Sunday, 10 January 2010

Start of weather forecasting, some stats and memories ...

I remember, I remember the great British freeze of 1962 – 1963 – we built a proper igloo from home-made frozen blocks and it remained in the garden for nearly six months; then I was ill and couldn’t go to school, so stayed at home for a week or two until we had to set off intrepidly sometime at the end of January.

We’d had to clear our long drive first, about 30 metres, and then head out to my school at Oxford (45 miles away). What had been amazing at home, was quite extraordinary once out and about. The roads and skyline had completely changed – the hedges had vanished under the white of drifting snow ... snow ploughs were out shovelling vast swathes of thick white stuff off the roads.

A new wave of very cold weather, with temperatures dropping to as low as −45 °C (−49 °F), affects much of Europe. NASA Satellite Image of Great Britain and Europe dated 7 January 2010.

At home we’d had enormous icicles hanging down – but none like these in Teesdale - and I remember the outside playroom full of fairy lights in the bright white light of a snowy landscape. I was then ill at the end of term – this is not a norm (.. this a very healthy bod here!) – and I was lying, isolated – oh yes! .. nasty little virusy thing they didn’t want me contaminating the world – I was one of 9 people in Oxford, who had similar symptoms: I’m none the wiser now, except for the scarring.

Going back to the weather of 1963 and the aftermath – lying in my sick bed, sick of the newspaper, sick of reading, sick of playing clock patience, sick of cards .. et al!!! .. but bemused by the meltdown.. The snow melted during March and slowly gravitationally made its way to the rivers – the River Thames valley was flooded as far as the eye could see, as shown in the newspaper – these pictures did interest me.

The next year we knocked down part of the old house, probably a cottage, added on over the years, and it may well have been a small dairy farm – remember even though we were only 25 miles from Oxford Street in London, in those days we were in the country ... suburbia and “Greater, greater London” had not pushed its tentacles out beyond our house in Surrey, as it has now. In the rafters as the demolishment took place, the builders found a piece of wood which had burnt into it “1848 is very cold”!

A walker admires a giant wall of icicles in Teesdale – icicles cling from the overhanging shrubbery and stretch around 15 feet to the floor into the freezing water below. Courtesy of North News & Pictures Ltd – Daily

As we were starting to come along in the late 1940s and early 1950s family and friends came to visit – out house was not warm! Though to be fair I don’t think anyone had really warm houses. We were born in January or February – rather cold months in England – as they’re proving now. My father’s elder brother often remarked to me over the years .. that visiting me as a new born was pretty awful – I might have been a joy to behold, but even I couldn’t warm up his freezing heart .. he couldn’t wait to get home!

So as we’re now living under the same sort of conditions – the house is warmer: thank goodness! – but like then everything is grinding to a halt – though a great many of us are suffering similar fates as I hear and see similar thoughts being gently posted around the blogosphere. There are differences that have occurred through the ages.

Over a 30 year period, Gordon Manley (1902 – 1980), an English climatologist, assembled the Central England Temperature series of monthly mean temperatures stretching back to 1659. This was no mean feat and is considered a notable example of scientific scholarship and perseverance, which has proved to be extremely valuable to meteorologists and climate scientists from the time it was published in 1953.

Big freeze cars 1963... Then Siberian winds delivered inches and inches of the stuff! c/o BBC London - Big Freeze 1963 Gallery

At times of extremes the public tend to get a little excited by figures representing events we have experienced, or events we feel we can understand a little better through the representation of numbers, and most often are grateful we were not present.

Manley recorded the winter months of 1683 – 1684 as an extremely harsh winter with an average temperature of -1.17C, the 1962 – 3 winter was the third coldest, with an average of -0.33C. The Little Ice Age had three minima periods beginning about 1650, 1770 and 1850 as often depicted by the painters of the day.

On 10 January 1982 Braemar, a Scottish village, recorded the lowest temperature in the UK of -27.2 degrees Centigrade, while two days ago the lesser temperature of – 22.3C at Altnaharra is on a similar temperature to Antarctica, and last week temperatures in parts of England and Scotland been lower than Norway and Finland – I’m glad I live in the south!

Winter skating on the main canal of Pompenburg, Rotterdam (Holland) in 1825, shortly before the minimum, by Bartholomeus Johannes van Hove

The Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy RN (1805 – 1865) achieved lasting fame as the captain of HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin’s famous voyage, as a pioneering meteorologist who made accurate weather forecasting a reality. He was an able surveyor and hydrographer – bringing all of his talents to bear when, in 1854, he was appointed “Meteorological Statist to the Board of Trade”, which department was the forerunner of the modern Meteorological Office, and was set up as a service to mariners.

