So, it's Halloween and quelle surprise, Mrs Flashbang and the rest of the coven are getting together tonight for their monthly Book Club session. Now tell me that is just coincidence. And you thought I was joking...
“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible." T.E. Lawrence; Seven Pillars of Wisdom
The Met Office have issued their quarterly contingency outlook, advice which is designed for long term planners such as councils rather than the general public, with an outlook for above average rainfall for November to January. That in itself is bad news for those with waterlogged gardens and trees standing in increasingly weak soggy soil. Anyway, that’s theirs, this is mine.
There is a theory out there that early snowfall accumulation in Siberia signals a cold winter for the rest of us. Unfortunately, about 14.1 million square kilometres of snow covered Siberia at the end of October. According to the boffins at Rutgers University Snow Lab that’s the second most since 1967. Ominously, the snow has fallen at the fastest rate since 1998. Moreover, this year’s Atlantic sea ice maximum was 1.54m square km’s above the 1981-2010 average; that’s 4 standard deviations off the mean. That’s a lot of cold air.
Another snow guru, a Mr Judah Cohen who is the director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Lexington, Massachusetts, who developed the theory linking Siberian snow with winter weather said, “A rapid advance of Eurasian snow cover during the month of October favours that the upcoming winter will be cold across the Northern Hemisphere...... this past October the signal was quite robust.”
So what exactly happens?
Cold air builds over the expanse of snow, strengthening the pressure system known as a Siberian high. The high weakens the winds that circle the North Pole, allowing the cold air to leak into the lower latitudes. The term Polar Vortex actually refers to those winds, not the frigid weather. When the winds are extremely strong, they can lock down all the Arctic cold in the polar regions, allowing most of the Northern Hemisphere to have a warm winter and spring. When they are weak, the cold plunges south. In 2012, they were very strong and spring arrived six weeks early. They have shown no sign of being very strong this year. That’s a bad thing.
Something else out there to watch is the North Atlantic Oscillation, which often acts in tandem the Arctic one. The oscillation is a shift of high and low pressure systems over the ocean that can influence storm tracks and the location of the jet stream, and affect the weather over the eastern U.S. and western Europe. Just for fun and giggles our Mr Cohen has started a blog to track these changes.
In the here and now, the different systems, (Arctic and Atlantic), are likely to bring cold weather to the Eastern US and warm weather to Europe. Problem for us is that Eurasian snow covering may turn the Atlantic oscillation from it’s current positive to a negative state. That’s when we start complaining about the roads not being gritted and cue relevant government minister on News at Ten to say, “This has come as a complete surprise.”
Just to add some spice and intrigue to the mix, and not to be left out, the Pacific is likely to toss in an El Nino event this winter, (well, a 60-65% probability). Whilst no certainty it would have implications for regional planting and harvests. As a very rough rule of thumb, California and Southern Brazil could expect much needed rainfall while Australian farmers would face drought conditions. El Nino impacts the tropics much more than the northern hemisphere which have the weakest geographical correlation but again, as a rule of thumb is usually leads to colder and wetter conditions in Europe. Certain conditions still need to be met for an El Nino event to be declared and the event usually has a shelf life of about seven months.
The wild card for us is the eruption in Iceland. The eruption is vast but has stayed off the front pages because it hasn’t been particularly explosive. The eruption though has haemorrhaged lava and gas emitting some 20,000-60,000 tons of SO2 a day compared to the whole of Europe that emits 14,000 tons a day. Historically, large eruptions, and this is the largest in centuries, add to cooling and acid rain as far south as the UK. If this puppy became more kinetic, the impact on us would immediately intensify.
It may transpire that nothing much happens except an unusually wet and muddy winter. Indeed, we have Big Rain this week with more flood warnings being issued by the hour. That pretty much was the view of my cab driver yesterday. The conditions exist though, and are growing, for a pretty chilly outlook. Snow Zero is likely to come in January. At the minimum, expect more volatility in temperatures and wind. For us in the UK whatever happens we can guarantee that central government and local councils will be blissfully unaware of the consequences of perpetual inaction until its too late which is pretty much why Mrs Flashbang has been dispatched to the Cash & Carry. That is, prior preparation, (emergency fuel, light, food), may stand you in good stead, especially in rural areas.
Am I being a drama Queen?
