Comet Neowise and Durham Cathedral 12th July 2020

I’m proud to post this photograph by special permission of Andrew Davison.

He took the shot of Comet Neowise from Observatory Hill in Durham. Taken at about 2am  on the morning of 12th July 2020 using a Nikon D750 and Nikkor 28-300mm Lens at 34mm focal length. ISO was 400 and the aperture was f5. The exposure for the shot was 20 seconds.

After this visit, Comet Neowise won’t be seen again for 6,800 years. Get out and see it if you can, it’s a very rare event.

Telescopes available from the Durham Weather Shop.

Thank you Andrew.

Comet Neowise over Durham Cathedral. Photograph by kind permission of Andrew Davison.
Comet Neowise over Durham Cathedral. Photograph by kind permission of Andrew Davison.

Growth of the website over the last year.

Hi there to all of our visitors!

We’re a couple of days into March and we’re all looking forward to Spring starting aren’t we? Although we haven’t seen much snow here in Durham, it seems to have been a long winter. Rain and wind mainly.

Because of the hot summer last year and continuing focus on climate change in the media, the website has really been booming in the last 12 months. Here is the traffic graph showing visitors and views over the last 12 months.

As you can see, from the early days of 2019, views have gone up from 296 in March 2019 to just over 4,000 in February 2020. Visitors have gone from 191 to just under 2,500. Those are huge increases. A factor of 11/12X.

Almost all of this is a result of organic traffic coming from search engines and my promotions on Twitter and Facebook. The Durham Weather Shop is attracting a lot of interest as people are being  increasingly drawn into cutting the ‘fake weather news’ propaganda peddled by the likes of the Daily Express by choosing to take their own measurements instead.

I have recently got to grips with an excellent plugin that now allows me to display live data from my own NetAtmo Weather Station here on the site. It updates every 10 minutes and you can see the data here on the Durham Weather Today page.

I’d like to thank everyone for supporting me at Durham Weather and I hope in 2020 I can continue to grow the site by providing you with more varied and interesting content.


The Weather at Durham UK versus Durham, North Carolina USA

Photograph by permission of Estlin Haiss and Discover Durham

If you search for ‘Durham Weather’ in Google, you’ll likely get a mixture of results from the UK location and the one in the USA. In fact, it’s quite annoying and doubly so because optimising a website for traffic is difficult enough in the very competitive weather niche, but when there’s a competing site on the other side of the Atlantic with the same name it’s a complete pain!

However, I decided that trying to fight against it was futile, so I thought it would be fun to compare the weather (and other things) in Durham UK with that of Durham, North Carolina, USA.

I’ve got to admit, I didn’t know much about the American city, so took to Wikipedia to do some research.

North Carolina is bordered by South Carolina to the south, Georgia to the southwest, Tennessee to the west, Virginia to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean is 130 miles to the east.

The History of the Durhams

Obviously, Durham UK is a lot older than Durham USA. The Cathedral has been here since it was started in 1093 AD. Settlement around the Cathedral followed.

Durham, North Carolina didn’t really exist until a railroad depot was established by Bartlett S. Durham in 1849. It was known as Durham Station for it’s first 20 years of existence.

Both Durham UK and Durham NC are University cities. Durham NC has Duke University and North Carolina Central University.

Downtown Durham. Photograph by permission of Estlin Haiss and Discover Durham.

Durham NC grew rapidly after the railroad came and the main employment at the turn of the 20th Century was Tobacco. The Bull Durham Tobacco Company and Duke’s Tobacco Company established a monopoly in the USA. By 1910, Duke’s was broken up under anti-trust laws. The Duke’s then moved their money into Electric Power Generation.

Durham NC was surrounded by smoky, dirty power plants, not unlike Durham UK in the first part of the 20th Century in fact. Today, Durham NC is a modern city (as can be seen in the main photo above), and a lot of the buildings from the Tobacco days have been renovated and brought back to use. The area is also a noted Research Triangle in the Medical Sector.

How far apart are Durham UK and Durham NC?

According to Google, there is a distance of 3,754 miles between the two cities. Durham NC is a lot further South than Durham UK.

This would lead us to believe that Durham NC is a much warmer place, and that is true. The climate of Durham NC is one which a lot of UK people would probably desire, but the humidity may well be the thing that makes it challenging for those accustomed to the British climate.

The Climate of Durham NC vs Durham UK

Durham NC has a Humid Subtropical Climate, with hot and humid summers, cool winters, and warm to mild spring and autumn. Durham NC receives abundant precipitation, with thunderstorms common in the summer and temperatures from 26 to 38 degC. The region sees an average of 6.8 inches (170 mm) of snow per year, which usually melts within a few days.

Obviously very different to Durham UK, which is classified as Temperate!

Downtown Durham. Photo by permission of Estlin Haiss and Discover Durham.

Looking at the average data here, the average high temperatures for Durham, North Carolina in summer would be regarded as extreme for Durham UK. In Winter, there’s not as much to choose between the two, although North Carolina is a little cooler due to the Continental Influence of Mainland USA.

Durham NC

Average High : 31.4 degC (July)  Extreme High : 41 degC

Average Low : -2.3 degC (Jan)  Extreme Low : -23 degC

Average Rainfall : 100mm per month

Durham UK

Average High : 20.1 degC (July)  Extreme High : 32.9 degC

Average Low : 0.9 degC (January and February)  Extreme Low : -18.3 degC

Average Rainfall : 54mm per month

Do you live in Durham NC? 