Since then times have changed – The Times Newspaper published the first daily weather forecasts in 1860; forecasts were broadcast by BBC Radio in 1922; Forecasters advised General Eisenhower of a 36-hour ‘weather window’ for the D-Day landings. "Probably the only day during the month of June on which the operations could have been launched," President Truman later declared;

Then of course there’s the net to check things now: and I do remember on 11 September 1981 in Johannesburg (at the start of Spring) that suddenly while we were all work we had four inches (10 cms) of snow! An unseen sight and everyone was amazed – I worked for a large organisation in our own head office with a large car park and it was full of South Africans with paper cups full of the white stuff – touching, tasting, dancing around and having snow ball fights!

What amazing sights of white stuff do you remember, were you involved in ..?

Guess where the rooves are? Eastbourne - from my attic bedroom window - the four spires: far left is the Catholic Church; Town Hall with clock at 10.00 a.m. on 7 January 2010; and the two flags fly high(ish) over the central police station.

Dear Mr Postman – I went up to my mother today and was able to show her some of the pictures of a snowy Eastbourne and chat about the 1963 winter. We haven’t had a huge amount of snow down in the town and today we’ve had a bit of a thaw – though another snowstorm is due .. we wait and see!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Wilma Ham said...

Hi Hilary,
I love the winter pictures and yet I am so pleased I am not living in a place where it can get that cold.
In Holland they always get excited when it gets cold as every year they hope for a certain event to happen. It is the 11 cities skating event, where people skate from city to city, covering all the 11 ones.
The whole country is involved. It hardly ever happens though as it requires a continuous below zero remperature to produce strong enough ice that can carry the masses of participants.
Oh how weather can impact on our lives and how relentless it can be.
Lovely photo of your attic and I can imagine your mother's enjoyment at seeing them.
Love to you both, Wilma

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Wilma .. I'd never heard about the 11 cities event .. that sounds fun (if you enjoy the cold!!) What an amazing country involvement. I don't think we're going to make that continuous below zero state - the ice would have to be completely solid: there've been some deaths from people being on ice that cracked.

The River Thames in Windsor froze in 1963, as did parts of the sea .. The nice blue sky we had on Thursday was lovely .. we wait to see what happens this week!

Thank you Mum will be grateful to hear from you in New Zealand - love to you too
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Mark said...

It is amazing to look back on extreme weather like this. I lived in England for three years in the early 80's. Loved it there, however did not see too much snow. Winter is in a way a magical time for children.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mark - thank you for coming over - it's good to see you here. As you say we do have extremes at times and I've got cuttings here going back a few years to show my mother.

You were lucky I think - I know there were 'bad snows' in '81 and '85 - but the children love the snow and have such fun making snowmen and sledging, and playing snowballs!

Glad you liked the UK .. it's got some good points for all its tininess!!

Have a good 2010 - all the best
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Patricia said...

I am so glad to read your snowy story and of course, it makes me think of our 2008 massive snow storm here and the major ice storm several years before that. I love how we can always talk about the weather!

My niece was married in Eastern Washington one January maybe 10 years ago and another big ice storm...they have pictures of icicles just as dramatic over the main doors and the bride standing between them and last years storm was a repeat with nearly 7 feet of snow near the University.
Being an adult in such a snowy situation was extremely hard with all sorts of folks falling on the ice and keeping the pathways cleared.
Fun write up - good reading.
I know your mum will enjoy and glad everyone is holding their own.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patricia .. thanks for these stories .. yes we often pictures of the States completely swamped in snow or water and having been in the NYC in April of '76 .. there were icicles then - it was chilly!

Fantastic setting for your niece but a bit daunting at the time I guess .. 7 feet of snow - well I guess in 62/63 we definitely had that much.

Those were the days - hard work and hard physical work knew no bounds .. I have definitely softened since then - but the training would kick in!! Can't say too willingly .. as Megan from has embraced this winter! I'm just glad I live on the south coast .. sea keeps it warmer and Eastbourne is meant to be & usually is relatively benign!

Glad you enjoyed it - yes Mum will love looking at the photos on the iphone .. biggest boon (via my sister-in-law) as far as we're concerned!

We're gearing up for the new year .. tidying up and giving ourselves a clean slate ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Jannie Funster said...

And I have my iPhone -- with a tap to the screen to updat -- instand current weatehr, and a 5-day forecast. Not bad!

That's one thing Jim always remarks about Mom and Dad's house, it's very warm. It wasn't always when we were kids, but it's properly insulated now. And toasty!

Well..... since I was raised on snow, I guess my first memories are all inside my subconscious soemwhere. I do remember a maple sugaring farm when I was maybe 3, pouring hot syrup on teh snow which turned to hard candy instantly.

Snow tunnels and caves for many, so much fun to dig out and hibernate in.

Walking in crazy storms when all the roads were closed, bundled up and happy.

Horse and sleigh rides often.

Sledding as often as we could.

Slipping and sliding and dancing light-footedly over any icy area. I never fall!

Hilary, it sounds like you have live in your house a long time? How long?