Perhaps. The European Energy Markets Observatory though recently warned that the risk of blackouts in Europe is growing as thermal generating capacity has been hosed in favour of renewables, (23.5%) which, we’ve seen before, don’t work well, if at all, in extremes. The Icelandic volcanic activity won’t help here either given the acidic moisture in the air can damage the exposed elements of wind generators. Part of the issue here is that the generating industry’s capacity to meet surges in demand is degraded with a greater dependence on renewables. Problems with Russia won’t help one wee bit, (think we all see this one coming), and a number of nuclear reactors in Europe, (3 in Belgium), have recently been shut down because of safety or engineering concerns. Indeed, the National Grid has already told us that their winter capacity will be at a 7 year low with spare capacity at 4% compared to 17% three years ago, (we’ve shut 15 plants since then).
The energy secretary, A Mr Davey, told us last month that "there will be no blackouts. Period." Well, Mr Ed Davey obviously believes he has the powers of the Almighty. His civil servants don't though. They quickly moderated the comments by telling Channel 4 news that what he meant was the "UK was not going to run out of energy this winter." Mr Davey will now endure a sleepless winter because blackouts are likely to = "minister fired for being a stupid person." Obviously, you get to make your own choice here, believe the minister or listen to Crumble; your call.
One last point to ponder because we mostly like to cover all the bases. May I direct your attention to the letter to the Telegraph above from a Mrs Margaret Higgs. (I spotted ladybirds last weekend in the corner of my bedroom by the window. How spooky is that Margaret?).
In summary, the bad news has arrived for the mid west of the US already, (today in fact). We’re most likely in the clear in respect of heavy snow until after Christmas but at Crumble Towers, I’m taking no chances.In the meantime expect rain, and lots of it.
The other evening I happened to meet a nice girl called Kate. Kate has an interesting job, she’s a Royal Navy surgeon commander and a consultant in anesthesia and major trauma. Not the sort of women who spends much time worrying about buy-one-get-one-free levels at Sainsbury’s then. In fact, Kate has already left for another tour in Helmand, (for the third time), where she runs a MERT team, (one of those immediate trauma teams that swoop down onto the battlefield in a Chinook to casevac the wounded back to Bastion and operate on the way). I only mention this because I thought of Kate this morning, on oh so many levels, when, standing at the bathroom sink , half asleep and arm whirring like a propeller I managed to take a slice out of my nose with a Gillette Mach 4 Turbo safety razor. My god the bugger bled, it was like an outtake from Friday 13th in there. Minutes later, I’ve got half a loo roll stuck to my face, the stream of fruity invective has got the dogs going and woken Mrs Flashbang up, (you can guess who was loudest), and I’m trying to quickly work out.... A. Do we have enough loo rolls for this contingency? B. HTF do I get to work if it’s still bleeding? And C. What would Kate do? Well, I’m quite certain and confident that she wouldn’t do what Mrs Flashbang did which was to seize the moment, my nose and a jar of “Germolene New Skin,” and paste it on the cut. Never ever, ever put that stuff on an open bleeding cut. Pain? It was like running a hot, blunt cheese grater up and down my shins. Oh how I wished for the sound of those rotor blades coming in to land on the lawn with Kate and her trauma team to save me from that mad demented woman.
Those MERT teams by the way... they are just the best.
So, there I was concerned about being the reluctant recipient of unwanted frivolous tat disguised as birthday gifts and to my very pleasant surprise Mrs Flashbang hit the target square on with the first delicately wrapped package.
Years ago, when living the bachelor life, an old Army friend came to stay at the flat for the weekend. He stayed for three years. One of the characteristics of living with Tim was the never ending stream of pretty girls who used to grace the flat. One, and goodness knows where he found her, was something big in advertising in Manhattan and whenever she flew in, I flew out. Thing is, she was a screamer and I couldn't get a wink of sleep whenever she was in town. Poor Tim was a wreck after every visit and in fact, it used to take both of us days to recover from her exertions. She talked a lot too; non stop in fact and even worse, she didn't much like our local pub so it was inevitable that she'd eventually get the heave which was a relief to me, the load bearing furniture, our local landlord who saw his beer sales enjoy an immediate recovery and most of all Tim who I don't think has ever quite recovered.
A few days after he said the last goodbye Tim threw a bottle of aftershave over to me which had been a gift from the Screamer. He didn't like it, I did and I've used it ever since. I think it's very possibly the best aftershave in the world. If you're a man and you don't believe me just buy some, try it and wait for the reaction from the Missus. If you're a girl and you're looking for a last minute gift then just trust old Crumble and buy some for the Old Man.
Just think, there could be hundreds and blokes out there on Christmas day smelling like Mental Crumble and wondering why the wife / girlfriend has started screaming......