Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Is it Armageddon? 10cm's of Snow fell in Charlotte Pass Lookout in the NSW Snowy Mountains as a cold snap hit the Eastern Coast of Australia.

Dublin Airport Closed, flights cancelled across Europe.  Nobody going anywhere in time for Christmas.

The front garden looks like a thick duvet is covering the drive, neither of our cars are home because they are somewhere down the street where we abandoned them.

So is the theory about the Volcanic Eruption that is causing the weather to go screwy true?  I guess I should try and find out.

I found this in The History of British Weather which has some rather remarkable likenesses to what is happening here now:  http://www.netweather.tv/index.cgi?action=other;type=winthist;sess=

1683-84: Now when people think of 'The Big One' in terms of winters, they think of 1947,1963 etc. But there was one winter that easily surpassed both! This winter! Mid December saw the 'great frost' start in the UK and Central Europe. The Thames was frozen all the way up to London Bridge by early January 1684. The frost was claimed to be the longest on record, and probably was. It lasted kept the Thames frozen for 2 months, it froze as deep as 11 inches. Near Manchester, the ground had frozen to 27 inches, and in Somerset, to an astonishing 4 feet! This winter was the coldest in the CET series, at -1.2! (1739-40 was -0.4) This winter was described by R.D. Blackmore, in his book 'Lorna Doone'. In mid February there was a thaw. 

1688-89: Long and severe frosts, Thames froze over. 

1690-99: 6 out of 10 of the winters in this period were described as severe, judging by their CET. Meaning their average temperatures for December, January, February and March were below 3c. 1694-95 heralded deep snow, with falls of continual snow affecting London. This lasted for 5 weeks, along with the freezing of the Thames. This heavy snow and frost theme, continued for a good long while. In fact 1695 is believed to have been one of the coldest years ever recorded, the severe snowy winter ended around mid April, at which time arctic sea ice had extended around the entire coast of Iceland! 1695-96 saw -23c (?) in the UK. A severe winter. The autumn of 1697 was very cold, with snow persisting, and ice forming. The winter of 1697-98 was severe, with a CET of about 1c. Snow and ice built up. Ice on coasts built up to 8 inches in parts. Spring very cold. Generally the late 1600s were very cold, and people probably were affected very badly by this. The cold probably brought famine to the poor, as livestock perished, and crops failed. And without central heating, it must have been unbearable in parts. The 'Little Ice Age' lived up to its name. The final few years weren't as bad, but harvests were still ruined generally as wet weather took over from the cold. 

The 1600s were generally a period of harsh severe winters, and cool/wet springs/summers. At points the Thames was frozen for months, although I think it would have been wider then (?) and shallower (?) so easier to freeze when the temperatures were right. 

1739-40: Severe winter, one of the worst. May have been worse than that of 1715 (?). Late December saw a severely strong Easterly gale set up, brining very cold air over the UK. Ice formed on the Thames, once again. Streets were blocked up with ice and snow, which made travelling hazardous. The Thames remained frozen over for about 8 weeks (?). Some reports said this winter was the most severe on record, with temperatures falling to -24c in early January (1995 beat this and holds the record for the coldest minima in the UK ever). The Easterly gale persisted, with snow and frost becoming an increasing hazard to all. Northerlies also started up, very strong in places, with again snow and ice. This winter can be noted as one of the most severe of all time (since records began). 


1783-86: Two succesive severe winters. The Thames froze completely in both, almost continuous frost lasted from early to late winter. Snow remained for as long as 4 months. Attributed to an Icelandic volcanic eruption, although details regarding this are slim. Heavy snow also fell early on in both years, with snow falling as early as October. 1784 was a cold year generally. Sleet was recorded near the coast of the Moray Firth in August! Heavy snow fell in the South in October. The year was ranked in the top 10 coldest years recorded in the CET series. 1785 was very dry and cold, with again early snow in October. 1786 had a very dry summer, and was persistantly cold from September to November. 

813-1814: Not many of the 1800s winters had I heard of before about 3-4 years ago, but this one I had, due to its severe cold. One of the 4/5 coldest winters in the CET series. Colder winters included: 1962-63 (see part 1739-40 (see part 3) and the coldest, 1683-84 (see part 2) 'Lorna Doone'. A memorable winter overall. January to March was very cold. January had a CET of -2.9 (third coldest since records began?) The next comparible year in terms of cold weather being 1962-63. The tidal stretch of the Thames froze for the last time, the old London Bridge was removed, and other factors helped increase the rivers flow, preventing ice forming again. If it was the same now as it was back then, we would still see it being frozen. A frost fair was held on the Thames, possibly the last 'great' one. The frost began in late December, approaching the new year. Thick fog came with the frost, as was common in London at the time. Probably one of the snowiest winters in the last 300 years, although 1947 was likely to have been snowier. Heavy snow fell for 2-3 days in early January, before a temporary thaw of 1 day. Then the frost just returned, possibly more severe than before due to the snow cover, and persisted until early February. A thaw followed later, and ice floating down the river damaged ships. Fog was also a hazard and took a long time to clear, lasting from late December to early January, an unusual occurrence. Visibility was down to 20 yards at times! Traffic hardly moved, and travelling became very dangerous. The fog cleared following a Northerly gale in early January, when heavy snow fell. A severe and very snowy winter.

