Saturday, 2 February 2013

Big Freeze Winter 1962/63: part 2 - Weather Forecasting 1960s style and reported outcomes



Further extracts from the recent BBC tv broadcast archive on The Big Freeze of 1962/63 – this is ...

George Cowling presents the first 'in vision'
weather forecast on 11 Jan 1954

Part 2:  Weather forecasting 1960s style ... and reported outcomes of big freeze ...


I seem to remember the normal weather would be presented using magnetic boards and the presenters moved clouds or rain around ... the isobars must have been there ...


... but when the Tonight team explained the reasons for the Siberian conditions waxing, sticking and waning before returning again to torture us ‘the stalwart Britons’ so nearly into submission with the atrocious weather we experienced ...

Bay of Biscay   (note Algeria in north Africa -
pertinent to recent events)
... they had to use separate display boards ... the presenter pulled the boards to and fro across his knee, showing us, by pointing, where the weather had come from, how close the isobars were, how strong the wind etc ... there were about five of these boards!  Life was primitive in the tv studio 50 years ago ...


Stage 1: 21st December a Siberian anti-cyclone started to move in ...



Stage 2: westerly winds weakened, allowing the eastern Siberian winds in – led to snow ...

Snowflake through a microscope

Stage 3:  the anti-cyclone in Greenland moved south and this brought the Boxing Day snow ..


Stage 4:  Warm front met Cold Front so the blizzards blew ...


Stage 5: the weather changed its mind from its normal course – moving south into the Bay of Biscay – once again allowing the Siberian weather in ...


Ø The 1963 presenters then went into an explanation ... American scientists suggest the reason is to be found in Hawaii ...

§  where they suspect the upper air currents (which we now know as Jet Streams) have been exaggerated in their North-South swings over the Pacific, which then affects that swing over the Atlantic ...

§  so blame the freeze on the Hawaiins ...  (and yes they did say that in 1963 – no doubt with tongue in cheek, even then!)

Ø Yet today we realise the jet streams (north and south) affect the global weather in each of our hemispheres ... so those ‘Hawaiin scientists’ were right!!

Each snowflake is unique

The death toll at the time of the broadcast was 120 ...

Hospitals were on severe weather Red Warning notice re beds ... only emergencies were to be accepted ...


Ø That year apparently there were fewer flus and colds ...

The cost ran to £150 - £200 million  (estimate ... I’m sure it was a lot higher)

c/o English Heritage - fields
The country was simply not geared up enough, or had prepared enough after the 1947 winter


The only piece of Parliamentary legislation passed into law – was that compulsory freeze free domestic water systems be installed in all new houses – no mention was made of the housing stock of 14 million older homes in 1963.

Intensive Farming - less habitat for
field birds

The 1963 presenters commented: We can only hope that government and local authorities who have been caught with their pants down will pull their socks up and sort our preparedness out ...?!


.... but technically much has changed – or has it?  We haven’t since then had 74 days of living in a freezer, or the country completely ‘whited out’ ... and I sincerely hope I never have to experience a winter like that.

Robin anxiously wondering where food would be
found - our garden bird
  
After the 50 year old archive footage Chris Packham, today’s presenter, asked how have we as a nation survived it?


This wasn’t discussed as technology has changed so much ... lighter trains, frozen electric third rail, understanding of the snow type we have here, improved housing and utilities ... 

Hazel Dormouse


... but it was noted that people aren’t as prepared to help each other ... people aren’t helping clear pavements etc ... we expect things to be done for us ... etc ...


European Swallow

Big Freeze effect on Wild Life ... when at the best of times the days are at their shortest and coldest, and food is anyway scarce ... this is Chris Packham’s area of expertise – he’s a naturalist – he commented:


Ø bats , hedgehogs, dormice all hibernate

Ø swallows, cuckoos migrate to Africa


European Wren
Others can’t hibernate or escape to warmer climes ...

Ø Small birds (e.g. tits) need to eat about 1/3 of body weight from dawn to dusk


Ø With snow cover and a deep freeze: and the birds suffer really badly – and in 1963 it went on for so long ... 74 days


Ø Some flocks of starlings, lapwings and thrushes ... actually flew out as the first cold snap hit around Christmas ..

Gold Crest

Ø Wrens weighing a few grams – need to eat half their body weight each day ...


Ø Gold crests and long tailed tits eat invertebrates ... hundreds of thousands died ...


River Exe - the flooded area per my
post of Jan 13th 

Waterways:


Ø Virtually every pond, lake and river was frozen solid ...


