COLUMN: Weather Wise with Gordon Currie

Golden clouds.
Golden clouds.
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Gordon takes a look at summer weather patterns and gives prospects for the week ahead:

The blackbird on the lawn depicts

Contentment on this earth, -

Serene and sweetened airs of

Dawn,

The scene of life’s re-birth;

Timeless moments, thin heat-haze

And countless crowded hours,

The cooling morn, the evening

Blaze,

The fragrance of the flowers;

Magnificence in season,

‘Neath a cloudless August sky,

Behold these joyous splendours

With our summer slipping by.

When the warm August evening twilight descends upon the dahlias and gladioli spikes around the countryman’s cottage garden, the burnished colours of another summer’s day begin to fade as the night moths flit around the hedgerow borders. In such placid moods of August’s weather, we realise how the month seems to rest upon summer’s laurels, possessing all the quintessential features of olde-worlde maturity, the blaze of rich colours in the season’s later flowers, the evening sunlight upon the apple trees, now burdened with the maturity of fruitfulness and even the sunlit sculpture of the house martins’ nests beneath the eves of the house, who could ask for more in this conjured treasury of the countryman’s corner?

In complete contrast, you have to be one of the earliest risers if you wish to capture the full glories of a typical August dawn and to be able to appreciate the measure of refreshment, the rejuvenation of the landscape, transformed overnight by the magic of cooling airs and sweet dews through the hours of lengthening darkness. The cool, cloudless dawns of August 6 and 7 came in the wake of a clearing cold front, bringing the stealth of autumn’s approach in the first tang of maritime polar air. The extreme visibility created a distinctive blue opalescence across the far distant fields, which, as the sun rose above the horizon, was transposed into shades of mauves, golds and rich yellows of the first harvest stubbles, a natural kaleidoscope of colour which would have done supreme justice to any artist’s skill with the brush.

These benign scenes of August’s weather tend to obscure the month’s traditional uncertainties of the advancing season with most people prepared to accept the apparent extension of July’s sunny days in blissful ignorance of the calendar date. Any sudden change spurns pangs of remorse and feelings of intense anti-climax. Perhaps John Keats produced some very shrewd impressions and forethoughts as we reach the golden maturing harvest days of August when he wrote: “While barred clouds bloom the soft dying day, and touch the stubble plains with rosy hue.”

True, it may well have been the idyllic autumn tendencies creeping in, but there is a certain realism in Keats’ picture, when the weather is not quite so settled and the “barred clouds” signify an approaching Atlantic frontal system spreading rain across the Vale of York. Many times in my farming experience, I wallowed in my reverie of watching the cows settling for the night in the green pasture, with the harvest fields caught in “rosy hue” of setting sunlight, but it usually meant an oilskin coat and wellingtons for the muddy gateways and long wet grass amid the steady downpour the following morning.

The interests of watching August’s weather behaviour this year were certainly pin-pointed on the final day of July, when a classical warm front began to move northwards across the British Isles and leaving the trailing cold front well to the west. I use the term “classical’’ in the case of the warm front because it was introducing very warm and humid air behind it on southerly winds, the trajectories of which could be traced back to central Spain where temperatures had been nudging 100 F. (37 C.).

In some respects, this set-up assumed the characteristics of a “Spanish Plume” a phenomenon recognised by meteorologists when a current of very warm air spreads northwards from Spain. However, pressure continued to fall slowly behind the warm front, indicating that cooler Atlantic air would soon be advancing from the west, pushing the exceptional warmth eastwards, but not before maximum temperatures had reached 80 F. (26.6 C.) on August 1. If, by chance, the pressure had slowly risen behind the warm front sufficiently to form a high pressure system, we would most certainly have experienced a near-record breaking heat-wave. Pressure rises behind warm fronts approaching from the south are quite rare, but they have been known to launch some of our hottest summers. The most noteworthy example occurred in early June 1975, when a truly Arctic airflow brought snow on the 2nd, but was displaced quickly by a strong warm front from the south with steadily rising pressure behind it, bringing temperatures into the 80’s F. (27 C.+) within the space of one week. The events of June 1975 take their place in our weather history as the most phenomenal transformation within such a short period of time, ever recorded in our summers. Incidentally, the switch from winter to summer launched the “forgotten summer” of sunshine and heat which continued through July and August, never remembered by the majority of people because it was eclipsed by the heat and dryness of 1976. Nevertheless, the greater significance belongs to the summer of 1975 because of the large-scale reversal of weather type, which climatologists claimed that Britain had not been subjected to anything of such magnitude in the previous 100 years.

PROSPECTS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

In spite of the slightly cooler than anticipated westerly style of weather last weekend and earlier in the current week, I am still optimistic for the week ahead. Westerly patterns will continue, with fairly active frontal systems crossing the northern half of the British Isles, but with a belt of high pressure fairly persistent to the south, extending into Europe, our area will continue to reap the benefits of sunshine to the east of the Pennines, with brief spells of “warm sector” conditions (between warm and cold fronts) bringing higher temperatures and humidity at times.

A good deal of dry weather. Just one or two brief spells of showery rainfall. Sunshine accompanied at times by fresh westerly winds. Seasonal temperatures 66 F. (19 C.) occasionally much warmer, 75 F. (24 C.).