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Gordon Hensman's Weatherview

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: July 24, 2014

  • Joseph Chamberlain ensured clean drinking water for Birmingham for generations to come

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The Black Country

Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution

Weather in Dudley for 11th -20th July 2014


This was a very warm spell but without any spectacularly high temperatures. It was very typical of high summer when warm humid air from the south brings numerous vigorous instability showers in the form of thunderstorms and torrential rain.

Many readers may not appreciate the fact that lightning is capable of "fixing" nitrogen to form nitrate, which all good gardeners know is a plant fertiliser. So once again the old cliché of "every cloud has a silver lining," is true. I hope that this spell of southerly winds will bring an incursion of some of our once abundant butterflies, such as the small tortoiseshell, from the continent. I haven't seen a small tortoiseshell for several years.


1. Mean maximum 23.0, 74F

2. Anomaly +2.5

3. Mean minimum 13.2, 56F

4. Anomaly +1.2

5. Average of max. & min. 18.1, 64.5F

6. Anomaly +2.0

7. Highest/date 27.3, 81F 18th

8. Lowest/date 9.0, 48.5F 14th

9. Lowest grass/date 7.6, 45.5F 14th

10. Mean 30cm soil depth 17.3, 63F


12. Days with rain 6

13. Total fall 62.5mm

14. Wettest day 32mm 18th


15. Mean relative humidity at 9h 79%


16. Average at 9h 1017mb

17. Highest/date 1023mb 17th

18. Lowest/date 1011mb 19th


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



19th 2006 In some parts of the country this was the hottest day of the hottest month ever recorded. On average the hottest day of the year occurs between 10th and 20th.

20th Rain fell for four days in a row up to 23rd, giving a total of 12 inches on the North York Moors.

21st 1965 Everyone was shocked to see trees disappearing and tin sheds taking off into the sky. A tornado had struck Wisley – the home of English Horticulture – in Surrey. Although it only lasted only about 10 minutes, it cut a swathe through the orchards, splitting trees up to 10 feet in girth.

22nd 1868 Tunbridge Wells, Kent, recorded 38.1, 100.4F – the highest ever! This lasted until 2003 when a higher temperature was recorded in August.

1907 There were widespread thunderstorms in the south of England, which produced deep hailstone falls.

1911 This was a brilliant summer, where 36, 97F, was recorded at Epsom, Surrey. The fine weather started in May and lasted until the end of September. As I wrote a week or two ago, hot weather in cities is often accompanied by civil unrest and riots. This summer was no exception. Life in the slums of Edwardian Britain was by our standards almost unbearable at the best of times. Add stifling heat, and the situation was explosive. Mass strikes and violent demonstrations broke out, and the Home Secretary Winston Churchill sent in the troops – not for the last time.

24th 2004 The insurance firm Zurich stopped issuing cover for small events affected by adverse weather. Their policy – called Pluvius, after the Roman god of rain, provided cover against, fog, frost, snow, gales, drought and rain.

25th 1908 Lord Northcliffe, proprietor of the Daily Mail, offered a prize of £1000 for the first flight across the English Channel.

The Frenchman Louis Bleriot took up the challenge and so with a gentle south-westerly breeze he set off in his monoplane, powered by a 28 horse power Anzani engine, from a field just outside Calais at 4 o'clock in the morning. He flew at an altitude of 250 feet at 40mph, and was escorted by the French escort, the destroyer Escopette. For 10 minutes in mid-channel he was lost in the mist, but on sighting the White Cliffs of Dover he was able to land rather clumsily as the wind whipped his craft around.

26th 1666 "A shower of hail as big as walnuts." – Samuel Pepys.


What is the lowest temperature recorded on the surface of the earth? Record books will probably tell you that it is -89.2C, -128.6F, on 21st July 1893 at the Russian Base in Vostock, Antarctica. But they are wrong – well, not so much wrong as out of date. Records exist to be broken, after all.

