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Gordon Hensman's Weatherview

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 27, 2014

  • The Laki fissure today, a great green scar miles long

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The Black Country –

Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution

Weather in Dudley for 11th – 20th June 2014


This was a very warm period with temperatures well above normal, especially by day. Rainfall was about a quarter of the long term average for this period. If the last 10 days of June are as warm as the first 20 days, the month will turn out to be one of the warmest recorded.


1. Mean maximum 21.1, 70F

2. Anomaly +3.3

3. Mean minimum 11.8, 53.5F

4. Anomaly +2.1

5. Average of max & min. 16.4, 61.5F

6. Anomaly +2.7

7. Highest/date 24.6, 76.5F 13th

8. Lowest/date 9.6, 49.5F 17th

9. Lowest grass/date 7.8, 46F 17th

10. Mean 30cm soil depth 16.3, 61.5F


11. Days with rain 1

12. Total fall 5.5mm

13. Wettest day/date 5.5mm 14th

14. Days with thunder 1 14th


15. Mean Relative Humidity, 9h 74%


16. Mean Pressure 9h 1028mb

17. Highest/date 1031mb 16th, 17th

18. Lowest/date 1025mb 19th, 20th


19. N 4, NE 2, E 0, SE 0, S 0, SW 1, W 3, NW 0, CALM 0


It is inevitable that the reality of a situation will get distorted with time, and I can't remember who said that the first casualty in war is truth. Some films made about this war have flagrantly distorted the truth – varying in distortions that the Americans captured the enigma code machine, to only the Americans were involved in the D-Day landings. With this in mind, I offer you a few facts about the Second World War.

Although the Supreme Commander was American, the three chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, were all British.

Of the 1,213 warships involved in the D-Day Landings, 892 were British.

Of the 4,126 landing craft, 3,261 were British.

Of the 11,590 aircraft on the day, two-thirds were British.

Of all the troops landed two-thirds were British or Canadian.


On D-Day itself, there were between 2,616 and 3,114, American casualties on Omaha and Utah beaches, and between 2,515 and 3,380 casualties on the British and Canadian beaches Sword, Juno and Gold. In the 77 day campaign to take Normandy, the average daily number of casualties – across both sides, was 6,674 – higher than at the Somme, Verdun and Passchendale in the First World War.


For nine weeks before D-Day, 197,000 sorties were flown over France to support the impending invasion. They dropped 200,000 tonnes of bombs – by comparison London suffered 18,000 tonnes during the blitz. However, remember London also suffered from the Doodlebug, or V1 Rockets, and the intercontinental supersonic V2.

We possessed more than 13,000 aircraft, including 4,000 bombers and 5,000 fighters.


The Americans had a ratio of 3:1 over the Germans, during the Normandy campaign. The British and Canadians had a ratio of 2:1 over the enemy.

The British and American armies were small and fairly new. The British had an army of 187,000 at the outbreak of war – the Americans even less. This contrasted with a German standing army of 2 million. Remember too, Britain had been forced to abandon most of its equipment in France at the Dunkirk debacle.


A few weeks ago I wrote of the situation in the Pacific, where El Nino is developing. It has always had world-wide effects on the climate across the globe. One such effect I mentioned previously, is a failure of the Indian monsoon. Just in case some readers are not familiar with this climate phenomenon, I will briefly explain what it is.

The word monsoon comes from the Arabic word which means "seasonal reversal of wind direction. For centuries, the Arabs have traded with India. They sailed across the Arabian Sea – blown across by the south westerly winds which started to blow in May. They then sailed back when the winds reversed direction in October, and blew from the north east.

The south westerly winds carried saturated air across the Indian sub-continent, first giving the south west state of Kerala a drenching before slowly advancing up the Bay of Bengal and then funnelling north westwards up the Ganges valley.

Eventually the rains reached North West India – the Punjab and Rajasthan, which are the driest parts of India. It is from these states that the monsoon retreats first of all – going back the way it came. By October only the southern tip has rain. The winds then blow from the other direction – the north east.

WHY THIS CHANGE? The classic explanation, first worked out by British Meteorologists, is that southern Asia overheats during the summer months, inducing a low pressure area over North West India. This pulls in the moist warm air from the Indian Ocean producing heavy rains. Six months later this heating disappears, as does the low pressure, to be replaced by a very large high pressure area over Asia to the north. This has the effect of producing an outflow of dry air from land to sea.

