Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Snow, but not quite a white Christmas (less common than a white Easter)

I know, I know it’s been a long time since my last entry – and I have no good excuse other than it’s been very busy over the last few months and each time I came to the point of putting down a few words something seemed to get in the way. And thank you to all those who dropped me a note saying where is my next Blog entry – I didn’t realise that so many actual read it!

A lot has happened since last I wrote. First off the country was under snow for what seemed like several months. We broke a 30-year record for snowfall but despite the disruption I rather enjoyed having a good old fashioned winter again, digging us out of the front door and finding my boots out of the garage for walking into work. It wasn’t quite a white Christmas by true definition (snow falling on the day) which I was quite pleased about as I had done a few radio broadcasts saying that it wasn’t going to happen – but it was a close run thing.

One of my favourite facts, not known by many, is that a white Easter is more likely than a white Christmas – that’s a cheery thought for the next few weeks! It isn’t very common that we have heavy snowfalls so early on in the winter. The other interesting thing about snow is that, by a very rough approximation, snow melts to 1/10th of its depth. That is 1cm of snow (10 mm) melts to approximately 1mm of rain – not a very useful piece of knowledge for everyday life I know, but interesting never the less for those who have to think about flooding from snowmelt.

Other things that have happened – I went to join in with comedian Lloyd Woolf’s “buy a weatherman a drink” evening in London and had a very entertaining night, I upset the Mayor of Moscow by saying that weather modification is not a good way to spend public money. Also in December, we of course had a disappointing Conference of the Parties (COP) in Copenhagen, but at least we have some countries signing up to commitments to reduce emissions in their January Accord and a pledge to meet again in the summer before the next COP at the end of this year. We should make the best of our winter snow event as these are less likely going forward in our warmer climate.

I had an interesting January at the first meeting of the International Forum of Meteorological Societies, with over 20 Societies coming together to talk about areas of common interest, and in particular in areas such as resources for schools and in professional development. It was a very productive meeting, but I enjoyed it as much for meeting up with old colleagues as for what we achieved. It was nice to see so many of those old colleagues who, like me, were now doing more with their professional society. It reminded me in part why I enjoy working in meteorology and what makes it a special kind of career.

As is usual from my trips abroad, here is the temperature profile from the flight that I took from the in-flight temperature and height figures you get on your video screen. You can see it was about 6 degrees colder in Heathrow pretty consistently through the atmosphere – and both follow a nice standard lapse rate curve of 6oC per kilometre.

On Saturday just gone I was at a very different type of event – at the other end of the spectrum you might say. Rather than meeting old colleagues I was meeting lots of young potential meteorologists at the Big Bang event in Manchester. This is the UK’s Science and Engineering festival, and this year they had over 20,000 people visit. I was there to talk on a careers panel, was able to take the opportunity to promote a career in meteorology. But I also joined the Society team in the main exhibition hall to meet young people who had stopped by our exhibition to find out more about what life is really like as a meteorologist.

Finally speaking of Saturday events, this coming Saturday sees the opening of a new exhibition on Luke Howard (the father of clouds) at the Bruce Castle museum in Tottenham. I hope some of you have a chance to stop by and visit the exhibition. You can find out more about the exhibition at ‘http://www.haringey.gov.uk/brucecastleevents.htm#exhibitions’.

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