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Category: Editorial

Climate Change – Donald Trump has broken my silence

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m running a weather blog here at Durham Weather, and even though every man and his dog has voiced their opinion on the subject of Climate Change, up until now i’ve kept quiet about it.

It seems that in the last few years everyone has become bolder and added their two penneth to the debate. Some folk just make fools of themselves on Facebook and clearly have no knowledge of what they are spouting. They do it anyway because they think it makes them look intelligent, but in fact it just exposes them as clueless idiots who just like seeing themselves in print as keyboard warriors. They’ll get noticed taking the contrary viewpoint, right?

It doesn’t actually matter because their misguided opinions aren’t really worth anything to the rest of us. Consensus among our climate scientists is what counts, not the ramblings of the great unwashed or goofball, bat shit crazy conspiracy people. The consensus among climate scientists, and it’s a consensus that has continued to strengthen, is that man made climate change is upon us and is starting to affect our World’s future, big time. We are rapidly screwing up our own planet.

As i’ve been an amateur meteorologist for the past 40 years, I can see where the consensus is coming from. I can see it in my own records (which admittedly don’t span a great deal of time), but more importantly I can see it in the Durham record, which is the 2nd oldest unbroken meteorological series in the country (behind Oxford Radcliffe). I can also see it in nature. It doesn’t take a genius (I’m proof of that) if you just open your eyes.

First signs of change

The climate is changing and I can see that things that happened quite regularly in my childhood hardly happen at all now. That’s not rose-tinted speccs because I don’t just rely on my memory (it’s poor). I refer to documents of my own and others. Things are altering rapidly, too rapidly for nature to cope, and that my friends is the crux of it. We are changing things so quickly that normal evolutionary paths are not options. We are now seeing extinctions instead. Stuff is dying. Norms that have been with us for hundreds of thousands of years are being ripped apart.

Scientists first started noticing the change in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Back then, it was dubbed ‘Global Warming’. This is the phrase Donald Trump mentions with glee as he attempts to mock and deny the concensus the World’s climate scientists have reached. In reality, it was Climate Change. It was accelerating and 20 years later everyone realised that something was seriously up. Even more alarming is that things are happening even more rapidly than the modelling predicted! It’s worse than worst case!

global temperature 1850-2017 animation

But climate has always changed!

Now, those who oppose the consensus claim that the Climate has been changing for centuries, and that is true. Civilizations have thrived and died as global climate patterns have altered. No-one is denying that, because it is fact. There have always been long term variations because weather is chaotic and ‘climate’ is merely a way to try to summarise that. What past history does show is how civilizations have been wiped out by climate change. That’s what happens folks, people are starved, frozen, drowned or burned out. Californians were burned out last year and Trump blamed poor forest management! He then decided he’d help out by cutting off funding.

However, the Climate changes of the past have tended to be localised and not Global. They have also been more gradual (with the exception of the Younger Dryas episode). There has been little artificial forcing because man did not have the capability to do it. There were much fewer people on Earth, they hadn’t started mining and burning coal for fuel, nor built pollution belching factories. There was also fewer livestock and deforestation hadn’t happened at all.

Receding glaciers and Greenland

Receding glaciers were one of the first signs of large scale changes. “Summat was up”. Glaciers rely on conditions below freezing high up the valleys in which they flow. Rising temperatures in lower regions have resulted in glaciers melting and receding. The glaciers lose mass by melting, then there is no longer as much ice mass to keep them moving forward. The Alps have suffered a huge loss, but Greenland is the area of most concern to us.

Greenland and the North Atlantic are the areas of the planet in which the Ocean’s great circulations are driven. These in turn drive weather systems that affect us all, planet-wide. They are vital in the transfer of heat around the globe. If this is disrupted then who knows what? One thing that seems to be touted a lot is that climate of Western Europe will get a lot colder. That stretches the little brains of deniers – “How can Global Warming make us colder? It’s bloody rubbish man!”.

The mechanism of the whole ocean current system is dependent on the sinking of water in the North Atlantic that then circles the globe as deep water currents. The whole cycle takes about 1,000 years to complete. Disruption of this sinking mechanism in any way could completely change the distribution of local climates (and scarily it may take 1,000+ years to revert back). The system has however proved to be remarkably resilient so far, but we are now stressing the balls off it. How long can it last? We don’t know!

