COLUMN: Weather Wise with Gordon Currie

A spider's web defying the November rain and dew.
A spider's web defying the November rain and dew.
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More musings on the weather with Gazette columnist Gordon Currie.

The silent groves denote the

Dying year,

The morning frost, the noontide

Gossamer;

And all be silent in the scene

Around –

All, save the distant sea’s

Uncertain sound . . . . .

And then the wintry winds

Begin to blow;

Then fall the flaky stars of

Falling snow;

When on the thorn the ripening

Sloe, yet blue,

Takes the bright varnish of the

Morning dew;

The aged moss grows brittle on

The pale,

And dry boughs spinter in the

Wintry gale . . . . .

George Crabbe’s brilliant lines, selected from “ The Seasons ‘’ portray the unobtrusive stepping stones in our course towards winter, which is being demonstrated so clearly this month.

How well has Crabbe captured the characteristic effects of buoyancy, even in November’s atmosphere, for when the sun shines like a Halloween lantern, the strengthening rays towards midday are frequently measured by the slow rise of the noon-tide gossamer.

Here we witness the spider’s substance, almost weightless, defying the soaking rains and dews of the month in order that these filmy threads carry the airborne young spiderlings away to fresh homes.

This miracle of Nature is closely linked to the weather, being witnessed in some of those precious moments of windless and remarkably strong sunlight, som etime merely lasting minutes, though long enough for the “ rise of the noon-tide gossamer”.

The word gossamer seems to have been derived from the olde worlde language of the Middle Ages, when the season of storing and hoarding was recognised as the “ goose – summer “ which, through the story of legend became Saint Martin’s Summer, named after St Martins Day, November 11.

Apparently St Martin was appointed The Bishop of Tours and one very cold day he came across an old man, shivering with no coat, walking the streets of Tours. Immediately, he gave the fellow his own coat, and subsequently divine intervention decreed that the weather should be unseasonably warm for a few days around November 11, to allow St Martin to find another warm cloak.

Checking the official weather records in this country, there is a certain amount of evidence showing a slightly higher frequency of a mild spell in the early part of November.

For the record, the highest November temperatures in this country have been 71 F. ( 21 C. ) on the 5th, in 1938 and on the 4th in 1946.

One of the main features of our weather so far in this month has been the dramatic cloud scenery of showery days which have produced some of the most unique formations of cumulonimbus clouds.

Some of the most remarkable changes from day to day have contrasted the dull, wet spells with the colourful jewellery of crystal clear landscapes and impressive open skies across our Vale of York. The main reason for the noteworthy cloud scenery on the bright, showery days is due to a modified type of air-mass flowing over the British Isles, being recognised as “ returning maritime polar air ‘’, the operative word being “ returning ‘’, - polar air taking a wide circuitous track down over the warmer waters of the lower Atlantic, before returning to the British Isles on south-westerly or westerly winds.

This makes the air-mass very unstable, - having been warmed in the lower layers, but remaining originally cold and polar in the upper levels. Sunday, November 3 provided an excellent illustration of returning maritime air with the warmed lower atmosphere being aggravated by the Pennine barrier, forcing the unstable air to rise abruptly into the cold upper atmosphere.

The effects on the cloud formations were unique, with huge anvil shaped heads being punched upwards from the angry bases of deep cumulonimbus beds straddling the western Dales. Because the upper wind flow was so strong, these formations fragmented as they moved across the Vale of York, leaving just the feathery anvil tops which caught the scarlet sunrays of sunrise and sunset, producing a celestial kaleidoscope of colour, supplemented by the fragments of rainbows, sticking up like pillars from the horizon.

These used to be called “ weather galls ‘’, being indicative signs of squally conditions.

It could be stated that these occasional spasms of natural colour in our bright interludes emphatically refute the lines of Thomas Hood’s poem relating to nothingness of drab NO – vember!

PROSPECTS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

Strong high pressure is expected to develop around the British Isles towards this weekend with pressure rising towards 1040 millibars. This will fend off the Atlantic frontal activity for a few days, but less settled conditions will return later in the week, as low pressure encroaches from the west. At the moment it looks as if the western side of the UK will be affected by frontal rainfalls, while the eastern side will have weaker fronts and manage to cling on to high pressure influence, settling ov er Europe.

Good spells of drier weather in the coming week, with variable cloudiness and overnight frost and fog patches. One or two brief spells of rain later in the week. Temperatures near, or rather below normal, 45 – 48 F. ( 7 – 8 C. ). Frosts in the Vale of York, down to 25 F. ( - 4 C. )