Tag Archiv: trevor harley
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
Now, 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 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.
I first came 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.
It is a common factor that these people all believe they can verify their own methods and 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.
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.
Recommended Reading (if you want to know how Weather really works)
What are your own thoughts about Exacta Weather/Nathan Rao and Piers Corbyn? Leave a reply below.
February 1991. A very cold first half in the south, but mild second half. Overall temperature: CET average of 1.5. There was a notable ten day cold spell at the beginning, as NE winds brought in some very cold air from north Russia, leading to snow across most of Britain and some very low temperatures, making this the most severe spell of weather since 1987 (and still not bettered, if that’s the right word).
The cold air arived from Siberia on the 4th, with temperatures falling on the 5th and 6th, with the 7-9th as the coldest days. Barbourne (Hereford & Worcs.) recorded -15.6 on the 14th; Cawood (North Yorks.) had the lowest at -16.0 on the 14th. There was much powdery snow over England in this period, with some places having 48 hours of snowfall; snow depths of 30cm+ were widespread, particularly in the North East: 50 cms at Bradford and Longframlington.
Even London had 20 cm of snow, the deepest cover since December 1962. The temperature in many places did not rise above freezing from the 5-10th. Some places of the southeast had the coldest February day of the century on the 7th, with maxima around -6C, but widespread very low maxima on the 7th: -5.7 at Bastreet (Cornwall), -5.2C at Whipsnade (Deds.), and at Brighton.The minimum at Guernsey airport on the 7th was -7.2, the equal low for February.
On the 8th the maximum at Princetown (Dartmoor) was -6.0C. There were many injuries from falls on ice and sledging accidents, and a woman in Dartford received severe head injuries from falling icicles. This is the last notably cold snap I remember. It was the last time that most of Britain had snow cover.
Metro trains leaving Monkseaton station
This was the infamous “wrong type of snow” for British Rail: dry and powdery. The thaw caused flooding in north Yorkshire. Milder air and a thaw arrived in all parts on the 15th, with Torquay recording 12.6C. An anticyclone enabled a thaw by day, with some sharp frosts at night, until the 19th, when it became unsettled. There were 133mm of rain in mid-Wales on the 22nd.
January 1987. This month saw an exceptional cold spell resulting from an easterly airstream which began in earnest on the 9th, with cold air starting to feed in from the 7th. Before that here was a wet start to the month. Then the maximum at Aviemore was -5C on the 8th and 9th. On the 9th, an anticyclone anchored over Scandinavia forced a depression moved SE over Britain leading to strong NE to E winds across England on the 10th, and bringing exceptionally cold air from an unusually cold Europe.
I remember the forecast from the night before very clearly; the cold was predicted accurately well in advance. The coldest air reached England on the 11th. Maxima on the 12th January were commonly around -6C; -8C across large parts of the south; the day probably was equal to or lower than the previous lowest maximum in London (see also January 1841 and 1867). For many places this was the coldest day of the century.
For example, Warlingham (Surrey) recorded a 12 hour daily maximum of -9.2C, a 24 hour maximum of -90, with minima of -12.4C and -10.0C either side. Quite often it was clear and sunny, but the cold air crossing the warm North Sea led to a very high snowfall on the eastern coast, with the snow starting in the evening: 45 cm of snow settled at Southend, and 50 cm fell even in Cornwall. The Charing Cross to Dover train took 13 hours to get to Ashford.
The highest temperature in Britain on the 12th was +0.1C at the Butt of Lewis; all of mainland Britain remained beneath freezing. The following night was unsurprisingly very cold everywhere, widely beneath -10C, and with -16.0C recorded at Aviemore. There was more heavy snow on the 13th and 14th. There were slightly higher temperatures on the 15th, as the extreme cold slowly eased its grip. A slow thaw began on the 20th. In parts of the south there were 14 consecutive sunless days from the 14th (to the 28th), in many places setting a new “dullness” record. Here are the noon temperatures from Gatwick from the 7th to the 20th: 0, -2, 1, -1, -5, -7, -7, -3, -2, -1, -3, -3, -3, -1.