What we are seeing now is that the melting of glaciers in Greenland is resulting in a vast outflow of cold meltwater into the North Atlantic, right around where it isn’t really wanted. It is postulated that this will prevent the sinking of water into the deep ocean, disrupting the gyre (the circulation). Observations in the North Atlantic do indeed show disruption of the flow of the North Atlantic Drift. This may be similar to what happened in the aforementioned ‘Younger Dryas’ episode, where temperatures plunged within a handful of years.

Carbon Dioxide and the Tipping Point

Some of you may also have heard scientists referring to a ‘tipping point’, where man’s forcing of the climate system will result in a climatic ‘flip’. What this means is that when the climate becomes unstable through excess (human) forcing, the Earth’s ocean and atmospheric circulations will again try to settle into a new stable pattern (climates like to be stable). This may be a subtle shift in circulations, but could end up as a complete catastrophic rehash of circulation patterns. This is the great unknown. The more man changes the atmosphere, the more likely the catastrophic change. This is what we risk. Is it worth gambling all our chips on that?

Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere are our ‘Climatic Canary’. The actually amount of CO2 in percentage terms is miniscule compared to the other atmospheric gases, but the climate system is very sensitive to Carbon Dioxide levels and also to Methane. When pre-industrial levels were 280 ppm, a current level of 410 ppm represents an increase of 46% on the normal equilibrium level. That is huge. It continues to rise and the rise is accelerating. How much CO2 can we add to the atmosphere before the tipping point is reached? We just don’t know!

human co2 emissions versus atmospheric concentration

Orange Donald

I mentioned Orange Donald, supposed leader of the Free World. He is also the leader of the World’s 2nd biggest emitter of CO2. China is the biggest emitter, with roughly double that of the USA, but it has 4 times as many people. China is also now trying to develop power from renewable sources, with vast Hydroelectric and Solar projects being undertaken. The USA however, under Trump, has gone the opposite way. Trump has cancelled his country’s part in the Global Climate agreement in Paris, and has now also removed restrictions on his domestic fossil fuel burners. He’s also decided he doesn’t want to see the dire projections of the future, just the ‘next few years’, because that doesn’t look too bad, does it? Bury your big orange head in the sand Donald, it’ll be someone elses problem soon. You can go back to cheating at golf.

Why has Trump done this? Because he is one of the people I talked about earlier. He thinks he knows more than the experts (about most things) and is apparently in the pocket of the polluter lobby. Trump should be leading the World in cleaning up the filthy planet, but has instead taken a stance which twenty years ago might have been excusable for a sceptic, but today, it’s a prehistoric, dark-ages decision which shows what an ignorant, poorly educated, selfish man he really is. Thank goodness he will last no longer than a couple of years. His backward thinking policies (remember he’s a businessman, and I use that term very loosely) do not make logical sense to me. What is becoming clear is that politics should be left to politicians, not people who bankrupt their own casinos!

We are perhaps only 10 years away from the ‘tipping point’. In the meantime, low lying islands and coast will disappear underwater and refugees will put pressure on adjoining countries. Some of the World’s biggest cities are built on coasts (London and New York are sitting ducks). The Earth will survive (as Gaia), but the human race seems to just get more stupid year on year and may not be around much longer under the leadership of such people as Orange Donald. Decisions taken today will govern whether tomorrow’s politicians are left with any options going forward. They will probably be living in the ‘too late’ World. “WTF were they thinking??????”

When the great David Attenborough speaks up about the seriousness of the situation, EVERYONE should listen and act. To ignore what is happening is to sign our own death warrant.

Anyone for tennis?

High likelyhood of Human civilisation coming to an end by 2050, report finds

Review of the Netatmo Weather Station

My first Weather Station was a thermometer screened by a baked bean tin!

Since 1975 i’ve had a weather station in some shape or form (more or less). I started out with a home made screen consisting of a thermometer and a baked bean tin, opened out and painted white to form a screen, nailed to a fencepost in the garden. I became totally obsessed with that, recording 4 times a day. This was a manual thing in those days, so I had to go out in all weathers to keep it up. However it came with me through some monumental and historic weather, namely the hot summers of 1975 and 1976, the freezing cold winters of 1978-79 and 1981-82, before I moved house.

