Thursday 20 July 2023

It's raining in Edgware! - Weather, Climate Change and Global Warming

Sometimes, I have to write blogs, as I am driven to distraction by crass stupidity and willful misinterpretation of proveable facts by people who are either very thick or very malicious. 

Let me start, with a short diversion, to explain why this interests me and why we should all educate ourselves on the subject. About 40 years ago, Gray Ramsey, the drummer in my band excitedly played me a cassette demo of a new track by the legend that is Steve Strange called "It's Raining in Edgware". Steve had bought a sampler and sampled a fart and played a melody with it at the beginning of the track. It was a rather good track and since then I've always associated Edgware with rain (rather like I associate Borehamwood with overripe tomatoes, but that's another story). My Dad was also there. He roared laughing and berated me for not being able to make such amusing music. Later that evening, he took me to one side and said, in his thick Aussie accent "I really like your mate's song. But did you know that Mill Hill is the coldest place in the whole of London?". Dad had been a WWII pilot and part of the qualifications was in meteorology. For bomber pilots such as my Dad, it was literally a matter of life and death to understand the weather. He explained that as Mill Hill was the highest point with a London post code and was the most North Westerly, it was colder, up to four degrees colder than central London. Dad came from Australia, they didn't have weather in Blackall, Queensland. He was born during a drought, a proper drought. There had been no rain for five years, he told me that he first saw rain at the age of four. What had been a dustbowl was now a huge river, called Coopers Creek. The land sprung into life. Plants and strange animals, dormant for years, sprung into life. When we had what we called droughts and hosepipe bans. he'd laugh.

Dad died in 1987, he was an intelligent man. He believed that understanding the patterns of weather was a something that was fundamental to an education. When he first heard of the subject of global warming, he was fascinated. As an Aussie, born in the outback, where the temperatures were always around 40 degrees, he dreamed of such a climate in England. When he studied it, was horrified. He told me that it would not make Britain like the outback of Queensland. He explained that due to the unique position of the UK, the prevailing change was that the UK would simply become wetter and more miserable. This is because the more the earth heats up, the more water will evaporate in the seas. This will form clouds in the Atlantic, that will dump water on Edgware and Mill Hill. Dad felt that the reports he'd read failed to take into account many factors, not least this evaporation. As clouds are white, they actually reflect sunlight, so to some degree would offset the rises. None of the papers he read mentioned this. He did however 100% accept the science and explained it's effects to me in detail. It is a shame that schools seem unable to do the same.

I was lucky. Dad took time to explain everything to me properly, in terms I could understand. What makes me laugh is just how stupid most of the people who tweet about the subject are. They look out of the window, see clouds in July and dismiss the whole matter, stating that as this July is colder than last July, climate change is nonsense. I felt it is high time, that I explained the fact that weather, climate change and global warming are three different things. I am under no illusion that this will be wasted on people, who cannot tell their backside from their elbow, but you have to try and help the poor darlinghs.

So first of all, we need to understand the difference between weather, climate change and global warming.

Weather. This is what we describe the state of the atmosphere at a given time, in a given place. As my Dad explained, Mill Hill is colder thand Edgware. Inverness is colder than London. In Mill Hill, the thing that determis the weather is the direction the wind is blowing. If it is blowing from the South West, off the Atlantic, it is likely to be wet, as that is where clouds are former. If it is blowing from the north, it is likely to be cold. If it is blowing from the South East and up from Africa, it is likely to be warm. If it is coming from the East, in Winter it will be dry and cold and in summer it will be warm.  

In the UK, the most common weather pattern is prevailing winds from the South West. The sea is colder than the land in Summer and warmer in winter. Presently, this is the way the wind is blowing, so that whilst Europe swelters, the air we are getting is colder and damp. Last year, when we were sweltering, we had a large area of high pressure, that is fairly still, with air moving from the warm south east. The biggest factor in determining our winter and summers are the jet streams, huge air currents that determine how the air systems move around the north atlantic. When these move north or south, we get different weather, hot summers such as 1976 and cold winters such as 1962/63.

Weather in the UK is often almost impossible to predict, even with massive computers and hundreds of stations monitoring weather. Knowing exactly where clouds will drop rain is very difficult to know. Sometimes, it rains in Edgware and is sunny in Mill Hill. This year, the Mill Hill Music Festival cancelled an outdoor gig, because rain and Thunderstorms were predicted. They never materialised, although South West London had flash floods. This is what weather is like. If you see someone comparing a random day this year with last year, they simply don't understand that the wind in the UK was blowing in a different direction. 

Climate Change is a different thing all together. This has little to do with day-to-day weather. Climate change means that prevailing temperatures and rain patterns show a marked difference over a longer period of time, which results in physical changes to the landscape. This may mean crops won't grow, animals lose their environment, waterways disappear or flood become common place, when they weren't before. I went to Pune in India in 2015 and the locals told me that the dates for the monsoon, which used to be accurate almost to the day, had completely changed. Areas that, unlike the UK, are not surrounded by water, see this to a far greater extent. As my Dad noted, there are all manner of factors, which we may not understand until we see the effects in action. But the bottom line is that when climate changes and food supplies are affected, that results in huge impact on local populations.

Global Warming is different to climate change, although it is also a driver. This is the thing that the armchair army of tweeters understand least. They see clouds today, when we had glorious sunshine last July and announce that Global Warming is a myth. It is a shame that they don't actually understand what it means. Across the globe, there are tens of thousands of stations that monitor the temperatures, humidity, air pressure and wind levels. Any one of these, on any one day, records the weather. When you take the sum of them all, from across the whole planet, and analyse the changes over a number of years., this tells you whether the planet is warming up or cooling down. Having all of this data, is a relatively new phenominum. We have no idea of global temperatures in Roman or Neolithic times. Does that mean that the modelling we have now is invalid? Of course it doesn't. The job of scientists is to analyse the data, identify trends and postulate theories based on this data. The way science works is that until someone disproves a theory, we tend to accept it if the data supports it. Sadly, what climate change deniers and people who refute Global Warming tend to do is look at very small subsets of data to make their point. So the fact that it's raining in Edgware in July, to them means that the fact that subsistence farmers in sub saharan Africa cannot grow crops due to the changing climate is 'nonsense and a scam'. It may well be that the people who decry climate change and global warming are correct, but if they are, they need to base their theories on complete data sets, rather than a small subset that they can manipulate to suit their rather fatuous arguments.

If you want to know which way the wind is blowing in the UK, check out the Met Office Surface pressure charts. As you can see, the wind is coming off the Atlantic from the North West, which explains the clouds and the slightly lower temperatures. If it was coming from the opposite direction, the temperatures would most probably be 15-20 degrees hotter. 


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