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This week is has mainly been snowing in the England. To have snow this early in the winter is unusual. Actually, over the last twenty years or so, to have snow (serious snow, that is) at all has been unusual – we’ve had a number of winters, especially between 1990 and 2002 or so, when there was very little snow at all and temperatures stayed above freezing pretty much all winter. But a week and a half ago a ‘blocking high’ became established over Scandinavia (or the over Atlantic just west of Norway) pulling air from the Arctic down over the eastern half of the UK. (Here’s a Wikipedia article about Blocking systems.) The result of this has been the heaviest snowfall I can remember in my life. Officially, Sheffield had 15 inches of snow in a day and a half, but where we live, in the southwest of the city and on the slope up the Peak District edges, it’s been more like two feet.

Snowy table

It’s also been extremely cold – minus 5 or 6 (centigrade) at night has happened several times, and one night last week we were forecast something between minus 8 and minus 11. The next few nights are forecast to be minus 5 or minus 6 and on Tuesday and Wednesday it won’t get above freezing at all. For England, this is very cold. The result has been that the country has come to a standstill: roads blocked, airports closed, and public transport disrupted or cancelled. “How inefficient!” millions of people are howling, but I’m not so sure: although this is the second winter running that’s brought heavy snow it’s still not a common feature of our winter weather. Although the UK is a long way north – the whole of the UK is north of anywhere in the lower 48 states, for example – our winter weather is greatly moderated by the presence of the Atlantic just to the west of us and of course the presence of the gulf stream in that ocean. So mild, windy & wet is our most common winter weather experience. How sensible would it be, financially, to spend huge amounts of money on snow-clearing equipment? Any local authority doing so at the end of the 80s might have been severely criticised a decade or so later because the equipment would have seen very little use during the 90s. The trouble is, we don’t know what will happen from one week to the next, let alone from one year to another. Still, I also recognise that my view is conditioned by the fact that I work at home, and Val can do the same, when required. As long as we have the broadband and the boiler keeps heating the house, I can be as productive during this period as any other, so I’m not affected by the infrastructure problems. There are also some benefits from this weather: I’ve probably spoken more to my neighbours while we’ve all been shoveling snow this weekend than at any time in the last year.

Here are a couple more pictures, and link to the complete set. The first of these was taken a week ago after the first, light, preliminary snowfall a week ago; the other is after the heavy fall of last Monday & Tuesday. (Link.)

And finally: I was thinking that this post would have nothing at all to do with going on cruises, but Val has just reminded that in December next year we will be going on a short cruise on Fred Olsen’s Black Watch. She says she’s already started worrying whether we’ll be able to get to Southampton for the start of the cruise, or back home after it…..

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