Then I bought a Davis Weathermonitor 2

I didn’t manage to get another one together until I was married, in a different part of town (Ferryhill). This was a little digital unit with a separate rain gauge. It lasted a couple of years, but the only really notable weather it captured was the snow of February 1991.

By 1997 I’d gathered together enough cash to buy a Davis Weather Station. This was very expensive for me, but it attached to my computer and I could read the weather without going outside. It was all cabled together though and looked a bit unsightly. I ran this until about 2011, culminating in the phenomenal December of 2010. Then it died.

After moving to our Durham house, we had a garden back (although it was a total tip until last year). Making the garden good again, I began to appreciate it’s microclimate and wanted to get a station going again. These days, wireless kit has become commonplace and now interfaces easily with smart phones and tablets. One of the most difficult things about the Davis was getting it to run on a Mac. I’m still a great fan of Davis kit, but I needed the new station to run with Apple’s hardware, so I ended up picking up a Netatmo, a French Company.

My 3rd an current weather station is by NetAtmo

The Netatmo station comes very well packaged, direct from France. Unpacking it reveals two sleek aluminium tubes – the larger one being the base station sensor that sits indoors, and a second smaller tube that’s designed to sit outside. Documentation is minimal, but points you to downloading an app to your phone to facilitate the installation. The first thing to do is get the base station talking to your wifi. The base station is mains powered and once that is plugged in the app leads you through the configuration of adding the second sensor. Pretty easy stuff.

Next thing is siting the two items. I chose to sit the base station in the corner of the living room, behind the TV. The base station monitors indoor temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, ambient noise and carbon dioxide.

Next, the outside sensor. This measures outside temperature and humidity. It also allows Dew Point to be derived. The small external sensor runs from two AA batteries which need to be installed when pairing with the base station. It comes with a mounting strap with velcro attachment, designed to secure it around a drainpipe or post. It also comes with a slot at the back of the aluminium casing by which you can attach it to a wall with a screw. This was my chosen route and I put it on the north facing wall of my shed (the only place in the garden not to receive direct sunlight. I had read online that the sensor needed sheltering from direct rain, as it would mean the humidity readings would stay high until the sensor dried out. For that reason I installed a little pelmet above it, made from PVC tongue and groove cladding, to protect it from the rain.

Extra purchase was the Rain Gauge

I also purchased the Netatmo rain gauge, but unfortunately forget to get a mounting bracket (sold separately) so I couldn’t set this up straight away. The rain gauge is very sleek and has a broad, transparent plastic funnel top and a black cylinder below housing the tipping bucket rain detector. Each tip is calibrated at 0.1mm of rain, so it’s quite high resolution. There’s a screw hole in the base for attachment to the bracket, which I secured to a fence post with three screws. It’s important that the top of the gauge is perfectly level to make sure the ‘tip’ works properly, so I set it up with a spirit level to make sure. There is also an ingenious anemometer if you have a suitable site for mounting and correct exposure.

As can be seen, the data on the station can be shown via a Widget (actually from a 3rd party Netatmo site) and Netatmo also operate their own Network where other station owner’s data can be seen on a map. This is useful for local comparisons and it’s easy to see when a station is incorrectly sited. The third party sites can also enable much more extensive analysis than the Netatmo one and it’s possible to set up a weather station page to display current readings

Verdict on the NetAtmo Weather Station

The NetAtmo weather station is a capable device for amateur weather observers and provides accurate data, and being wireless it can be installed discretely without much fuss. The app from NetAtmo is basic, but there are numerous other third-party ones that offer better visualisation of the data. I’m currently using myatmo and Smartmixin. 

Setup is easy using a smartphone such as an iPhone or Samsung device.

It looks good, and could very easily fit in with modern decor in the living room or study and wouldn’t look out of place at all. It’s smooth lines allow it to blend with any modern furniture.