There was severe frost damage to plants on the Isles of Scilly. The lowest reading of this exeptional spell was -23.3C at Caldecott (Leics.) on the 13th. There was freezing rain in the south Midlands. Generall it was a very dry month – the driest since 1964. This was the last significantly cold month of the century (with +0.8C CET, the last month beneath 1C before 2010).
February 1986. Extremely cold (-1.1C CET), with frequent light snowfalls. The second coldest February of the century (after 1947), and fourth coldest month of the twentieth century overall (and the last time a month had a mean beneath zero before December 2010).
The month was similar to January 1963 in being a completely blocked month, with a high centred over north Russia bringing some very cold air east. Winds were easterly for 23 days, and were of virtual calm for the remaining days. It was the most easterly month on record apart from February 1947. Easterly winds had already set in by the end of January.
Snow cover was widespread in the east, where it was very dull: Cupar (Fife) registered only 41 hours sunshine all month. In the west it was very dry and sunny (144 hours sunshine on Anglesey, higher than summer months there; with no measurable rain at all in some western coastal sites). The lowest temperature was at Grantown-on-Spey, where it reached -21.2C on the 27th.
The month was most remarkable for the consistently low maxima; the temperature remained beneath 1C at Buxton (Derbuyshire) all month. The lowest temperature around Birmingham was -11.0C, at Elmdon, on the 21st, and the highest, just 3.8C on the 28th. There was freezing rain in the north Midlands. Up to 50 mm of glaze was recorded on broken power lines at Buxton on the 2nd.
Widdybank Fell, at 513 m above sea level in County Durham, remained beneath freezing all month, and had a total of 32 consecutive days beneath zero – probably a record for a habited area (Trevor has obviously never been to Widdybank Fell, it’s wild, desolate, and definitely not imhabited!). I remember our toilet freezing and a six inch icicle growing out of the cistern overflow. I reckon this is the last time I experienced a temperature beneath -10C. The cold persisted into early March.
For some reason I find that February 1986 is often “the forgotten month” when one talks about extreme winters in Britain. Perhaps this is because there wasn’t any widespread serious disruption due to heavy snow over a wide area, perhaps because there weren’t any record-breaking low temperatures, and perhaps because the rest of the winter was unexceptional. Indeed, some parts of the country had no snow at all. Nevertheless, it was the coldest month since January 1963. It was also the second driest February of the century. Hence I make this the most interesting February of the century.
December 1981 was a phenomenally cold snowy month in Durham (along with the first half of January 1982). Snow lay for most of the month as a result of several heavy falls. There were some brutally low temperatures, double figure negative temperatures. In January 1982 the British Record of -27.2 degC was equalled at Braemar on 10th. The English Record was set at Newport, Shropshire the same day (-26.1 degC).
The frozen River Wear at Durham was iced up enough to walk across above the weir, as can be seen here.
Photos courtesy of Robert Lynn / Old Photographs and Memories of Durham City Facebook Group.
Trevor Harley’s writeup of December 1981
A wonderful month: the coldest this century (0.3C CET), and also very snowy. It started and ended mild, but there was a severe wintry spell from the 8th to the 27th. As the month started a warm front moving around a large high SW of Ireland brought temperatures of 15C to Aberdeen on the 3rd. As the high slipped away cold fronts brought progressively colder air south.
Very cold air with hail and snow reached Shetland on the 4th. A depression moved southeast across the country on the 7th, bringing some very cold air south after it. A high developed over Greeland. Rain turned to heavy snow, with a sharp temperature fall, on the 8th; here was transport havoc in London following the snow. There was freezing fog on the 10th. There were some exceptional temperatures in a northerly airflow. On the 11th, the minimum around Glasgow was -13C, and the maximum the next day only -5C. As a low crossed northern France on the 11th, there was widespread heavy snowfall in the south (26 cm at Heathrow).
