Tag Archives: ECMWF

Brexit to bring back those halcyon summers

I’m joking. But with the lies and half-truths spouted by both sides of the EU referendum debate it is a statement I wouldn’t be surprised to hear uttered in this last full week of campaigning before June 23.

This preposterous statement, however, got me thinking that perhaps there may be some truth that summers really were better before Britain joined the then European Economic Community with Denmark and Ireland in 1973.

But comparing the past 43 London summers with the period of summers from 1930-1972 shows that this is not the case in terms of temperature and rainfall.

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Summers during the period 1973-2015 are on average 0.8C warmer than summers 1930-1972
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A look at rainfall shows the average since 1973 is 84% that of the period 1930-1972
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Average sun since 1973 is broadly the same as period 1930-1972 though has recently dipped

Perhaps it is just our minds playing tricks on us when we think back to summers being better than what they are today, and before EU membership?

Voter turnout and the weather

Over the years it has been argued that weather can affect voter turnout and therefore the result of an election. One Dutch study states: “We find that the weather parameters indeed affect voter turnout. Election-day rainfall of roughly 25 mm (1 inch) reduces turnout by a rate of one per cent, whereas a 10-degree-Celsius increase in temperature correlates with an increase of almost one percent in overall turnout. One hundred percent sunshine corresponds to a one and a half percent greater voter turnout compared to zero sunshine.”

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Weather for the referendum on June 5, 1975, was mostly fine nationwide. A temperature of 21.3C was recorded at Greenwich after an overnight low of 7C. It was the start of a settled period of summer weather that had followed a cool and miserable late May and early June. Sound familiar?

In June 1975 the electorate expressed significant support for EEC membership, with 67 per cent in favour on a 65 per cent turnout. Though the turnout looks low you certainly couldn’t blame the weather.

In terms of this year, with ten days to go, it is too early to say for sure what the weather will be like on June 23rd though the GFS model suggests, like 1975, it could be the start of a more settled spell of weather?

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There are signs that the Azores high may ridge north-eastwards around June 23rd, possibly bringing fine weather for referendum day 

Weather forecasting and the European Union

Weather forecasts have improved immensely since the 1970s. A three-day forecast is now much more accurate than a 24-hour forecast was in the 1980s, partly thanks to the collaboration between national met agencies throughout Europe and beyond.

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF), formed in 1975 as an intergovernmental organisation located in Reading, UK, will maintain its independence in the event of Brexit.

A spokesperson for ECMWF said: “While most of ECMWF’s member states are also members of the EU, ECMWF is structurally independent of the EU. The location of ECMWF in the UK, as well as the UK financial contributions to ECMWF and the tax arrangements between ECMWF and the UK are regulated by agreements between the ECMWF, its member states and the UK. These arrangements are entirely separate from the UK’s EU membership.”

There’s a huge amount riding on this referendum. The EU has flaws but there’s far more good comes out of it than bad. And even if the EU has too many technocrats and bureaucrats I’d rather entrust funding to them than the short-term policy making that plagues modern Westminster on both sides of the political spectrum. And that’s why I’ll be voting Remain.

 

Small chance of November snow in London

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This table shows the stats for Greenwich during spells when there has been heavy snowfall somewhere in the south-east. The figures reveal that it is very hit and miss and that the associated air doesn’t stay cold for long.  There is a link to UK-wide November snowfalls here: http://1drv.ms/1PjOB9H

November has produced some potent snowfalls in Scotland and northern England over the past 150 years. These brief shots of cold air, often direct from the North Pole, however very rarely produce anything that can sustain long-lasting low-level snow in London and the Home Counties.

With the GFS weather model occasionally hinting at a blast of polar maritime air I decided to have a look back through the records to see how frequently the capital has turned white during the eleventh month.

Anyone who is familiar with the Objective Lamb Weather Type (LWT) data series will know that there may be an increased likelihood of things turning colder at some point this month. Last month was the joint 5th most anticyclonic October in the LWT series data series that runs from 1871; resulting stats closely resemble both October 1946 and 1962 as being very anticyclonic. Another similar year is 1972.

November 1972 was mild till mid month and then turned much colder with snow in places. November 1962 was cyclonic till the 24th, and then anticyclonic, with a cold northerly outbreak from the 18th for a few days with snow, before turning rather mild. November 1946 in complete contrast to both years, was a mild, dull and very wet month.

The most impressive November snowy spells seem to have occurred in the late 1800s. These two 500mb reanalysis charts show a cold feed from Scandinavia in both cases.

Snow and sleet falling in the London area is obviously much more common than snow lying. The snowiest Novembers were in 1919 and 1952 when snow or sleet fell for 10 days at Wallington and Hampstead respectively.

Kew saw snow or sleet on 8 days in 1919, while Heathrow and Northolt recorded snow or sleet on eight days in 1952.

This small article appeared on the front page of Reynold's Newspaper in November 1890
This small article appeared on the front page of Reynold’s Newspaper in November 1890

The only decent snowfall that occured in London in my lifetime was November 1993 – and I was abroad for that. I remember my dad mentioning it in a letter written to me as I travelled round China. It arrived in the early hours of one Sunday morning and fell to a depth of five inches.

Given that was the last time London saw a decent fall I won’t be holding my breath that we’ll see any this month – though, if you live in Scotland, the odds are much narrower.

Before 1861 information on snowfalls becomes scarce – at least in terms of correct quantity. However, heavy snowfalls obviously did occur. On November 17, 1816, the Inverness Journal contained this report:

“The winter has commenced with a severity almost beyond example. Frost, rain and snow have been almost incessant during the last week and the greater proportion of corn still uncut or in stocks has suffered material injury.

“We regret to say that several lives have been lost. A postboy of Bennet’s coming from the south was obliged to leave his chaise on the road and would have been lost but for the lights shown from the windows of Moyhall which he reached nearly in a frozen state. The obvious advantage of keeping lights in stormy nights in the windows of houses in the country has thus been illustrated

“The winter it appears has set in with extreme severity in the interior of the continent. At Augsburg on the 19th of November the eclipse of the sun was entirely obscured by a fall of snow which commenced at 7 o’clock in the morning and lasted till noon. The ground was covered with snow a foot in depth. There was a great fall of snow at Frankfurt on the same day and Reaumur’s thermometer showed at from 9 to 10 degrees below the freezing point.”

Perhaps the most impressive, modern day snowfall in the south of the UK occurred around November 18th 1972 when observers recorded 60cm of snow on Dartmoor. Synoptic charts and other data are attached below.

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  • Inspiration for this piece came from Dr Richard Wild’s PhD study on snowfall which you can find here.