Monday, 29 November 2010

Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past!

As I sit in my office looking out of the window, watching the white flakes drifting higher and higher I am worried that I'm having some form of hallucination! The country can't be paralysed due to the weather because snowfalls are now just a thing of the past! I know that's a fact because I read it in the Independent nearly 10 years ago!

Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past was the title of an article by Charles Onians, published in the Independent on Monday, 20th March 2000. According to Mr Onians Britain's winter ends tomorrow (21st Match 2000) with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

He then went on to write.........

Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain's culture, as warmer winters - which scientists are attributing to global climate change - produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.

The first two months of 2000 were virtually free of significant snowfall in much of lowland Britain, and December brought only moderate snowfall in the South-east. It is the continuation of a trend that has been increasingly visible in the past 15 years: in the south of England, for instance, from 1970 to 1995 snow and sleet fell for an average of 3.7 days, while from 1988 to 1995 the average was 0.7 days. London's last substantial snowfall was in February 1991.

Global warming, the heating of the atmosphere by increased amounts of industrial gases, is now accepted as a reality by the international community. Average temperatures in Britain were nearly 0.6°C higher in the Nineties than in 1960-90, and it is estimated that they will increase by 0.2C every decade over the coming century. Eight of the 10 hottest years on record occurred in the Nineties.

However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event".

"Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said.

The effects of snow-free winter in Britain are already becoming apparent. This year, for the first time ever, Hamleys, Britain's biggest toyshop, had no sledges on display in its Regent Street store. "It was a bit of a first," a spokesperson said.

Fen skating, once a popular sport on the fields of East Anglia, now takes place on indoor artificial rinks. Malcolm Robinson, of the Fenland Indoor Speed Skating Club in Peterborough, says they have not skated outside since 1997. "As a boy, I can remember being on ice most winters. Now it's few and far between," he said.

Michael Jeacock, a Cambridgeshire local historian, added that a generation was growing up "without experiencing one of the greatest joys and privileges of living in this part of the world - open-air skating".

Warmer winters have significant environmental and economic implications, and a wide range of research indicates that pests and plant diseases, usually killed back by sharp frosts, are likely to flourish. But very little research has been done on the cultural implications of climate change - into the possibility, for example, that our notion of Christmas might have to shift.

Professor Jarich Oosten, an anthropologist at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, says that even if we no longer see snow, it will remain culturally important.

"We don't really have wolves in Europe any more, but they are still an important part of our culture and everyone knows what they look like," he said.

David Parker, at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Berkshire, says ultimately, British children could have only virtual experience of snow. Via the internet, they might wonder at polar scenes - or eventually "feel" virtual cold.

Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner, but when it does we will be unprepared. "We're really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time," he said.

The chances are certainly now stacked against the sortof heavy snowfall in cities that inspired Impressionist painters, such as Sisley, and the 19th century poet laureate Robert Bridges, who wrote in "London Snow" of it, "stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying".

Not any more, it seems.

I wonder if he might just have been wrong?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Hartlepool State of the Borough Debate

I often say to people that you can tell how busy I am by the amount of blogging I do. When I'm busy the blog takes a back seat. So as you can tell by the month long absence from the bloggosphere I have been very, very busy recently. However I just had to make a comment about the forthcoming Civic Event in Hartlepool. Thursday sees the annual "State of the Borough Debate"

To use the word "debate" in anything connected with Hartlepool Council is totally erroneous. There is no way Mayor Drummond will engage in any form of "debate"

On Thursday Drummond will make a speech telling everyone who bothers to turn up what a fantastic place Hartlepool is, what a huge success the Tall Ships was, how lucky Hartlepool is to have such a great team of Officers running their town BUT hard times are ahead because the dastardly Tories and their poodles the Lib-Dems are going to take away the money Drummond has been spending like mad for the past few years. Drummond will then take a few questions from the floor and read out the answers he has previously prepared (or had prepared for him).


Debate has proposition which is proposed and seconded and has people speaking for and against. There is rebuttal and summing up followed by a vote.

Mind you, there is no debate in the ordinary council meetings. The rules don't allow debate! There are a series of speeches and forgone conclusion in the Civic Chamber.

There is no chance for any rebuttal of points made and there is no summing up allowed against the motion, only the proposer is allowed to speak more than once (although it has been noted that under the Chairmanship of Cllr Richardson the "one speech per member" rule has sometimes been "one speech per member unless you are Labour then you can have another go if you like").

No-one who knows what the word means would recognise what goes on in the Hartlepool Council Chamber as "debate"