And Christmas is the point at which this all comes together in a big way for the residents of the UK, something that they can not only talk about but also bet on – whether or not it will be a white Christmas. It is down to the Met Office to confirm if we have a white Christmas – and the official definition may surprise you;
For many people, a White Christmas means a complete covering of snow falling between midnight and midday on 25 December.
However, the definition used most widely, notably by those placing and taking bets, is for a single snowflake (perhaps among a mixed shower of rain and snow) to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December at a specified location.
White Christmases were more frequent in the 18th and 19th centuries, even more so before the change of calendar in 1752 which effectively brought Christmas day back by 12 days. Climate change has also brought higher average temperatures over land and sea and this generally reduces the chances of a white Christmas. However, the natural variability of the weather will not stop cold, snowy winters happening in the future.
The graphic to the right from the Met Office indicates the amount of snow over the last few years on Christmas day – and it will not surprise anyone that it has increased in recent years – the question has to be why – but that’s for another day…..
As one of the Worlds major economies we are used to hearing the mantra about growing GDP (gross domestic product) in the UK – if it falls it is apparently ‘the end of the world’. But what if there is a ‘better way’?
The tiny country of Bhutan measures prosperity by gauging its citizens’ happiness levels, not GDP.
Since 1971, the country has rejected GDP as the only way to measure progress. In its place, it has championed a new approach to development, which measures prosperity through formal principles of gross national happiness (GNH) and the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens and natural environment.
Less than 40 years ago, Bhutan opened its borders for the first time. Since then, it has gained an almost mythical status as a real-life Shangri-La. For the past three decades, this belief – that wellbeing should take preference over material growth – has remained a global oddity. However in the current world which is beset by economic and environmental disasters this approach is beginning to interest the larger world players, and will be discussed in Doha at the UN climate change conference.
Bhutan’s stark warning that the rest of the world is on an environmental and economical suicide path is starting to gain traction. Last year the UN adopted Bhutan’s call for a holistic approach to development, a move endorsed by 68 countries. A UN panel is now considering ways that Bhutan’s GNH model can be replicated across the globe.
Bhutan is also being held up as an example of a developing country that has put environmental conservation and sustainability at the heart of its political agenda. In the last 20 years Bhutan has doubled life expectancy, enrolled almost 100% of its children in primary school and overhauled its infrastructure. At the same time, placing the natural world at the heart of public policy has led to environmental protection being enshrined in the constitution. The country has pledged to remain carbon neutral and to ensure that at least 60% of its landmass will remain under forest cover in perpetuity. It has banned export logging and has even instigated a monthly pedestrian day that bans all private vehicles from its roads.
We all hark back to simpler times at some point in our lives, perhaps this is a further example that some of the ‘old values’ are perhaps even more valid today than they were then?
The guest speaker was Lord Lawson – known to the younger members of society as Nigella’s dad, but better known to the rest of us as the Chancellor during Maggie’s three periods in office. He is now in his early 80’s, so it was going to be interesting to see what his take on things as they are now was. And in many ways we were not disappointed – he is undoubtably a very bright man, and if I am half as active at this age I will be very happy!
However, there was one part of his speech that did worry me – he will always play to the ‘Daily Mail readers’ in a room, and the other night was no different. But his views on Global Warming I did find rather blinkered, especially after his comments about it being ‘a religion’ that no one was permitted to challenge anymore! He basically appears to believe that we are having no effect upon the planet and that burning fossil fuels is definitely the way forward!
I accept that it is not a clear-cut case – but the current extreme weather, the melting polar areas – not our fault?
The photo above is of my home town, Malmesbury in Wiltshire. As a family we have been there over 40 years and I cannot recall a time when the bottom of the High Street has flooded and blocked access into the town – even before all the flood alleviation work was done a good few years ago – so do we assume this is just a fluke event?
It appears that awards are coming thick and fast for Edwalton Primary school – I have blogged previously about this amazing school (I am biased as I am a Governor there) and its green credentials. Well that has now been confirmed by a national award.
The school has been awarded ‘outstanding sustainable school’ in the Times Educational Supplement (TES) awards for 2012. This is a national award and is a fantastic achievement for the school, it is due recognition for the hard work that everyone at the school has put into driving forwards the sustainability agenda, from the kids, through the staff and finally to Brian Owens the headmaster who is the inspiration and driving force behind everyone. We were nominated in 2011 but sadly didn’t win – but this year has seen the ‘right’ decision.
Keep an eye out for this school, this is the way education should be going at primary level in the UK, other schools can (and are) learning a lot from its environment and general approach to teaching.
