Weather we like it or not

At our February meeting we had a very interesting talk by Gina, who is our Climate Ambassador, on the weather and climate change. Her talk is included in this month’s Buzz (our newsletter), and I am including it here also as it provides a clear analysis of the weather over the last 4 years, the jet stream, and climate change. Thanks Gina for drawing all this information together for us.

Kate

Recent UK weather

It will not have passed unnoticed that we are just coming out of the Beast from the East 2. We were in fact in the grip of an unusually cold period of weather thanks to a flow of cold easterly winds from Siberia. On the morning of February 11, the village of Braemar in the Scottish Highlands recorded -23.0°C, the UK’s coldest temperature since 1995 and coldest February temperature since the 1950s. The two cold spells of 2018 and 2021 bookend a volatile four years of winter weather. In February 2019, the UK experienced a “winter heatwave” when the temperature reached 21.2°C at Kew Gardens in London. The following year saw the country’s wettest February on record stretching back to 1862, with winter storms Ciara and Dennis producing some of the rainiest individual days on record. Extreme cold, a heatwave, a deluge, and another cold snap: the succession of different extremes raises questions about climate variability and climate change.

Atlantic Jet Stream

Western Europe is at the mercy of the Atlantic jet stream – a band of westerly winds which steer powerful weather systems, flanked by cold air to its north and warmer air to its south. The jet stream is extremely variable and fluctuations in its strength and position are the main reason why the region can have such varied weather.

In both 2021 and 2018, the jet stream was unusually weak and shifted southward, allowing cold air to flood out of the Arctic. In early 2020, the jet stream was supercharged, keeping colder air locked up and instead pushing in mild, moisture-laden air and storm systems from the Atlantic. In 2019, it buckled northwards, allowing a dome of high pressure to develop over the UK under which the temperature skyrocketed. These different patterns all fall within natural climate variability. The weakened jet stream in 2018 and this year, as well as the strengthened jet stream in 2020, are all linked to variability in the Arctic stratospheric polar vortex – effectively a vast low-pressure system around 30km above the surface, which fluctuates in strength from year to year.

Climate change

But we do know that climate change is likely to make winters milder and wetter in the UK, largely because warmer air can hold much more water. This is supported by recent observations: the winters of 2013-14, 2015-16 and 2019-20 all rank in the top five wettest on record. Recent research has shown that climate change has also made exceptionally warm winter days – such as the 20°C heatwave in February 2019 – around 300 times more likely, although they remain rare because the specific atmospheric configuration required is so unlikely.

So there is evidence to support climate change having amplified the extreme heat of 2019 and the rain of 2020. But what about cold weather and climate change? It is important to remember that extremely cold weather can still happen in a warming climate. If climate change is like loading a die, then rolling a one is still possible. Just because you roll a one every so often does not tell you that the die is not loaded. For that, you need to look at longer periods of time, to see if you are rolling more sixes and fewer ones.

The Central England Temperature (CET) is the world’s longest-running continuous instrumental temperature record, with data from 1659. It gives a clear indication of how even the coldest winters in recent times pale in comparison with those of the past. 

A winter with an average temperature below 2°C used to occur about once per decade. Central England has not had a winter that cold since 1978-79 – a never-before-observed gap of four consecutive decades and counting. Despite plenty of cold spells in the past few decades, no one under the age of 42 has lived through what could be considered a historically cold winter season in central England.

The evidence for manmade climate change is overwhelming and global warming may be speeding up. The 20 warmest years on record have all come since 1995. And just as the rate of temperature rise looks to be accelerating, so too does one of its main consequences: the rise in sea level. Over the last 20 years sea levels have risen at roughly twice the speed of the preceding 80 years.  

So how will this affect us?

  • The higher latitudes, where the UK sits, will be hotter and wetter.
  • In Britain we will have hotter summers. By 2040, we expect more than half of our summers to exceed 2003 temperatures and we will have wetter winters, and extreme rainfall events will become even more extreme. 
  • Sea levels will rise significantly, perhaps by up to a metre in places by 2100 and we will experience frequent and more extreme flooding and coastal erosion, caused by those wetter winters, heavier rain, stronger storms and rising sea levels. 
  • More water shortages and higher drought risk, caused by the hotter drier summers and less predictable rainfall. 
  • More air and water pollution, due to those longer, hotter summers. 
  • More damage to wildlife and the habitat on which it depends. In many cases that damage may be existential. If we continue to emit greenhouse gases at the same rate as today, then by 2050 one million species across the globe are likely to vanish. And as many of you will know we are seeing many species currently endangered in the UK including Atlantic salmon and cod who cannot survive increasing sea temperatures, kittiwakes and guillemots failing due to declining sand eel populations, bees (there are 250 different types) at risk because of intensive farming and loss of habitat and puffins in decline because of over fishing. 

Friends of the Earth suggest that governments should be pressed to work on the following six areas – sustainable transport, power generation, buildings and homes, trees and food, consumption and international justice.

And finally one mildly interesting factoid and an app that is quite useful. 

  • Standard Sea Level pressure is 1013 millibars (I think they call in Hecto Pascals now). For every one millibar below this, the sea level rises by 1cm and conversely for every millibar above, the sea level is depressed. In the great storm of 1987, the lowest pressure recorded was 953 mb, so the sea level would have been 0.6m higher than normal. 
  • Energy Watch GB or NG ESO are both (free) apps that allow you to see at any time the way in which our electricity is being generated and therefore the percentage that is zero carbon.

