up by a tornado. So what, you think – well, it had fifty people inside it!

Well, every cloud has a silver lining! It led to the formation of TORRO – British Tornado and Storm Research Organisation. They made the singular discovery that the British Isles has more reported tornadoes for its land area than anywhere else in the world.


14th 1914 Walpole was our first Prime Minister. His namesake Horace Walpole, wrote, "It froze hard last night; I went out for a moment to look at my haymakers, and was starved [cold]. The contents of an English June are hay and ice, orange flowers and rheumatism. I am now cowering near the fire."


15th 1919 Who flew the first aeroplane across the North Atlantic? Please don't say Charles Lindbergh – that would mean that you have been indoctrinated by American "soft power!" The correct answer is Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant (pronounced leftenant), Arthur Brown, of the Royal Air Force. At 8.40 a.m. they crash-landed their Vickers Vimy biplane into a peat bog in the west of Ireland in Connemara. They had mistaken a flat green bog for a flat, firm field, having just completed the first non-stop crossing of the North Atlantic. They had taken 16 hours, which was four days faster than the fastest sea-crossing by the Mauretania. Their average speed was 118 mph for 1,900 miles. The flight was quite hazardous with Brown having to climb onto the wings to clear away snow.

Sixteen years later Lindbergh completed the first solo flight.


17th The battle of Waterloo was very much affected by the weather. Napoleon waited for the ground to dry out after a torrential rainstorm. This enabled Marshal Blucher's Prussians to join Wellington's forces, thus tipping the balance away from the French.


18th 1764 What do you think the poet W.E.Henley was writing about when he wrote the following? " ... flight on flight of soaring, soaring stone ... One stone forced out of its place ... broke through the roof of the building, another fell on top of an adjoining house; and many pieces of broken stone and shivers were scattered."

With great respect, I don't suppose many readers will be able to give the correct answer. He was writing about lightning striking the Wren-designed church of St Bride, in Fleet Street, showering the surrounding area with stones.

St Bride had a spire soaring to 234 feet, 71 m. It was only the top 8 feet which was destroyed by the lightning strike, but the consequence was the adoption of the lightning conductor on many tall public buildings – even though they didn't know exactly how it worked.

Benjamin Franklin, descended from English colonists in the 13 English colonies along the east coast of North America, is credited with this innovation. He had reached the conclusion that, "lightening" was the same as "electrical matter." By attaching rods of iron – gilded to prevent rusting – to the highest point of a building ... they would "probably draw the Electrical fire silently out of a cloud before it came nigh enough to strike and thereby secure us from that most sudden and terrible Mischief."

As far as I am aware, it is still the subject of debate as to whether the lightning conductor lessens the chance of a strike, or just conducts the charge harmlessly to the ground when a strike occurs. Benjamin Franklin was not the first to become aware of the possibilities of the lightning conductor, it had been used in the Islamic world for centuries.

An illustration of the power of the Christian Church in those days, were the predictably hostile responses from the "worthy" clerics. It challenged a fundamental aspect of Protestant and Catholic theological meteorology – that storms are delivered by the "Prince of the Power of the Air", Satan himself, and the only means to resist them is through prayer.

Franklin was labelled an arch-infidel, according to John Wesley. However, be that as it may, it worked, leaving just the inanely petty-fogging argument about whether the conductors should be pointed (supported by Franklin and the Royal Society), or blunt (supported by the King).


19th 1692 A severe storm lasting three days (likely to have been a vigorous depression moving along the English Channel) brought heavy rain and gale force winds which stripped the trees of their leaves in South East England.


19th 1822 William Cobbet, radical, MP, and champion of rural society, called cities "great wens". A wen was an old name for a boil! He wrote, "The weather is warm; so that the public houses on the road are pouring out their beer pretty fast, and are getting a good share of the wages of these thirsty souls.

"It is an exchange of beer for sweat; but the tax-eaters get, after all, the greater part of the sweat; for, if it were not for the tax, the beer would sell for three-halfpence a pot, instead of fivepence."


A few weeks ago I mentioned that there were signs that El Nino was developing once more. It develops every 5, 6, or 7 years but this is very variable. Why should we be concerned? Well, it can cause global famine, floods, droughts and even wars. The European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts has produced a forecast of 90% certainty of an El Nino this year.

Just to remind you, it begins as a gigantic area of warm water in the Eastern tropical Pacific, accompanied by cooling of the ocean in the western Pacific, which sets off a chain reaction of weather events all over our planet.

India seems likely to be the chief sufferer this year, as so many Indians live at subsistence level, and their lives depend on the success of the monsoon.

This year the monsoon has got off to a late start with the first week's rainfall (starts 1st June) being 40% below normal. The sudden change from drought to rains in the coastal regions of western South America, is matched by a dearth of rain in the western Pacific – Australia, East Indies, Philippines and what used to be known as Indo-China.

Research has shown that the global impact on food supplies is a reduction, with corn, rice and wheat yields much lower than normal. The exception appears to be soya bean, where yields increase.

The only region which will benefit is the dry South West of the United States. This includes California, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico which have been very short of rain over several years.

The last really big El Nino was in 1997-98, and is referred to as the Godzilla of this weather phenomenon in the south west. This region of the USA is normally the driest place in North America, and it has to be noted that were it not for the rivers crossing the region from wetter/snowier places, (principally the River Colorado), the remarkable population growth of the last century would not have been possible.

Places such as Las Vegas, California, and Phoenix, Arizona are in deserts, relying entirely on underground aquifers, which are being rapidly depleted, or water from the River Colorado, which river never reaches the sea nowadays. In one sense they are parasitic on imported water, or finite fossil water from underground.


Pub quiz question. Who played the trombone to worms?

The answer is Charles Darwin, whose impeccable scientific method sought to find out whether they were able to respond to music. He wasn't daft as he also discovered that earth worms could bring to the surface enough soil to completely bury the surface, which may have been covered in large stones, in a few years.

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