I think i’d give it 8/10


NetAtmo Weather Station

Price : £119.99 (extra for rain gauge and anemometer)

Available From : Our Amazon Store


Liam Dutton Explains How To Spot Fake Weather Stories

Liam Dutton explains why most weather stories carried by the tabloid press and issued by organisations like Exacta Weather and the like should be ignored as complete hokum. Most weather forecasters just ignore such stuff, but irresponsible and sensationalist forecasts ‘gets Liam’s goat’, as it does mine, so here’s his video.

Cheers, Liam

 

 

If you have any stories about how bad or bogus weather stories have affected your decisions and life, please let us know by commenting below.

Exacta Weather and the Daily Express – Fake Weather News

animated picture showing fake weather stories from the daily express newspaper featuring exacta weather and nathan rao
Some fake weather news pages from the Daily Express featuring exacta weather and nathan rao

It’s nearly Winter again, and if you look at the headlines in the papers, you’ll notice that the silly season has started again, particularly regarding weather stories. It’s noticeable that the same names crop up consistently – exacta weather, james madden, piers corbyn and nathan rao

Every winter now it seems certain newspapers are spouting stories of Snowmaggedon, with 3 months of blizzards and record low temperatures. They claim links with Solar activity, El Nino, and other pseudo-scientific links that are at best dubious and at worst complete and utter garbage.

There also appears to be a small hardcore of characters feeding the papers with this rubbish. The newspapers lap it up, because it sells copy, and that is their business. Most of the stories aren’t based on fact, and some are completely fabricated by the writers.

The three main protagonists of the fake weather stories seem to be:

James Madden (owner of Exacta Weather)

Nathan Rao (freelance journalist often seen posting as a Science Writer in the Daily Express)

Piers Corbyn (Weather Action owner and brother of Labour Party leader Jeremy)

James Madden/Exacta Weather

exacta weather logo and webpageNow, as a seasoned amateur weatherman, these three make my blood boil. The first of them, James Madden (Exacta Weather) is the main driver of the rubbish predictions we see in the tabloid newspapers every other day. There’s always a quote from him. If you read a weather story and James Madden/Exacta Weather is included, please discount it as complete hogwash. He tries to give the impression that Exacta Weather are a huge company, with banks of computers generating their own model output for James to interpret, but in fact Exacta Weather isn’t even registered at Companies House. No, James is a one man operation running from a flat in Lancaster.

He was lucky enough to guess (NOT forecast) the cold December of 2010 and has been trying ever since to replicate that luck, but it has deserted him. In fact, if you want to know what the weather is going to be like, presume it will be the opposite of what James predicts and you won’t be dissapointed.

Nathan Rao

photo of nathan raoNathan Rao has somehow weedled his way into the celebrity forecasting slot. He likes the sound of his own voice and is one of the new breed of people who’ll do anything to be on TV. He is accepted into the celebrity fold because he fits perfectly into the mould. All teeth and no substance. He is a professional journalist who writes sensational copy to sell newspapers. In that respect, he’s an Editors dream, but his stories contain very little science and sometimes I think he’s submitting a script for the latest Hollywood disaster movie. He should know better, but he’s more concerned with letting the World know he’s the biggest Madonna fan. Enough said I think.

 

Piers Corbyn

I first capiers corbyn and jeremy corbynme across Piers Corbyn when he was invited to speak at a Meteorological Society meeting at Durham University in the early 1980’s. He looks like a typical mad professor type and for a while I thought he had an interesting product. He claimed to have bet on the outcome of his own predictions with a great deal of success, but like the other two, he’s a fanatical self publicist and believes he can declare his own success rate, without having his methods independently verified.

It is a common factor that these people all believe they can verify their own methods and their results. They claim high levels of success rate, but strangely, independent analysis of their methods would reveal actual success rates are worse than chance. That means that an average chimpanzee could produce results just as good or even better than their systems.

My advice if you are a discerning reader of weather stories, dismiss these people as charlatans and instead listen to people who know what they’re talking about. Read weather reports from our own Prof Tim Burt (Durham University), Roger Brugge (University of Reading), Trevor Harley and the Royal Meteorological Society. Liam Dutton also tries his hardest to challenge these people producing the sensationalist headlines.

Instead of relying on Fake Weather News, why not go ahead and buy your own weather station?