The new record was established by satellite observation between 2003 and 2013, by NASA's Aqua satellite, using a Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) sensor.

It occurred on the very top of Antarctica's Ice Dome, in very shallow depressions where cold air was able to accumulate, against the normal pressure gradient which allows cold air to drain down-slope. The temperature was -92C, to -93C, 134F, -137F.


Yes, you are going to tell me that it was the genius Italian Guglielmo Marconi, from Bologna, who invented the wireless. So sorry – you are wrong. It was Sir Oliver Lodge at a meeting of the famous British Association for the Advancement of Science in Oxford in 1894 who demonstrated radio transmission. There is a commemorative plaque at the University recording this demonstration.

Unfortunately, he did not patent it – Marconi did! Both of them had used the pioneering work of Heinrich Hertz, who in 1888 discovered the existence of radio waves.


Many American sources still claim Edison as the inventor of electric light – they are wrong. Edison's only legitimate claim is that he made improvements to the bulb which was demonstrated by Joseph Swan, (later knighted and also awarded the Legion d'Honneur by the French), of Gateshead, Sunderland in 1879.

100% BRAIN USE – NOT 10%

A widespread myth is the claim that we only use 10% of our brains. Apparently there is no research in existence to back this up. It started as far back as 1936 with the publication of a book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," by Dale Carnegie. He made the unsubstantiated claim of 10% to back up a point he was making. The Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology at Cambridge University, Barbara Sahakian, states it came "... from a misunderstanding about how most of our brain works." About 90% of our brain consists of "glial" cells which provide nutrients to the other 10% which are neurons. Together, they are our grey matter – and we use them all!


As many readers will remember, when we left secondary school, little fuss was made – perhaps a leavers' dance or social. Now, I learn to my horror, the American idea of a "Prom[enade]" has taken hold over here.

Stripped of its awful pretentiousness, I can just about accept this rite of passage ceremony for secondary school leavers. However, I am shocked to read that this is now taking place when children leave primary school. It is clearly an exploitation by commercial concerns, of parents' natural concern that their children should have the best possible.

"In a few decades we have gone from a wrong-headed world where children were regarded as a nuisance to be tolerated and occasionally smacked, to a wrong-headed world where they are indulged as little princes and princesses. Part of it is sweet: people want to give their kids things they didn't have. The other part is narcissistic: they wish they were the child."

I appeal to the Parents, Heads and Governors of Primary schools to have nothing to do with this latest imported piece of American nonsense which involves great expenditure by hard-up parents to buy the latest "prom" fashion, from stretch limousines to £1000 dresses for the little princesses. What do readers think?

I bet you're sick of "Trick or Treat," as well!


Thanks to our Victorian ancestors we have a supply of clean drinking water. We take it for granted, without realising that without water, disease of all kinds would now be as rife as they were before the municipal water companies created this boon.

The commitment to the public good was a characteristic of the most enlightened Victorians. Joseph Chamberlain, Mayor of Birmingham, declared in the House of Commons, "We have not the slightest intention of making a profit. We shall profit indirectly in the comfort of the town and the health of the inhabitants."

From 1876 to 1976, Birmingham's water supply was controlled by Birmingham Corporation Water Department, obtaining the water from streams and boreholes. By 1904 demand exceeded supply, so the Elan Valley reservoirs in central Wales were constructed, piping water directly to Birmingham. There was no suggestion of monetary profit – it was all for the public good.

We seem to be going through a political fashion at the moment whereby public utilities are being sold off to profit-making organisations. With this in mind, consider the following.



The largest association of nurses in the USA "has described the decision by the city of Detroit, Michigan, to cut off the water supply to homes with outstanding bills – a public health disaster". They have called for the water to be re-connected immediately. "Lack of water, like unsafe sanitation, is a major health disaster that can lead to disease."

I ask one question – how do you use the lavatory in a home without water?

Even the United Nations has condemned this as a human rights violation."

The city's department of health – which has been recently privatised – has no means to assess the effects of shutting down the water supply.

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