I’d love to hear from anyone in North Carolina. If you’re living there right now, please tell us all about your city below.

Just added 3 new Weather Station Products to the Store

Just added another 3 weather station products to the Durham Weather Store today. I’m always trying to make the latest, best products available to you, so here’s a few details and the links to the products (just click the pictures to view them in the Store).

This time we have two products from Sainlogic and one from Aercus Instruments

Sainlogic WS3500 Weather Station

sainlogic 7 in 1 weather station

Sainlogic 7 in 1 Weather Station

Aercus Instruments WS2083 Weather Station

Aercus Instruments WS2083 Professional Weather Station

New Met Office Supercomputer Announced for 2022

north atlantic synoptic chart from february 9th 2020
Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis have both caused widespread wind and flooding damage

Ever wondered why your village was suddenly flooded by a thunderstorm the weather forecasters hadn’t mentioned?

Or why they failed to warn you about the dense fog shrouding your home in the morning?

The fact is that predicting the “big picture” of future conditions has got a lot better – Storm Dennis was spotted six days before it arrived.

But getting local forecasts right – street by street and hour by hour – is still a massive challenge.

And that might now change as the Met Office secures the help of a supercomputer project costing £1.2bn.

Better forecasting means handling more data, more rapidly, and running it through simulations of the atmosphere more accurately.

Already the Met Office is pulling in more than 200 billion observations from satellites, weather stations and buoys out in the ocean every single day, and that’s set to increase.

And working out if a summer downpour will flood your home or one down the road requires more and more processing power.

the met office's existing cray supercomputer
The Met Office’s existing supercomputer

“We’ll be streets ahead of anybody else,” according to Penny Endersby, chief executive of the Met Office.

“Ultimately it’ll make a difference to every individual, every government department, every industry as people see forecasts becoming steadily better.”

It’ll be the biggest investment in the 170-year history of the organisation and will dwarf the £97m bill for the current supercomputer.

In the new project, the billion-plus cost will cover not just the hardware itself but all the running costs too over a ten-year period.

There’ll be a first stage installation, which should be six times more capable than the supercomputer used now.

And then five years later there’ll be a major upgrade to increase performance by a further three times.

What will the supercomputer actually do?

It’ll run what the Met Office calls its “digital twin” of the Earth’s atmosphere, a highly detailed “model” of everything from the winds to the temperatures to the pressures.

picture of supper computer cabinets
The new supercomputer will be six times more capable than the current one

To create this simulated picture of our weather, the globe is divided into grid squares.

These have become smaller as the technology has advanced – and the smaller the better because that means more accuracy.

At the moment, the model of Earth is divided up into a grid of squares that are 10km across.

The UK gets more detailed treatment: its squares are 1,500m across.

London is studied with the aid of even smaller squares – 300m wide – mainly to improve the accuracy of forecasts for the airspace above the big airports.

And the ambition, when the new supercomputer is up and running, is to operate at an even sharper resolution, down to a scale of 100m.

Will it really make a difference?

The Met Office certainly believes it will. There’s huge demand for better forecasting – from the military to the power companies to organisers of big outdoor events.

It could guide Environment Agency teams deploying mobile flood barriers or help the National Grid balancing fluctuations in wind and solar power.

picture of the first met office computer with printout facility
Original supercomputer installed at the Met Office in Dunstable in 1959

And the prospect of rising global temperatures fuelling new and more dangerous extremes of weather makes accuracy all the more important.

There has been a huge improvement in recent years – every passing decade has seen forecasts reach a whole day further into the future.

A five-day forecast now is as accurate as a one-day forecast 40 years ago.

So will the new computing power continue that advance? Penny Endersby prefers not to be make any promises.

“I won’t hang my hat on getting another day in the next decade,” she says. “But it will make our forecasts more accurate, more timely and more localised.”

And the government has calculated what that could mean in hard cash: that for every pound invested, there should be £19 in economic benefit.

And will it help with climate change?

That’s the aim, with the digitally-simulated atmosphere also run far into the future to explore the effects of a hotter world.

The effects of the rise of 1C over the past 150 years are still not fully understood, let alone those of bigger increases to come.

It should mean researchers can add more detail to their projections, weaving in factors such as the way nitrogen reacts with the carbon in the air.

And as the UK moves towards its target of net zero emissions by 2050, there’ll be a chance to explore different options for how the country uses the land.

For example, what will the effects be of planting new forests or protecting peat bogs or growing more biofuels?

Won’t the new supercomputer itself add to carbon emissions?

Like any huge IT installation, it’ll certainly need a massive supply of electricity.

That’s why the Met Office is inviting the potential providers to come up with low-carbon options.

And that’s led to a radical idea. The last 14 Met Office computers have all been housed in the UK – and the new one might not be.

Around half of the processing work – the research devoted to climate change – could be located in countries blessed with easy sources of clean energy.

Iceland with its geothermal sources and Norway with its hydropower are both possibilities.

The offer is only open to countries in the European Economic Area – locating the facility on another continent has been ruled out because of the time lag in using a distant connection.

Invitations to the IT industry to bid for the project are being drawn up and will go out near the end of the year.

And the start date for the new machine will be sometime in late 2022.

Originally posted by the BBC here

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