 

 

Professor Gordon Manley – Durham Weather Royalty

Professor Gordon Manley (1902 – 1980) became the first Head of the Department of Geography at Durham University in 1928. During his nine year term of office, Professor Manley became the Curator of the Durham University Observatory where he did much work in establishing the Durham temperature series as comparable to that of Oxford.

Professor Manley’s work at Durham laid the foundation for his Central England Temperature Record, a series dating from 1694 and maintained to this day. In 1952 Collins published his Climate and the British Scene in their New Naturalist series. This book, easily accessible to the non-academic reader, was one of his greatest contributions to British climatology.

Gordon Manley died in 1980. His obituary in The Geographical Journal noted that his “departure removes a notable figure from the ranks of a subject currently enjoying a marked revival of interest, a revival which he did much to foster”.

Durham University Observatory

Summer 2008 – Worst in Living Memory?

There’s a lot of talk going around about summer 2008 being the ‘worst in living memory’. Well, I hate that phrase, because it is basically worthless. The human memory is horribly fallible when it comes to remembering what happened when, especially regarding the weather. The memory filters out things, depending on the activity being undertaken. It also has no concept of what is ‘normal’, and how current conditions compare to that norm. It is purely a qualitative measure, rather than a quantitative one. In addition, substantial bias creeps in due to media stories from elsewhere in the UK. Some people also choose to disregard official weather statistics (ie the amount of rain, sunshine, temps recorded etc), thinking that their memory is perfectly infallible and that statistics always lie. These people always know best. There are quite a few around, and they always confuse ‘climate’ with ‘weather’. The fact that it has been cool for a couple of weeks means that climate change is indeed rubbish as far as they are concerned. Britain is obviously wetter than it’s ever been and summers are now always poor! So the hottest July since 1659, recorded just two years ago doesn’t count then?

Qualitively Poor

This month, August has been qualitatively poor, but looking at the numbers, it’s not been exceptionally so from a quantitative standpoint. Temperatures have been unexceptional during the day (only 6 days > 20C here), but haven’t dropped very low at night so the mean is still slightly above average for 1971-2000 (the latest 30 year ‘normal’ we measure against). Temperature isn’t the only criteria with which to measure things however. Rainfall this month has been way above average in most places, some getting 200% of normal. This sounds a lot, and feels soggy, but it is still well within normal climatic variation for any one place, and when we look back through historical records it occurs quite frequently. Sure, some records have been broken in Northern Ireland, but not everywhere. In Eastern England, any sustained wet weather appears like a deluge for us because we actually live on the dry side of the country and are used to lower daily rainfalls. August 2008 has only had one completely dry day here, so this makes it feel a particualry wet month, but it isn’t when measured quantitiatively, compared to the normal and it’s range of variation.

Sunshine in greatest deficit

Sunshine has been in the greatest deficit, and I put it forward that a summer without a good deal of sunshine feels much poorer than it really is. There can be poor temperatures and lots of rain, but lack of sunshine is the thing that makes people feel more down than ever about a summer. This summer has suffered from that, with August only yielding about 40% of normal sunshine. That feels dismal and is probably why people feel it’s the ‘worst in living memory’, but hands up who can remember dullness? Who can recall which months in the past were exceptionally dull? Nobody, because it’s not something that can in fact be remembered meaningfully at all. We have to rely on statistics for this one, and as a whole the summer of 2008 has been below average for sunshine, but compared to others in the weather record it isn’t exceptionally poor.

Worst in living memory?

What i’m trying to say is, let’s get rid of this ‘in living memory’ phrase, because it’s a meaningless, rubbish measure. People can’t remember more than a couple of years back at most, and if you asked them how two months compared weather-wise they wouldn’t be able to tell you. Numerical weather records are the only way to remove pure perception from the conditions experienced. Remember, meteorology and climate are sciences and therefore must be approached as such, not in a way that relies on newspaper sensationalism, or taking individual instances as representative of wider areas, over longer periods. Qualitative perception is dangerous and fraught with difficulty. People say conditions are poor, but how many know what the quantitative normals are so they can compare their perception to those normals?

For those wishing to look back to see how much they’ve forgotten or were unaware of, look at http://www.personal.dundee.ac.uk/~taharley/britweather.htm

Website created by D.K. O'Hara Copyright 2018.

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