Monday, 27 August 2012

Here Comes the Rain - Part 1

Summer 2012 may be remembered for the Olympic Games. Or it may be remembered for the rain. From doom laden predictions of the worst drought for a generation in the southern half of Britain with disastrous consequences for farmers in the spring to torrential rain, floods and, yes, disastrous consequences for farmers in the summer.

The burning question is whether this is just the natural variability of weather or whether underlying climate change has a hand in driving these weather systems. To investigate this question, I have studied some local weather records. My statistical skills are about High School level: mean and standard deviation of a normal distribution.

Data for Glasgow Airport from 1959 to 2012 was obtained from the Meteorological Office website but the 2012 data was discarded as it is only provisional and represents an incomplete year. The data included monthly rainfall, sunshine and maximum and minimum temperatures and the focus of this study was the rainfall data.

Annual rainfall figures are plotted below as a time series. The y-axis (rainfall) is drawn from zero to give a clearer picture of the relative changes; some graphs cut off the bottom which can visually exaggerate trends. Without performing any statistical analysis, the first impression is that annual rainfall has increased from the early 1970s to the mid 1990s before increasing again from around 2000 to the present time. The variability from year to year also appears to be greater in the more recent results, especially in the 2000s.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Summer Holidays

Have you had your summer holiday yet? Did you stay local or did you fly away somewhere exotic?

How do you fancy this three thousand mile trip:

First stop off in France to soak up the culture then on to Mont Blanc and the Swiss alps for a few weeks rest and recuperation in the beautiful mountain scenery. It can be cool in the mountains, even in the summer so head south into Italy, perhaps Tuscany or further south again to Sicily. If that isn’t warm enough, take a short hop over the Mediterranean Sea to Libya then across the Sahara to Lake Chad.
It’s not an itinerary that you’ll find in many travel brochures but it is quite popular in certain circles.  Mungo, a bird from near Loch Katrine made that very trip and met up with Chance who travelled by a different route from Loch Katrine, via Belgium and Austria, and Chris from the Norfolk Broads.  They are all Cuckoo’s that have been tagged by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in order to track their annual migrations to Africa.  Chris is a veteran who was tagged last year so this is his second recorded journey.  His route to Lake Chad this year is similar to the route last year but one of the other tagged birds from Norfolk, Lyster, has travelled by quite different routes last year and this year.

They’re trip isn’t over yet.  It is likely that they will continue south, perhaps  to the Congo basin  before returning to the UK.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Water Saving in an Maritime Climate

I am fortunate to live in an area blessed with a plentiful supply of water.  Our maritime climate is driven by moist air coming in from the Atlantic Ocean, heated by the Gulf Stream.  The air cools as it rises over the mountains and loses its excess moisture as rain.

Loch Katrine in the Trossachs has supplied the city of Glasgow with clean fresh drinking water for over a century and a half thanks to the work of the Victorian engineer John Frederick Bateman. When we have such an abundance of water there is little pressure to save water and you may be thought daft for even suggesting it but are there wider environmental benefits of reducing water consumption here?