1816: Known as the year without summer, snow fell very late on, and the summer never recovered. The winter proceeding it was severe. A volcanic eruption (Tambora: East Indies) disrupted wind patterns and temperatures greatly, affecting the track of depressions, which tracked further South than usual, and making the UK very cold an wet for the summer and beyond. Scotland was drier though, an obvious sign that the depressions changed track. In September the Thames had frozen! Snow drifts remained on hills until late July! 

1819-20: Severe winter. -23c was recorded at Tunbridge Wells, although no details of exposure are evident. 

1834-38: Snowy winter in Scotland. Snow lasted well into March, with 8 or 9 feet of snow being reported in parts! This trend continued for a number of winters, with a lot of snow in Scotland. From early winter, December, to late winter, March, snow was a problem. There were considerable accumulations, becoming common throughout the winter. Snow fell widely, but mostly in the North of Scotland, where accumulations were very large, right through until April. 1836-37 was another snowy winter in the series, with heavy falls of snow in January. Blizzards began in late February, and lasted into March. Transport was severely disrupted, and harvest damaged by harsh frosts. This series of winters was severe, and notable, especially for Scotland, but very bad elsewhere also. The most notable of the snowstorms being:

October 1836, snow reached depths of 5-6 inches, very unusual.

25th December 1836, roads impassable, snow depths reached a staggering 5-15 feet in many places, and most astonishingly, drifts of 20-50 feet!!!!!!!!!

1837-38: Murphys winter. Patrick Murphy won fame and a small fortune from the sale of an almanac in which he predicted the severe frost of January 1838 (a 2 month frosty period set in with a light SE wind & fine day with hoar frost on the 7th (or 8th) January) (quoted from a web-page). 20th January saw temperatures as low as -16c in London, accepted as the coldest recorded here of the 19th century. -20 recorded at Blackheath, and -26c at Beckenham, Kent. The temperature at Greenwich was -11c at midday!!!! The Thames froze over.
1838: Snow showers on 13th October, possibly in London and the South. 

1885-1886: Snow fell in October, November, December, January, February, March, April and May! London recorded 1ft of snow in7 hours in early January. In the North a blizzard dumped 2ft of snow widely, and in May the North of England got a heavy fall. Very Snowy

1878-80: 2ft of Snow fell in Oxford in October! A ferocious blizzard raged in the North East in March. 10th June saw snow in Scotland, of 6 inches! 11th July reportedly saw snow in the South and East, Keswick saw snow above 1000ft.

From 1895-99 the UK had 4 consecutive years of little/average snowfall, of which the only noteworthy fall was of 1ft in the Eastern spine of the country. 1899-00 saw general snow of 1ft, 2ft in places. The following year wasn't exceptional either, although 5-7ft of snow was recorded in North Wales and Northern England. Both years were snowy. 

1932-33: Late October, snow fell in Scotland, an early start to the skiing season! Late February there was a Great Blizzard, for Ireland, Wales, South West England, Northern England, and the Midlands. Whipsnade recorded 2ft of snow, Harrogate and Huddersfield 30 inches, Buxton 28 inches! Very Snowy. 


LAKI (1783) -- The eastern U.S. recorded the lowest-ever winter average temperature in 1783-84, about 4.8OC below the 225-year average. Europe also experienced an abnormally severe winter. Benjamin Franklin suggested that these cold conditions resulted from the blocking out of sunlight by dust and gases created by the Iceland Laki eruption in 1783. The Laki eruption was the largest outpouring of basalt lava in historic times. Franklin's hypothesis is consistent with modern scientific theory, which suggests that large volumes of SO2 are the main culprit in haze-effect global cooling.
TAMBORA (1815) -- Thirty years later, in 1815, the eruption of Mt. Tambora, Indonesia, resulted in an extremely cold spring and summer in 1816, which became known as theyear without a summerThe Tambora eruption is believed to be the largest of the last ten thousand years. New England and Europe were hit exceptionally hard. Snowfalls and frost occurred in June, July and August and all but the hardiest grains were destroyed. Destruction of the corn crop forced farmers to slaughter their animals. Soup kitchens were opened to feed the hungry. Sea ice migrated across Atlantic shipping lanes, and alpine glaciers advanced down mountain slopes to exceptionally low elevations.
KRAKATAU (1883) -- Eruption of the Indonesian volcano Krakatau in August 1883 generated twenty times the volume of tephra released by the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Krakatau was the second largest eruption in history, dwarfed only by the eruption of neighboring Tambora in 1815 (see above). For months after the Krakatau eruption, the world experienced unseasonably cool weather, brilliant sunsets, and prolonged twilights due to the spread of aerosols throughout the stratosphere. The brilliant sunsets are typical of atmospheric haze. The unusual and prolonged sunsets generated considerable contemporary debate on their origin.They also provided inspiration for artists who dipicted the vibrant nature of the sunsets in several late 19th-century paintings, two of which are noted her
PINATUBO (1991) -- Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines on June 15, 1991, and one month later Mt. Hudson in southern Chile also erupted. The Pinatubo eruption produced the largest sulfur oxide cloud this century. The combined aerosol plume of Mt. Pinatubo and Mt. Hudson diffused around the globe in a matter of months. The data collected after these eruptions show that mean world temperatures decreased by about 1 degree Centigrade over the subsequent two years. This cooling effect was welcomed by many scientists who saw it as a counter-balance to global warming.

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