Fantastic news and another good reason to shout from the rooftops about Edwalton Primary West Bridgfords number one primary school!
So we now have all of the hose pipe bans across the UK lifted, not a surprise in light of the recent weather! But just how bad has it really been?
Well, last month was one of the wettest, coolest and dullest Junes on record. The position of the jet stream led to persistent low pressure across the British Isles, making it the third most cyclonic June in the last 140 years. This accounts for it being the coolest June since 1991, the dullest since 1909, and the equal wettest, tied with June 1860!
The mean maximum temperature during June ranged from 19.3C at St James’s Park in London to 11.2C at Fair Isle in the Northern Isles. Night-time temperatures were close to average, but daytime temperatures in many areas were 1.5 to 2 degrees below normal. The Central England Temperature (CET) was 13.6C, the lowest for June since 1991 and 0.9 degrees below average. In the last 100 years only 18 Junes have been colder. The highest individual temperature was 28.6C at Swanscombe, Kent, on 28 June, while the coldest night was at Loch Glascarnoch in Wester Ross on the night of 4/5 June, when the mercury fell to -3.5C.
Averaged across England and Wales, there was 157mm of rain, which is 231% of the average and about the same as the previous wettest June in 1860. Scotland had 104mm, which is 171% of average. The wettest location was Capel Curig, In Wales, where 325mm fell. Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, was driest with just 34mm of rain, indicative of the southerly track of low pressure systems and frequent easterly flows across northern Scotland.
England and Wales had an average 123 hours of sunshine, which is only 64% of the mean, making for the cloudiest June since 1909. Scotland had 123 hours, or 74% of its average, while Northern Ireland saw 136 hours and 75% of average. Tiree, Inner Hebrides, was sunniest, as it was in May, recording 167 hours of sunshine, while Eskdalemuir, Dumfriesshire, had the lowest sunshine total with a mere 57 hours. Durham had only 69 hours and Nottingham 73 hours, figures more akin to February than to June.
So yes – the weather has been pretty awful and it appears that Scotland might actually become the place to holiday is you are after UK sun!
We are all used to the area we live in having its ‘favoured’ school – it may be due to a well-earned reputation – but could well be historical and irrelevant! In West Bridgford we have a number of excellent Primary schools, and some that are favoured more than others. I am a Governor at one which has perhaps been out of the limelight for too long and without doubt its day has come – Edwalton Primary school.
The school has for a long time been at the forefront of the green agenda – it has a farm, a wood and it’s pupils are fully involved in following a ‘green curriculum’. It also forms the centre of an ‘eco hub’ serving other schools who wish to learn from its years of experience in the Eco field! As a by-product it also produces very nice kids!
It’s latest achievement however really needs shouting from the roof tops – it is one of 8 schools in the country to be chosen to meet Royal Highness The Prince of Wales at the first ever WWF Green Ambassador Summit at Highgrove House in Gloucestershire on Thursday 5 July. Over sixty young Ambassadors, including 8 from Edwalton Primary School will attend the two-day event (4-5 July) with teachers Hugh McCahon and Laura Paget and Head Teacher Brian Owens, along with WWF representatives and special guests.
On the second day, Ambassadors will take part in a series of creative workshops, including a food-growing session and art- and writing-led workshops, aimed at encouraging visions for a sustainable future. The schools will also be given a special tour of the gardens and experience the Prince of Wales’ own personal vision of a sustainable environment at Highgrove.
Brian Owens, Head teacher said:
“This is a marvellous moment in the history of our school. It’s a wonderful recognition of the many outstanding contributions from staff, children, parents and governors to make the school a better place. I am so proud of everyone who has help in whatever way to make our school such a special, unique place to be”
WWF has long recognised the importance of young people and the Green Ambassador scheme is specifically designed to empower, engage and enable young people to take a leadership role whilst developing skills in team work and communication. The ‘Champion Schools’ were specially chosen by WWF for their commitment to environmental action and willingness to help other schools get involved.
Amazing what your local school can achieve!
Renewables are a great idea – once the method of extracting the energy has been built it is free – whether it is wind, sun or wave power is irrelevant, as long as there is a selection of types to provide general cover. This is the normal argument against renewables – what happens when the sun is not out or it’s not windy – hence the need for a selection of producing sources.
The Germans appear to ‘get this’ and have moved forwards in the quest for a replacement for their nuclear industry that is to be wound down following the Japanese disaster.
German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity – equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity over a mid day period earlier this month. This is in response to Germany’s decision to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022. They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass (a sensible spread).