Ø Birds depend on water ... to live and drink
Water Rails painted by
Naumann (1780 - 1857)


Ø Water Rails turned into ruthless killers ...


Ø ... other birds altered their routines ...


Ø Coastal estuaries and marshes offered a relief for migrating Arctic wildfowl – this was challenging even for them as there were very few unfrozen water areas ...

Other adaptions:


European Buzzard
Ø Scavengers and predators did ok ... particularly buzzards and kestrels .... crows and magpies ....


Ø Grain eating birds like starlings and sparrows turned cannibal and ate their cousins – other birds ...


It was estimated that half of all Britain’s birds had died ...


Arctic Migrating Birds
... surprisingly it didn’t seem to make much difference in the long term ... within 5 years the wren bounded back to previous levels ... and by the 1970s had become the commonest bird in the UK


Birds can adapt by having lots of broods and therefore lots of young ...


European Lapwing
However in the last 50 years our farming practices have changed a great deal ... farming is now so efficient – that there’s very little left in the wide open fields for the farm birds ...


... whereas the garden birds are doing better – as we tend to feed them ...


Bewick Swan - I need to eat ... !
The annual Great British Garden Watch has just happened – so when the results are out ... I’ll do a post on the outcome ...


We, as humans, really do need to take into account all of life ... each insect, ‘pest’, seed, grass, plant, algae, lichen all nurture the life we depend on ... everything we do always leads to unintended consequences ...


... the use of agrichemicals during the war and particularly afterwards affects wildlife even to this day – there was a note last night on the River Wye (Britain’s 5th longest river: for a great deal of its course it forms the border between England and Wales) oysters (which can live for 120 years) – the oyster ‘inspected’ was probably 60 years old and showed signs of those agri-chemicals ...

River Wye valley with Tintern Abbey

The advances in technology and science are enormous – if only we can get the (global) human mind to alter its approach to life ...


Will the 1963 type of winter happen again ... very possibly because the global weather is changing so quickly, as it always has ...


What the world ahead holds for our future generations we can do our best to influence ... while what the universe has in store for us is anyone’s guess ...



Do we have time – again ... who knows ......... I live in hope, I do what I can, that’s all we can do

Here endeth part 2 of three




Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories




31 comments:

Bossy Betty said...

Love this Mother Earth. We do need to take care of her!

Yvonnes Poetry Corner said...

Another excellent account of our bad winter,

Take care Hilary.
Yvonne.

Val Poore said...

This is so very interesting, Hilary. I have really enjoyed reading it. I was a small person at that time, living in London. I remember vividly a walk home from primary school when I cried the whole way home because of the cold. I assume that was 1962/3. It set my feelings about being cold for life, and was one of the reasons I ended up in South Africa!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Half of the birds died. That's a lot.

Mike Goad said...

And, of course, most of us kids here in the US had no idea how bad the winter was there in the UK that year. I don't remember anything particularly bad about our winter in western Nebraska that year. We never had any school closings due to weather, except for one freak storm in April 1966 or 1967.

A Lady's Life said...

So true maybe these changes also change the currents which need to be changed because of man's behaviour We get to live and harm the planet and then the planet needs to heal itself and moves things around

Inger said...

That's so sad, all those birds. What about your water pipes and those cold, cold homes? I lived through two winters in London, 1959-60 and 1960-61 and I will never forget how cold it was in that big vicarage house and even in the smaller one in Ealing. And the weather was relatively warm then, no snow, no freeze, and still so very cold inside. I'm glad I escaped this winter.

Laura Eno said...

I feel so bad for the birds now. It really never occured to me that they could turn cannibal!
I remember the funny TV broadcasts of weather during those years, with magnetic clouds stuck on a board. :)

Annalisa Crawford said...

The sentence that stood out for me was how we're not prepared to help each other out anymore. We really will be the architects of our own downfall, we're getting so much more selfish and dependant on the state than ever!

Gattina said...

I remember this winter 1963, it was the year I became 20 ! But honestly, I on't have any terrible memories of this time. We always had snow in winter and sunshine in summer (with rain ;) Then came a period where we had no snow at all for years, now we are almost back to "normal" and they make a whole fuzz out of so said "Global warming" which now became climate changing or something like that. It's for sure it's not Hawaii anymore, lol ! now it's the pollution in China (probably)

Sherry Ellis said...

I think sometimes the media hypes things up to make it seem like gloom and doom. I think nature will adapt to changing weather patterns.

