1 Jul 2012

Potten End Newsletter Article 3

This article originally appeared in the Potten End Newsletter, July 2012.

Potten End Weather

There are an enormous number of old wives tales and country sayings that relate to the weather. Some of them are complete hogwash, but many of them have a basis in scientific truth.

Perhaps the most common, “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning” is older than you might think and even appears in the Bible (Matthew 16) from as early as 1395. Undoubtedly the saying originated significantly earlier than that.

There is a scientific explanation behind the saying. When the sun is close to the horizon both at dawn and dusk, the sunlight travels to us through more atmosphere than at other times of the day. The red light is able to travel a more direct course and reflects off clouds giving a red sunrise or sunset. Bluer light is more scattered and less of it is reflected from the clouds.

In the UK and in the northern hemisphere in general, weather predominantly comes from the west. If red light is reflected off the clouds in the morning then those clouds are probably headed our way bringing with them an increased chance of rain. And if we see red clouds at night, then the chances are that the clouds have already passed us and we’re in for a nice day tomorrow.

The Rain in June

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down.
Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.”
G. K. Chesterton.
From the weather archives, the average rainfall for the month of June is 38.4mm. The last measurement for June before publication showed we had 128mm of rain (333% more than local average) and the indications were that more was on the way.

So why are we still in a drought according to our local water company? The reason is that Veolia Central take most of their water from underground. They say that “Following two years of very dry weather before April, our groundwater levels remain very low.”

Because most rainfall in the spring and summer is either absorbed by plants or is lost to evaporation, very little of the rain makes it to the aquifers. However, we’ve had exceptional rainfall recently and the good news currently is that the aquifers are starting to fill up. They are still at a “Notably low” level according to the Environment Agency, but at least that’s one level up from the “Exceptionally low” level that they were at a couple of weeks ago.

At least the garden isn’t suffering too much from the hosepipe ban at the moment.