The 22 gigawatts of solar power fed into the national grid met nearly 50% of the nation’s midday electricity needs, yes it was only for a short period, but it shows what can be achieved. Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity. The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world’s leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.
Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy and the country gets about 20 percent of its overall annual electricity from those sources. Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020.
All this at a time when our Government appear hell-bent on crippling our solar industry just as it was getting into its stride – time for a swift U-turn?
As an Englishman I feel it is my duty to show an interest in the weather, it is after all part of being British to comment upon or generally have a view on our climate isn’t it? So The weather is generally one of the things I check out at night before going to bed and is also one of the first things I check in the morning (after my emails). I have numerous bits of software to use for this purpose and have to admit to a fascination with meteorology!
Currently we are for the first time in ages having proper seasonal weather, it’s April and we are actually getting April showers – the weird thing is that this weather is actually being commented upon by the press as a significant wet patch! I accept that the press will pick on anything to sell papers, but does this point to something more significant? Has our weather changed so much over the past few years that we don’t now recognise when it is ‘normal’?
If this is the case (and I believe it to be so) is it not the best evidence yet for the ‘nay sayers’ who claim nothing strange is happening to our climate? The press are loving the fact that they can call the current rainfall the ‘wrong type of rain’ which won’t go any way to solving the drought issues, but it can’t hide the fact that we have had a particularly dry couple of winters.
Part of the reason for the British love of talking about the weather is due to its change ability, but also the fact that it, is so predictable as far as the seasons go – or always has been up until recently.
So to all you climate change sceptics out there, how about it? Are you willing to finally accept that things are changing or are you all still sticking your heads into the sand?
One of the major benefits of being one of the largest (and the richest) companies in the world is economies of scale. Apple can do things big when it does things and it has now revealed plans to build America’s largest private solar energy farm.
The farm will cover 100 acres of North Carolina, and produce enough power to supply thousands of homes. Apple will use the green energy to power its huge data centre where the servers for iTunes and iCloud services are held. When completed the 20-megawatt facility will supply 42 million kWh of energy annually, it is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to construct – a drop in the ocean for a company as rich as Apple.
‘Our goal is to run the Maiden facility with high percentage renewable energy mix, and we have major projects under way to achieve this – including building the nation’s largest end user-owned solar array and building the largest non-utility fuel cell installation in the United States,’
Apple has in recent months has come under increased criticism for working practices at its production facilities, so some ‘greening’ can only help – although in reality it is already far greener than most of its competitors;
- It has reduced carbon emissions on a number of its products, most notably the Apple TV set-top box – from 2007 to 2011, carbon emissions with the Apple TV were reduced by 90 per cent.
- The iMac has also seen a 50 per cent reduction from 1998 to 2011, while the Mac mini has dropped 52 per cent.
- Apple has also reduced the packaging associated with the iPhone by 42 per cent from 2007 to 2011. That allows the company to ship 80 per cent more boxes in each airline shipping container, saving one 747 flight for every 371,250 boxes Apple ships – and when you consider they shipped 37 million in the first quarter of 2012 that makes a big difference!
However, Apple’s solar site is still dwarfed by the world’s largest array, Golmud Solar Park in China, which produces 200MW of power. Apple may have to play second fiddle on this one!
Nothing appears to get people’s bile rising faster these days than mentioning wind farms, certain national publications have also embraced this and are leading the fight against them (Daily Mail for those who don’t know).
Unfortunately because of this there tends to be a lot of ‘misinformation’ which really doesn’t help us move the renewables issue forward at a time when it needs to be gathering pace rather than stagnating. A classic example was the ‘burning turbine’ picture that did the rounds after the gales earlier this winter.
This dramatic picture of a wind turbine bursting into flames in Ardrossan was seized upon by opponents of wind energy as an example of ‘why wind doesn’t work’. But the same gales caused issues for other power sources as well – which wasn’t publicised by the papers.
The photo has become a somewhat defining image for the anti wind farm groups, but as the hurricane-force winds did this (they peaked at 165mph) they also brought down power lines which left around 60,000 people without electricity – far more significant than the loss of a turbine.
One of the downed power lines ran to and from Hunterston nuclear power station causing the 460-megawatt B-8 nuclear reactor to stop generating for 54 hours. This outage had a much greater effect upon the grid than the loss of the wind turbine – the estimate is that Hunterston lost around 17,388 MWh compared with the turbine’s 1,210MWh.
There are always two sides to an argument – let’s not kill off wind power before it is given a proper chance.