Teresa Coltrin said...

What a scary time. When severe weather happens of any kind (ice, blizzards, drought) we must take care of the wildlife. Without wildlife, our eco systems will not function.

AGAIN, great post. I suddenly feel cold. Reall cold.:)

T

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Bossy Betty - you love your flowers and life ... and thus you appreciate Mother Earth .. I suspect you're doing your bit - wonderful to see you here ..

@ Yvonne - many thanks ..

@ Val - I was a slightly bigger person in Surrey struck with flu (I guess) at the beginning and a virus at the end ... it was not nice and the house wasn't warm when you got home either!

I hung around a while - we had a lovely summer in 1966 - pure sunshine ... but I did get to follow you to SA ... just for a change, not for the weather!

@ Alex - yup .. half the birds - well I'm not surprised .. no water, no food ...

@ Mike - well we didn't have tv like now, or FB, T, email et al ..

It's interesting to see everyone's takes on these posts - those in the UK, and those elsewhere .. I sort of feel we don't really understand how anyone else lives ...

I did note today on someone else's blog .. she said the boys x 3 weren't able to go to school because of some weather problems ...

@ A Lady's Life - I think the jet streams have been changing through the centuries/millennia for ever ... the volcanic eruptions in the 1800s blocking the sunlight from the earth ...

It is us .. but not all us ... and the earth will go on - we may wipe out loads .. but the earth will be there - as long as something doesn't blast us into smithereens - then there isn't much hope!

@ Inger - I've no idea and I don't remember .. I'll try to ask - but my parents and elderlies have all gone (nearly) ...

.. and Inger I sure can believe those vicarages were cold - they weren't heated in normal times!!!!!

You were lucky you'd popped over to the States by then and were cowboying it ...

@ Laura - I'm feeding the birds here .. in the winter and I keep the birdbaths unfrozen ...

Oh I'm glad my memory isn't that bad - re magnetic cloud symbols!

@ Annalisa - well we're not are we? .. prepared to help each other - so many don't think of others ..

It would help the world if we could put ourselves into others' shoes ...

@ Gattina - I expect you were geared up for it on the continent - we most certainly weren't ...

.. and yes, we had those idyllic periods of seasons - they seem to have disappeared .. the light still gets longer I'm pleased to say!! Spring is coming ...

Our climate is changing - always has and always will ... and regrettably as you say - the pollution and smog ...

@ Sherry - well they have to have something to talk about .. but not that year - it was real and awful!!

@ Teresa ... it must have been for the adults and new parents as Bob above was ...

Exactly as you say without our wildlife all sorts - insects, birds, fish ... our eco-system will definitely not function and nor will we!!

Thanks for the thumbs up ..

Thanks everyone - I love your interaction and comments ... enjoy your weekend ... Hilary

Munir said...

I am glad that I am not a Wren - - LOL I mean to have to eat half of my body's weight.
I am amazed how a Swan has to dive in to find food. It looks so graceful on the surface.
It is true that other creatures of God struggle to survive. If only we give attention like some scientists ( and yourself) do.
Take care ! Cheers !

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,

Your provocative article, detailed, thoughtful and articulate, as always, leaves us to ponder poignant messages.

We must ensure that we do all in our power to redress the balance and get back in balance with nature's natural rhythms. Indeed, like you, I live in hope. We need to leave a positive legacy for this planet for all living things. And the universe leaves us guessing.

Thank you, Hilary. And my gratitude for your interaction and support, has no boundaries.

A peaceful Sunday to you.

Gary

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I'm committed, and I know my grandchildren certainly are. But it's scary how many aren't.

Great post, Hilary!

L.G. Smith said...

You know it gets very cold and snowy in the winter where I live in Colorado. I feel so guilty if I don't put food out for the birds. I get chickadees, house finches, and juncos mostly, but I also have a gang of bluejays who knock on my backdoor every morning at 8am to get their peanuts. They're very insistent that I toss them a handful everyday, snow or sun.

It's sad that so much wildlife (and people!) suffered in the 1963 storms.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Munir - me too .. eating half my body weight would be a little much! There are lots of diving birds - but I loved this photo ... so it got included. As long as we can do what we can and a little more - we're spreading the conservation and care words ...

@ Gary - You've raised that point about how before wireless and satellite communications - everyone lived by the rhythms of the seasons and even if they were grim ... life carried on -

Exactly as you say - we live in hope and consider others and life ahead ... even if the universe leaves us guessing.