Gina

Remembrance Day 2020

Our wreath in 2019

On this day in 2018 and 2019 we took great pride in being part of the Remembrance Day parade and service in Bognor Regis.

Of course this year we will not be there as it is a greatly reduced event, due to the pandemic.

However, I’m sure many of us will have observed the 2 minute silence on our doorsteps and watched the very moving ceremony at the Cenotaph in London.

You may also like to remember how we took part in previous years by clicking below …

BRWI on this day in 2018

BRWI on this day in 2019

Our wreath in 2018

Kate Claisse

Our Autumn 2020 walks

Covid-19 influenced our Autumn Walks with a vengeance!     

That did not stop us getting out and about, however, and our walks were managed within coronavirus guidelines 6-person rule and NFWI guidance for WI activities.  18 of our members, please note – not all at once, have taken part in one or more walks.   Recruitment of additional walk leaders has gone very well, and sincere thanks goes to those volunteers.

Pier to Aldwick Sage Fancy Dress Hat

Bognor Pier to Aldwick along the beach at low tide was the first walk.  As it coincided with a dress down day at Sage House, one of our WI charities, walkers wore unusual hats and raised £40.00 for their funds.   

Halnaker

Halnaker Windmill walk, on a bright sunny morning, was a tribute to our late member Stella.  The information our walk leaders share about key points on the walks, extended to a reading of a poem, written by Hillaire Belloc, about the similarity of Halnaker Windmill’s dereliction in 1923 to the state of the country at that time.

Middleton to Climping ACWW Walk – with Manuela

The erosion that the last winter’s storms caused at Climping shocked some of us on the walk along the shoreline from Middleton to Climping.   Does anyone know when Climping was spelt as Clymping?   Jan, our main walk leader, had to concede that Climping spelt with an ‘i’ seems to have been around longer than Clymping spelt with a ‘y’.   £41.50 was raised for ACWW, Associated Country Women of the World – we were taking part in Women Walk the World Day.

Pagham Harbour – with Heather

The next walk took us back to Pagham Harbour North Wall to Siddlesham Quay.   Sadly, no one saw the Cattle Egrets, that had recently arrived, with their yellow beaks – however, there was plenty of other wild life to spot, along with some rather tricky puddles!

Now looking forward to the rest of Autumn.   Details will be sent out shortly, and more WI members would be welcome.

Jan Marsden

The Return of the Upcycling Group

Lockdown thwarted the newly formed Upcycling Group, led by the lovely Sarah, after only one project. But we are WI and will not be kept down. Keeping to the “Group of 6” restriction, the group returned with a project to up-cycle jam jars into candle holders.

Sarah patiently led us through the process and we all got to try a glue gun….the glue is hot. In addition to bringing home some beautifully crafted candle holders it was an opportunity to catch up, chat and have a laugh. Such a tonic for your mental health in these surreal times.

Coming next…..a festive wreath.

Sue Harris

Face Masks for Sage House

Sage House, one of our charities for 2020, asked for support so that they could be ready to reopen their facilities at Tangmere for people with dementia, and, of course Bognor Regis WI responded! Their request was for face masks as Coronavirus guidelines advise that face masks are worn whenever groups get together indoors.   Armed with a large donation of knicker elastic from one of our members, 12 of us raided our fabric boxes.   A couple of broken needles later and with some frustration over the multitude of designs out there, we made well over 100 face masks.   Well done, Bognor Regis WI.

Jan Marsden

Colours and styles to suit everyone!

BRWI 2020 Summer Evening Walks

Bersted Park and Brooks Walk, Old Shripney

Easing of coronavirus lock down gave us an opportunity and we made the most of it!

Our WI Walk Group re-started in June, within Covid-19 guidelines, and managed 10 walks before the evening light diminished.   Exercise, laughter, Jan’s shortbread, warm sunny evenings and conversation proved a successful formula for over 20 of our WI members.

The walks were arranged in or around Bognor Regis, with the exception of the walk to the WI Federation Centenary Oaks Wood at Slindon.   We found pockets of Bognor Regis and its environs, that many of us did not know were there.   We increased our knowledge about where we live and some of its history.   Karen, Mandy, Frances and Sheila supported Jan is taking on the lead for some of the walks.   Here are a few of the special moments:

  • The cross over with the different walk sub groups on the beach, at low tide, on our first evening walk, with arms stretched out to keep our social distance.
  • Jan’s regular sugar fix for every member.
  • Support and kindness, as one walk was a bit further that we were given to believe!
  • The amazing views across Pagham Harbour with its changed landscape since our last walk there.
  • Bells, Mandy’s horse, welcoming us to her home. 
  • Local knowledge about the Barnham Canal, Chalcroft Lane airfield, Felpham Nature Reserve, and the Bersted Man.
  • First Aid Kit used for the first time in 9 nine years – only for a plaster!
  • A Bognorian, born and bred in Bognor Regis, of which we seemed only to have 1 on the walks, reminiscing about old haunts and homes.
  • Non-exhaustive chatter as we mixed and matched while walking along.
  • Sculptures at Bersted Park.

The Walk Group also ventured further afield by Zoom in July.  We took ourselves somewhere even more special for 30 minutes!   Amazing views of the high Himalayas, insight into family and farming communities, and the role of women there.   Thanks to Jane Weston, a friend of Jan’s, for sharing the photographic journey – on paths most of us will not have the opportunity to walk on.

There were so many more special moments during the 2020 Summer of Bognor Regis WI evening walks, but most of all thank you everyone for joining in and making our walks so enjoyable.  

I will miss them, and you!   

Jan Marsden

Jan’s photos are in our photo album. To view them, please click here.