COLUMN: Weather Wise with Gordon Currie

Sun rays escape from behind a dark cloud.
Sun rays escape from behind a dark cloud.

Gordon takes another look at weather phenomena and gives prospects for the week ahead.

Sweet are the harmonies of

Spring,

Sweet is the summer’s evening

Gale,

And sweet the Autumnal winds

That shake

The many coloured grove.

And pleasant to the sobered

Soul

The silence of the wintry scene,

When Nature shrouds herself

Entranced

In deep tranquillity.

Robert Southey shows a charming flow of thought during these days of simplicity in the countryside upon the threshold of December with these lines from his poem Winter, written in fact on the first day of December.

Being one of the pastoral English poets, he certainly knew all about the apprehensive approach to winter during his life span, 1774 –1843, a time of frequent and prolonged frosts and snows as the country was just reaching the final decades of the Little Ice Age.

Nevertheless, his appreciative eye observed all the intricate beauties of the countryside in these days when the sun’s course is ever shortening across the southern sky towards its solstitial quarter.

Recent days have revived many diversities of pictorial artistry, one example being the rays of late November’s lowering afternoon sunlight illuminating the gold of a woodland larch grove, or alternatively, the crimson fire of lofty beech trees.

These wonders have certainly marked the crescendo of colour in this year’s late fall.

There is a feeling of spaciousness abroad now across the farming landscape, which some people might be inclined to accept as emptiness, but the daily world of life and movement goes on.

Stand in some remote place at this time of year and the atmospheric audibility of a windless morning picks up the sounds of hedge-cutters, manure spreaders and labouring tractors complete with plough and hoards of seagulls.

The familiarity of farming sounds across the open fields promotes movement and assurance for the weeks and months ahead.

The miracle of growth and regeneration across the increasingly wintry fields is illustrated so well by the occasional field of very late sowing, where the faint traceries of germinating greenness show the resolve of the new crop.

On a wider vista, the sunny interludes of November’s afternoons cast a remarkable variation of brown hues along the cliff edges of the North Yorkshire Moors, a characteristic which emphasises the colourful beauties of these late seasonal gems as the berries on the holly bushes become brighter for December.

Perhaps it is to the skies that we can envisage the ancient prophetic signs of the forthcoming weather changes, long before weather forecasting was invented.

Amid the sunlit cloud embroidery, the flight of the wild geese comes to the fore. It was once thought that the flight of the wild geese, either in the form of letters or figures, indicated the number of weeks that frost or snow would last following their southward movements.

On my weather records, the one and only time when the lore of the geese was well and truly validated occurred more than 60 years ago, on December 2nd 1950.

That particular day had exhibited a supremely colourful sun set, featuring a razor-edged clearance line with clear blue sky close to the western horizon, behind the dark folds of deep rain cloud which became illuminated in the setting sunlight.

More dramaticallyt became a superb v-shaped formation of geese in flight, straggling their way southwards. Within 24 hours, Arctic air had blasted southwards over the British Isles, being complicated by a vicious swirl within the flow, known as a polar depression.

This system powered its way down the North Sea, just off the Yorkshire coast on the 4th, giving us a three hour blizzard of drifting snow, which measured six inches on the level. This sequence of events opened the door to a cold, wintry December, the third coldest on the records, just behind December 1981 and 2010.

Having experienced three consecutive relatively mild winters with insignificant snowfalls, the events of December 1950 were certainly a shock to the system. Perhaps the supposed weather wisdom of the geese bore significant intuition after all!

PROSPECTS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

A fairly normal Westerly pressure pattern is likely to end November and persist through the opening week of December. The high pressure system which originally introduced us to cold polar-Arctic air recently, is expected to persist to the south-west or south of the British Isles, with fairly weak frontal systems crossing the country on its northern flank.

Some lengthy dry periods with sunny spells, interrupted by one or two brief spells of rain or showers, more especially later in the week. Winds will be mainly westerly, but will be inclined to veer to north-westerly occasionally, giving one or two cold interludes, with slight overnight frosts and a few fog patches.