1 Nov 2012

Potten End Newsletter Article 6

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

Potten End Weather

“For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together.
For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.”
— Edwin Way Teale

An Indian Summer

At the time of writing, the notoriously unreliable long range forecasts make mention of an Indian Summer. It’s a phrase often heard, but what does it mean and where did it come from?

An Indian Summer is a warm, calm spell of weather occurring in autumn, especially in October and November. The earliest recorded use of the phrase was in America in 1778 and it is thought to have been in wide use there before that time. It wasn’t in popular use in the UK until the 1950s.

The Indian part of the phrase refers to Native Americans living on the east coast who used to rely on the extended warm season to complete the harvest and increase their food stores for the winter.

A record high temperature of 29.4°C was recorded in the UK on 1st October 1985 in the town of March in Cambridgeshire during one Indian Summer giving rise to the favourite quiz question: “When was the October temperature record set in March?”.

Fog and Mist

Fog and mist is formed when a moist cool, stable air mass is trapped underneath a warm air mass. Water vapour condenses in to tiny water droplets which remain suspended in the air. The source of the water vapour is usually ground-based like a river, lake or just wet ground.

The difference between fog and mist is simply visibility. If you can see less than 1km then it is fog, otherwise it’s mist. There are more strict definitions and classifications for aviation purposes.

In 1952, a thick fog, which became smog due to airborne pollution, turned in to the worst pollution event in the history of the UK. It was a particularly severe phenomenon caused by a period of cold weather with a slow-moving high pressure zone and windless conditions that collected and contained air pollution from coal fires. It lasted from Friday 5th to Tuesday 9th December, caused huge disruption and is estimated to have killed more than 12,000 people in the aftermath. As a result of the tragic loss of life, the Clean Air Act of 1956 was passed.

Potten End Skies

With clear skies it will be a great year to see the Leonids meteorite shower this year. A young crescent moon will set shortly after sunset which means the skies will be nice and dark – perfect for meteor watching. The shower peaks between midnight and dawn on Saturday November 17th. You need to look to the East in the constellation of Leo and you can typically expect to see an average of 10-15 pale yellow and blue meteors an hour and perhaps as many as 40 an hour if you’re lucky.

November Expectations

Crunching the numbers in our weather database, we find an average Potten End November to have around 80mm of rain, with an average daily high temperature of around 10°C and an average daily low temperature of just above 4°C. The autumn rain has steadily diminished in recent years which is partly why we are short of water in the summer. Whatever happens, make sure you enjoy your autumn!
“It was one of those perfect English autumnal days
which occur more frequently in memory than in life.”
— P. D. James