Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Here comes the sun

There is nothing that the British enjoy more than talking about the weather. Many a conversation starts with a review of the meteorological conditions for the last day, week, month or year. Even an hour by hour report is useful and interesting. It is a sensible subject to discuss of course. We need to know what to wear, what to prepare for, how long the journey home might take, perhaps what to eat. And it is not just a selfish endeavour; the information may be useful to us and to our friends, families and colleagues!

The last month has given us a treasure trove of material. We have gone from dire warnings of drought across the southern half of England to floods, deaths of travellers in storms and torrential rain. Everyone is rather confused. This is spring going into the summer and yet many water utilities have instituted hosepipe bans, some as early as from March. Farmers have been bemoaning arid land and fears for crops this year. Where I live, rainfall has been half that recorded last year. That’s quite a substantial drop.

The hosepipe bans are still in place despite some of the heaviest rainfall seen for years. Rivers have flooded and transport routes have been disrupted. April has been the wettest on record. The recent rain has not been enough to restore reservoirs or revive groundwater stores. There’s been talk about the need for a national water grid like many other countries have in place (replicating the electricity network), so that producing areas can supply those most in need. This will take a long time to come to fruition and in the meantime, if there is a pattern of continuing seasonal disruption, there will be a need for many other measures.

Everyone is a weather expert. But some are now admitting uncertainty. Strange things happen, such as high temperatures in the mountains in the north, and lower temperatures and rainfall in the south.  There is also water politics. Some people in the north are saying stridently that they would not want to send their water to the supposedly deserving south east, around London; however, in reality, they may not be on strong ground as they may not have enough water to give.

There are so many who do not believe in climate change. And this alone is a considerable block to increasing environment engagement. But now this bedrock of their faith is coming under challenge. No-one wishes for environmental catastrophes, but little more of the climate surprises may be very useful in changing values and attitudes.

Here’s hoping!

D Jackman

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