Clearing skies, fresh snow, still air, Arctic air, all add up to one thing: very low temperatures. Hence the following night it was even colder: the minimum at Shawbury (Shrops.) was -22.6C on the night of the 11-12th, a maximum of -12.1C the following day, and then a minimum of -25.1C on the night of the 12-13th. It was already down to -22C by 6pm on the 12th! This was the lowest reading in December this century until 1995. I remember we sat around cheering the termperature down those nights. Temperatures of -20C were quite widespread. Another depression gave a real blizzard (snow and wind speeds of 95 mph in the south west) on the 13th.
A storm surge up the Bristol Channel led to extensive flooding. The Queen had to stay the night in a local pub in the Cotswolds as roads were blocked. By this time there were 10″ of snow in London, and 3′ drifts at Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales. There were gales and flooding in the south on the 14th as it turned slightly milder, with gales and rain and a rapid thaw. More snow on high ground in the west on the 15th-16th, and in Scotland on the 17th. Flooding in the Bristol Channel area.
High winds added to the widespread disruption: on the 19th the Penlee lifeboat capsized, with the loss of 16 hands. (A reminder that however much we enjoy severe weather, it can be tragic for some.) The weather then turned cold again, with more snow, particularly on the 20th in the east. There was snow on the ground, but no snow fall on the 25th, so not a technical white Christmas.
There was a lot of dense freezing fog around. Snow lay for three weeks in many places. There was widespread flooding at the end when a thaw set in. I remember it being really cold: the Cam was frozen, and people pushed shopping trolleys across it. I was too apprehensive (or wise) to try this myself. Hence this is my most interesting December of the century.
January 1982. A good winter continues. It began mild and wet at the New Year, but then became very cold from the 5th to the 15th with some record low temperatures. December’s cold air was never far away, and with anticyclones in place over Greenland and Scandinavia a cold front moved south, pushed down by northeasterlies, with cold air slowly reintroduced from the 3rd, preceded by heavy rain. Between the 5th and 8th over 100 mm of rain fell on the Southern Uplands and Pennines. As the ground was frozen, it just ran off. As a result there was severe flooding in the York district when the River Ouse broke its banks after rising to 5m above normal. Ice floes became jammed under bridges. The flood waters then froze over. On the morning of the 5th there were over 40 cm of level snow at Braemar. There was more snow in the north on the 7th; and -23C at Braemar; the next day Grantown-on-Spey fell to -26.8C. The battle between very cold and mild air in the south led to blizzards; the Midlands and Wales had 30-50 cm of snow on the 8-9th with easterly gales. Many places were cut off (e.g. Torquay and Weymouth). Some drifts were 20′ high. Lasting 36 hours, this was one of the most severe blizzards of the century across the Southwest and Midlands.Throughout the snowfall temperatures hovered around -3C. In the far SW mild air encroached, giving an ice storm as rain fell onto frozen ground and surfaces. Electricity pylons were particularly susceptible to ice damage. As the cold front straddled Devon, the temperature was 10C to the south, but at the same time only 2C a little further north. Then with clear skies, light winds, and snow cover, Braemar fell to -27.2C (equal British record for the lowest reading) on the morning of the 10th, and logged several other very low minima that month. The maximum on the 10th was only -19.1C: a record low maximum for Britain; with a freshening easterly wind even Weymouth did not rise above -4C that day. The following day the minimum was -26.3C. There were some other very low temperatures in Scotland on the morning of the 11th, including -26.6 Cat Bowhill, and -26.2 at West Linton, both in the Borders. The English record lowest minimum was also set early in the morning of the 10th (beating that just made in December 1981!): -26.1C at Harper Adams College, just outside Newport (Shropshire). The maximum at Benson (Oxon.) was only -10C on the 13th. The nights of the 11th and 14th were also extremely cold. Bedford (the closest reading I have for Cambridge that year, where I was at the time) went down to -15.9C on the 14th. Many places had continuous frost from the 7th to 11th. Then there was some freezing fog. Mild air reached Scotland on the 13th and the south on the 15th. Nevertheless, there was snow cover at Balmoral from 4 December to 28 January. However, as it was mild at the beginning and end of the month the month overall was not that cold.