@ Joylene - it's wonderful when the little ones are involved - yet like you I see so many adults with a couldn't care less attitude and I think - what next ... scary!

@ Luanne - the little birds .. I'm glad you're looking after them - but it shows how quickly they adapt ... I try and hide the food under the bushes .. but the 'thugs' (as I call them) come rushing in - the scavenger gulls, magpies, jays, pigeons ... I hope the little birds (tits, robins) and blackbirds and a few others we have around get something to eat!

Thank you for commenting .. it's warmer and damp today .. but anyone in North America - enjoy that Game tonight ...

Cheers Hilary

Patsy said...

Fabulous pictures! I love that swan and the little mouse especially.

Susan Blake said...

Hi Hilary,
I enjoyed this post even though I didn't live thru that particular winter in the UK. We've had a few tremendously bad ones here too though.

You brought up an interesting point about preparedness in this post. Weather patterns may be changing but so are people and I don't feel people really ARE prepared for hard times. They think the hard times are in history books! At least in this country I see people going about their little lives, fretting and stressing out over the silliest of things, but seemingly all too incapable of helping themselves. Kind of scary!

Like you, I live with a ton of hope!
Hugs
SuZen

Chuck said...

Hilary, I can't even imagine 74 days in the "freezer" or "white out" I experienced these things in the short term when I lived in northern Ohio, but 74 days? I was only 7 at the time of this happening and can't say I ever heard about it.

A shame for all the birds and other wild life not used to this harshness.

Great post!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Patsy .. I understand that coming from the country girl at heart!!

@ Susan - I think/ know you're right - we're not ready for the hard times .. what worries me more - is we don't know what hard times are ... to even prepare for any hard times.

Your comment that hard times are in history books .. I'm somewhat surprised that Hurricane Sandy and its effects haven't impacted more .. ie loss of electricity, reliance on one utility supplier .. without any knowledge of what to do ..

Yea - ton of hope is what we need .. hugs to you ..

@ Chuck - it just swamped us .. and I was in it - without realising it .. being 14/15 at the time ... I'm sure tv 50 years didn't do much about what was going on in other countries back then ..

Well life always moves on .. thankfully - they can adapt quite quickly .. we as humans don't!!

Cheers Hilary

juliet said...

Half of all the birds dying - that really says it. What a huge extreme of cold. Pants down and socks up - I had to laugh at this bit. The British never lose their sense of humour.

Empty Nest Insider said...

It's horrible what happened to the birds. I also didn't realize that the little wrens are required to eat half of their body weight.
Julie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Juliet - it was an horrendous winter and at that stage we just lived through it .. not realising the effect on everything - survival was the thing - bird, beast and human alike!

I loved that phrase too - so had to put it in ..

@ Julie - I learn so much from these programmes and seeing everything 50 years ago .. I expect there are wrens here - certainly there were at my uncle's house ..

Lovely to see you both - have fun weeks ahead .. Hilary

Old Kitty said...

A most timely post! Especially after those awful reports of seabirds off Cornwall dying covered up with some sort of pollution from the seas - a waxy substance - a most unnatural and most likely human form of pollutant.
:-( Terrible.

Take care
x

M. Reka said...

This is so very beautiful post, Hilary. I have really enjoyed reading it :)

hugs
marinela

Tara Tyler said...

a science teacher i know said he doesnt believe in global warming, he believes in cycles... great answer!
74 days! 1/2 the birds! ah!
i hope it doesnt come around again any time soon! sounds like a mini ice age!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Old Kitty - I saw the poor Guillemots .. they only come to shore to breed .. sadly I don't think they'll easily trace the cargo - or be able to do anything about it .. the ocean probably almost needs more protection than the land ...

@ Marinela - glad you enjoyed it ..

@ Tara - I'm sure he's right .. if a sun spot pops out - it could easily fry our technology .. we'd be back in the medieval ages ...

Well I certainly don't want to experience that winter again ... it was just dreadful!!

Cheers to the three of you - we're into more winter weather here this week ... spring does come soon though! ... Hilary

Robyn Campbell said...

This is great for homeschool. We HAVE to take of our earth. Why can't people see that? Why are so many unfeeling about it? They live here too. Those agrichemicals are horrid, Hil. xoxo

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Robyn .. delighted that these posts are giving you some extra input - I think people don't think! Don't realise .. and even if they're told still don't pay attention or take any interest ..

The human is a strange creature?!

Cheers Hilary