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie .. isn’t the iphone great and I could see the time on the clock by using my fingers to zoom in. When the pictures are dark – i.e. ones I’ve taken perhaps of art works from the medieval period .. I can hone in on for example the wolf in Romulus and Remus, so Mum could see the wolf.

I guess you were raised on snow as you say – and what fun pouring maple syrup onto the snow to get it to set – now that’s a good party trick!

Snow tunnels and caves – a bit dangerous .. but you’re here I’m pleased to say. Yes walking out in stormy weather really deserves a scone (or two!) and Cornish cream on return home – with maple syrup would be good. Horse and sleigh rides – only have done that in Switzerland and Austria ..

My days of slipping, sliding and dancing light-footedly have disappeared down the annals of time!!

This house – I’ve now been in 17 years .. seems strange – such a long time .. since I came back from South Africa after a refuge of a year at my brother’s .. they’ve been in their house for over 20 years and our Surrey house (family home) we were there 19 years .. other than that I’ve moved around – it is a pain moving!!

Great to see you – good luck with the painting .. penguins would be at home here, if they lived in the northern hemisphere! Xoxo to BB & Kelly
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Jannie Funster said...

Good day!

As to snow tunnels and caves, I should qualify that by saying we kids burrowed into snowbanks that had drifted, nothing too too dangerous. :) I do remember one winter how the snow got up to the roof of the garage. What tunnels that allowed!! I think there are photos somewhere.

I imagine my non-sliding days are numbered too, I'm 45 now. :) But I do try to stay somewhat semi-active.

17 years in your place now, I see. I've been here for 19.5 years, and Jim bought this house almost 21 years ago. Ahh, Surrey was a time or three ago for you, I see. Nice real estate these days?

No penguins today -- organizing photos -- post on that tomorrow!

And BTW, YOU are The Winner of my "I Need A Man" CD from Jan Lundy's blog post a few weeks ago!!! Remember the squirrels with waivers and kelp bikinis post at Jan's? Jan and I had both completely forgotten for a time about choosing a winner until just recently.

Congrats! Please e-mail me your address and I'll get the CD tossed across the pond in the next week, or so!


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie .. from a cold and frosty Eastbourne .. not too pleasant – though you have a good day.
Ok – now that sounds slightly more sensible – I must say we did similarly on the dunes in Cornwall .. but they were unstable and we had to be careful, or were told to stop! Drifting snow as high as the garage – now that would be fun to tunnel in – well you’re here to tell the tale: that’s the main thing for us!

I have a serious intention of becoming active again – probably only walking though .. no more squash – used to play 5+ times a week especially out in South Africa.

17 years is a long time! – yes it’d be great if we still owned the Surrey house, as too my London flat – but that’s life!! Tomorrow will tell you it was a time or three ago for me!

Poor Mum has a sore throat and an infection .. so she’s not so good. Hardwick is keeping close company.

Oh yay – a prezzie – I’m so lucky & you’ll see why tomorrow too .. so “I need a Man” CD – can you pack one in the jiffy bag when you send the CD over please!!!!!! Oh thank you for bringing me to the top of the pile .. I do vaguely .. but I’d better pop over to Jan’s blog and have a look .. kelp bikinis and squirrels .. thank you !

Yay congrats to me – I will email across .. pity you can’t bring it over! If you do come .. please bring Kelly and Blue Bunny with you .. Mum would love to meet them both!!

Enjoy the rest of the day - posting penguins – mine’s just about come to a halt .. big hugs all round ... xxoo

Blue Bunny said...

sorre to heer yor mum is sick.

my jannie gots yor addriss for the gift. whoo-hoo!!

luckee day.

now to reed yor newist posting.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Blue Bunnie .. poor Mum - so difficult, but I'll be up twice tomorrow again now the snow has gone.

Gr8 nuws re addrss .. Hardwick wll enjuy - he wll joyn in 'spect .. vry luckee dayee ..

Gd .. see U thr ..
Hmb xxoo

Liara Covert said...

Dear Hilary, growing up in Canada, I recall some very big snowstorms. Back in 1996, we experienced severe ice storms out east where the ice was so heavy, it dangled and broke power lines. In some places, people were without power up to two weeks in frigid temperatures. At that stage, in Quebec especially, community centres were converted into shelters to help people weather out the storm. POwer generators were not used to such extreme weather. Love the icicle images you share and the snow drifts make many people nostalgic. Love your stories!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. Canada – yes huge storms .. Mum and I were in Calgary and went on the Rocky Express over into Vancouver in July 1997 .. we hired a car and managed to get to Jasper, but turned round and went back as it was snowing so heavily – 4 July!!

Your storms are huge in continental America – quite daunting to us English. Frightening to be cut off without electricity – the house gets cold so quickly without any heat. However we do work together in times of trouble and crisis.

Delighted you enjoyed the nostalgia and stories ... thank you!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories