COLUMN: Weather Wise with Gordon Currie

The sky's diffused light at twilight.
The sky's diffused light at twilight.

Gordon looks at the changing season, and gives weather prospects for the week ahead.

If only we could ruminate

Like cows beside the gate,

And share their air of quietude

As patiently they wait

In twilight world of early dawn

With peaceful solitude,

They see the new day’s prelude

Dew – filled, in sweetest mood;

Stillness of the morning chill –

White mist up to their knees,

They listen to the haunting owl

And state up to the trees.

My introductory lines this week pay tribute to some of the enchanting moments of the autumn season, which, within a few more weeks will mark the closure of the dairyman’s grazing summer.

Indeed, throughout the summer and even into the earliest days of October, the gathering of the dairy herd from the pastures in the period of dawn witnesses some of the most astounding incidents of nature.

The scream of a distant rabbit, caught by a predatory fox, or even the experience of nearly putting your foot upon a slumbering skylark, not to mention the ghostly seeping sounds of rain-water into the soaking pasture, all these experiences come in what can be described as the sanitised silence of the awakening twilight hour.

The first week of October in many years can certainly spring a few surprises as far as the weather is concerned, and seemingly the present season has been no exception.

It could be stated that some autumn seasons rest upon the laurels of our finest summers, especially when the month of October seems to be in no hurry to move the season forward.

Temperatures above 70 F. (21 C.) have already been registered in October’s opening days this year, and on looking through my records, the very recent year 2011 recorded 80 F. (26.6 C) on October 1st, - within just one degree of the highest record, 81 F. (27 C.) on the same day in 1985. In the past year unfortunately, the autumn had no summer laurels to rest upon.

It was one of the coolest and wettest summers on my records, which in effect, constituted October 1st as the warmest day of the year! Going further back in time, the first week of this month in 1959 saw a brilliant extension of a prolonged sunny summer which had begun in May, ending with October’s temperatures reaching 75 F. (24 C.) over the first three days.

A decade before this, October 1949 saw temperatures close to 70 F. (21 C.) during the first ten days of the month.

The reason for October’s warmth lies with the persistency of southerly or south-easterly winds, bringing very warm, and sometimes very moist air from the sub-tropical regions which, in actual fact, have scarcely started to cool down from their high summer peaks.

One very interesting situation occurred on October 4th last week, when the southerly wind flow carried heat and high humidity across England ahead of a cold front coming in from the west.

Just before the front actually moving through our region, there was a sudden break in the cloud cover across the Vale of York, allowing strong sunlight to enhance the warmth and bump the maximum temperature up to 73 F. (23 C.). This sudden thrust of temperature is very characteristic within close proximity of the advancing frontal boundary.

It would suggest there exists a sudden spurt of concentrated warmth in the lower layers of the atmosphere, possibly caused by some form of turbulent motion which creates what could be described as ‘the last gasp’ before the on-coming wedge of cooler air forces the warmth and humidity aloft

Prospects for the week ahead

The seasonal time clock in ticking forward and the weather situation by the time these notes appear will have changed significantly towards much colder, brighter and drier conditions. Pressure is expected to rise over the Atlantic to the west and north-west of the British Isles, establishing a new high pressure system forming in colder polar maritime air, and forming quite a blocking situation. Atlantic frontal systems will move around the top of the high, and down the North Sea at times, bringing brief spells of rain or showers down the east coast.

Lengthy spells of dry weather with sunny periods. Some brief outbreaks of rain or showers, although rainfall generally should be fairly slight. Colder generally with north-west or northerly winds at times. Night temperatures significantly lower, with the first air frosts of the season possible in this period, 32F ( 0C).