February. Slightly more mild than average. What a pathetic end to a wonderful winter!
November 1978. Very warm until a northerly outbreak on the 24th. Although it was mild and dry in the south, it was wet and often stormy in the north. There was a gust of 115 mph at Fair Isle on the 14th. 1978 was the last time we saw a November providing less than 50 mm of rain.
December 1978. The start of a memorable winter: the Winter of Discontent was also often cold and snowy. The were frequent gales early in the month. On the 13th, there was a damaging hailstorm in south Devon. Some snowfalls in the week before Christmas, although Christmas itself was mild and dominated by SW winds and heavy rain. The Scandinavian blocking high was then in place at the end of the month, laying the ground work for the severe winter to come. The cold winter started on the 28th, when there was a marked contrast on the 28th: maximum of 14C in Guernsey, but beneath freezing all day in parts of Scotland. There were 255 mm of rain in 48 hours over the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland at this time. The floodwaters in northern England froze hard, and snow fell on top. A severe blizzard struck southern and eastern England on the 30-31st, with deep drifting. New Year’s Eve was the coldest for 40 years, with local maxima of -4C.
January 1979. A very cold (-0.4C CET) and snowy month. The last really cold January (average beneath freezing). Much of the south started the month snowbound after the blizzard of December 30-31st. Stithians (Cornwall) could only manage a maximum of -4 on the 1st, after widespread severe frosts; there was even a minimum of -16C in Cornwall on the 1st, the county record for Cornwall. There were some very low maxima were widespread on the 1st, with places as far apart as Exeter and East Anglia unable to go much above -5C. For much of the month there were severe frosts and heavy snowfalls. The record low for Northern Ireland (before December 2010) was set at -17.5C at Magherally (Co. Down) on the 1st. There was heavy snowfall in the northwest and Midlands on the 2nd; a maximum of -11.5. at Burton-on-Trent on the 3rd, in freezing fog, following a minimum of -16C the night before. There was a blizzard on the Channel Islands on the 4th; Torcross (Devon) hit and damaged by very large waves that night. Dense, cold, freezing fog midmonth. It was -24.6C at Carnwath (Strathclyde) on the 13th (possibly 18th) – this was the lowest temperature in the UK in the 70s. There was then a maximum of only -7C at Abbotsinch. There was another severe snowfall on the 23rd in southern England; six inches of snow, followed by freezing rain in London. Even the Scillies had three days of laying snow. Oh for another month like it.
February 1979. There were alternating snowy and mild spells in the south. There was much snow on the 12th as fronts moved northwards into the cold block: there was 15 cm of snow by the evening in the south Pennines. Blizzards. A storm surge hit Portland Bill on the 13th, cutting off the Bill for several hours, and giant waves carrying cars from the seafront car park. The most severe weather of the whole winter struck between the 14-16th. On the 14th heavy snow and cold northeasterlies to easterlies gave blizzards in the east. At midday in Tynemouth the temperature was -3C with a wind of 50 mph. Cold, snow, wind; enormous snow drifts, low visibilities: whiteout! What fun. The 15th was particularly cold and snowy: large difts in the east, with many places cut off, particularly in Lincolnshire. Many parts of the southeast remained below freezing from the 14-20th. Many places in the east, southeast, and Midlands were cut off for several days, with power cuts (which is what I hate most about snow and wind). A cold month overall, although not extraordinarily so (1.2C CET).
March 1979. A stormy, wet month, with some heavy snow in the Midlands and North midmonth. The NE was particularly badly affected in the third week. Snowstorms cut off Newcastle: five days of snow gave 46 cm of cover. 175 mm of rain recorded in the first week at Fort William: three times the monthly avrage!