Yes, you've guessed it – it is not as simple as that. We now know that the upper air circulation is the deciding factor, with the equatorial low pressure belt moving northwards to cover India and produce rain.

BOMBAY/MUMBAI, on the west coast, has just about no rain at all for the months of December, January, February, March and April; but for the five summer months, a total of 69 inches, 1725mm – more than double Dudley's annual rainfall.

With a population exceeding 1 billion, and hundreds of millions living at subsistence level – that is to say living on what can be grown on their land – it only takes a small drop in rainfall to produce a severe food shortage.

Already this year by 19th June, total rainfall is 48% below the long term average.



A report by the Washington-based foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, has analysed the performance of different countries' health services. It examined 11 countries, including detailed information from patients, doctors and the World Health Organisation.

Great Britain ranks FIRST overall, scoring highest on quality, access and efficiency.

This remarkable achievement – despite recent cuts in finance – is especially notable when comparing expenditure on health services in different countries. In the UK we spend just £2,008 per head, less than half that of per capita expenditure in America of £5,017. Only in New Zealand is expenditure less – at £1,876 per head. The National Health Service is one of our most precious possessions, and must be safe guarded against the danger of possible privatisation.

Despite the flow of criticism directed at the NHS in recent years, it is quite clear that, "YOW DOH NO WHEN YOWM WELL OFF!" (Incidentally, in the southern part of the Black Country you is pronounced "yow", as in bow-wow, or cow, not "yo", as in low !)


22nd 1799 This date marked the beginning of a long rainy spell which lasted until 17th November, with only 8 days without rain.

23rd 1783 A gigantic and rare type of volcanic eruption occurred in southern Iceland. It was a fissure eruption when a 20 miles long crack in the earth's surface poured forth vast quantities of fumes, smoke, dust and molten lava. This was the famous Laki, or Lakagigar volcanic fissure, between the Myrdalsjokull and Vatnajokull ice caps in the south of Iceland.

The eruption carried on for 8 months, pouring out 3.4 cubic mitres of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous hydrofluoric acid and sulphur dioxide compounds that killed over 50% of the country's livestock, leading to a famine that killed about 25% of the human population.

The lava fountains reached an altitude of up to 4,600 feet, with the gases penetrating up to 10 miles. Iceland was affected by high air pressure, with accompanying north-west winds which steered the poisonous clouds towards Europe. (As indeed we experienced in 2010 when a volcano close to Laki erupted – closing all air space over this part of the world). Europe then experienced a persistent haze which produced the hottest summer on record. The sun was described as "blood coloured" and the haze was so thick that boats had to stay in port, unable to navigate.

The eruption started on 8th June but it wasn't until the 23rd that the British Isles were affected, although Bergen in Norway was the first to report the poisonous haze on 17th, Berlin by 18th, Paris by 20th and Le Havre 22nd. The effects were severe – 23,000 Britons died from sulphur dioxide poisoning – mainly outdoor workers.

The weather became extremely hot, followed by an extremely severe winter – causing another 8,000 deaths.

In North America the coldest winter known caused the Mississippi to freeze over in New Orleans, with ice in the Gulf of Mexico, and Chesapeake Bay to have its longest freeze-over ever known. Annapolis, Maryland, was then the capital city, where the signing of the Treaty of Paris to end the American rebellion was delayed because of the severe weather.

Gilbert White wrote ... "The summer of 1783 was an amazing and portentous one, and full of horrible phaenomena; for beside the alarming meteors and tremendous thunderstorms that affrighted and distressed the different counties of the kingdom, the peculiar haze, or smokey fog, that prevailed for many weeks in this island, and in every part of Europe, and even beyond its limits, was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the memory of man.

"The sun at noon, looked as blank as a clouded moon, and shed a rust-coloured ferruginous light on the ground, and floors of rooms; but was particularly lurid and blood-coloured at rising and setting. All the time the heat was so intense that butcher's meat could hardly be eaten on the day after it was killed; the flies swarmed so in the lanes and hedges that they rendered the horses half frantic, and riding irksome."

Incidentally, this unusual weather persisted for some years afterwards and resulted in great hardship and starvation in the 1780s – arguably leading to such discontent, that in 1789 the French Revolution was triggered off!

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