Average temperatures in the UK (however that is defined and however relevant the figure is) were higher in 2011 than any year on record. Not that the weather was what most would describe as ‘good’. Except for bits of April and May it was pretty grey and claggy. Most would consider the Summer months to have been disappointingly poor. As noted previously that marketing artefact for the British tourist industry, ‘The Staycation’, is now a pretty dead duck and even the carcase has been boiled down for soup.
The fact is that weather forecasts continue to be unreliable. As I type it’s raining again for the second day running despite a forecast for it to remain dry. ‘Long term’ forecasts remain the province of incurable optimists. Families are prepared to waste on average £150 on the lottery a year with a 1:14 million chance each week of winning but not to gamble an average of just over £4,500 for a family of 4 on unpredictable weather on a 2-week holiday. They have given up on UK summers and flock to the sun.
But what about the winter? Personally I get turned on by extreme winters as well as by extreme summers. That’s why I loved Canada so much last year and was only sorry that I missed out on another 2 weeks of real winter back in the UK. By the time I got home it was warm and claggy again.
So far this winter has been exceptionally warm …. and claggy. There have been some colourful sunrises over the hill on the other side of the valley but only one frost with a puny temperature of -0.2oC. A couple of days over the weekend were almost spring-like. I sat on the top of the mountain on Sunday and had a sandwich and a drink in the sun, though admittedly sheltering from the wind behind a rock and knowing it was only a brief interlude in the general greyness.
So is that it for this winter? The oscillations of the El Niño ocean current and its little sister La Niña, together with the effects they have on the upper atmosphere jet stream, determine broad seasonal patterns of weather which once locked in take a lot to shift. So the probability is for more of the same.
But I haven’t quite given up hope. The harsh winter of 1947 didn’t bite until 21 January and lasted into March. The extreme weather coupled with post-war privations and the austerity programme to deal with it eventually brought about the fall of the Attlee government. So maybe, just maybe, another late, hard winter coupled with the austerity measures to deal with the current recession may bring about the end of playtime for this public school government. And, best of all worlds, would give a masochist like me the opportunity to go out and play in the mountains in the snow.
The winter of 1947 is not the only example of extreme weather in the second part of a UK winter. The winter of 1963 started earlier but got particularly cold in January, the sea freezing over a mile out from Kent, and there were severe blizzards across the country in February. In fact in meteorological terms February is on average the coldest month of the year (1.1oC cf 1.3 in January in Wales and above 2oC in both December and March).
I can hope but am not convinced.
As Alexander the Great (is reputed to have) said «Η ζωή αξίζει μόνο σαν πρόκληση», which, for the benefit of the few blog-readers who aren’t fluent in Greek, roughly translates as “life is only made worthwhile by challenge”. With the absence of winter my enthusiasm has been fired to plan something completely different for a trip to Greece this summer. Rough idea at the moment is to fly to Athens, train and bus to the 1000-foot high pinnacle-top monasteries of Meteora and then down to the blood-feud peninsular of Mani in the far South before returning to see friends in the Dodecanese via Crete and Karpathos.
This proto-plan was given additional frissance on Monday (I’m plugging this Anglicisation of ‘frisson’) when I learned at the local blood-donor session that mainland Greece is now considered a health risk. Apparently migrating birds increase the risk of bird flu. They obviously avoid flying over the Greek islands. If it’s not ash clouds its bird poo!!!!
Isn’t life fun!
But seriously. I learned in 2005 that life is completely unpredictable. We go along unthinkingly, assuming that life is steady-state only to be pulled up short and reminded that we can’t count on that. As I have several times quoted before the Bible says in Proverbs 19v9 “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps”. This is very much in mind as I look ahead to … and plan for … 2012.