Friday, October 28, 2005

Freak Weather

One of the things I have noticed on returning to Britain, particularly at the start of the week when it was cold and wet, was the presence of lichen. Somehow, lichens and mosses become much more prominent when it's rainy and grey. They give British building stone a mottled grey appearance which is quite a contrast to the warm, sun-baked colours of stone that we see all the time in France.

My parents had a limestone wall built around their garden a few years ago which was initially a bright yellow-brown colour. For a couple of years it looked out of place by comparison with all the surrounding walls, but now, a few years later, lichen and moss have done their work and the wall now keys in with all the other speckled grey walls round about.

It reminds me of a geologist friend at university who was an expert on the rocks of the West of Ireland. The weather is so wet over there that all the exposed rocks are thickly covered in lichens. It made identifying the rocks so difficult that he decided to study the lichens instead and see if there was a relationship between the type of lichen and the type of rock they were encrusting. Indeed there was. It meant he no longer had to go around scraping the lichen off every rock he encountered.

Yesterday, the wet weather we had at the start of the week, which included torrential rain in some parts of the UK turned into a mini heatwave. Temperatures of 21 degrees Centigrade were measured in Aultbea, Easter Ross, the hotest October temperatures since records began. The average temperature for late October in Easter Ross is 12 degrees Centigrade. I walked into town that day and ended up taking off both my jacket and pullover because I was too hot.

The Express newspaper headline today shouts "For God's Sake Stop Our Freak Weather" and front pages the comments of Prince Charles who wants more done on the issue of climate change because he fears that one day his grandchildren will ask: 'What did you do about it?' When asked for a view on Prince Charles' comments, Sir David King, the British government's chief scientist could only agree that something had to be done, but said that as it was a global problem, action would have to be taken at a global level.

But why do we need a 'global'solution? Whatever happened to the idea of 'setting an example'? If Britain did set an example and created radical solutions to the transport and energy issues of the future, it might even give Britain a competitive edge in the future. Think positive Mr Chief Scientist!

The article in the Express provided no indication of what the root causes of the climate change problem might be. Charles himself said he was 'praying' for a solution. That's definitely a non-starter...

It is good that the scientists highlighting climate issues are starting to get some respect. They have been more or less ignored for a long time. I don't believe that we can do much about climatic trends, driven as they are, at a fundamental level, by astronomical forces and long term oceanic cycling. However, the study of these changes might help to be a little more insightful into what future climatic patterns might hold. The coming winter is expected to be the coldest in the UK since 1963... it is chilling to know that historical records indicate that, in the past, Britain has switched from temperate conditions to ice age conditions in only fifty years. If that happens, it will no longer be of interest what lichen covers what rock.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

so true. setting an example starts not in the country but in your own home. Teaching your kids who then carry on the enviromental respect. But just recycling wont do it, people (kids) needs to understand why they are recycling. So many dont, they do it just because they are told. Recyling is not just about garbage either.

That that is really interesting about the rocks and L thingys. I will be looking at that stuff differently to see if I can even see a difference. hehe