Weather: Now Is the Discontent of Our Winter

By Hartston, William | The Independent (London, England), December 8, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Weather: Now Is the Discontent of Our Winter


Hartston, William, The Independent (London, England)


Winter weather has settled in, although it is officially still autumn. Meteorological observations, however, point to our having not four seasons of the year, but five.

When it snows in the first week of December, and it never really feels like spring until April at the earliest, one could be forgiven for thinking that the season of winter takes up more than its fair share of the year. Officially, however, winter has not yet begun.

The seasons, if you want to be scientific about it, begin and end at the solstices (when the sun is furthest from the earth and we experience the longest and shortest days of the year) and the equinoxes (when the sun passes directly over the equator, and day and night are of equal length all over the world). Winter will begin this year on 21 December; next spring will start on 20 March, and autumn on 23 September. In terms of our weather, however, it would make more sense to divide the year into five seasons, not four.

A study of 50 years of British weather, published in 1950 by H.H.Lamb, indicated the following seasonal patterns:

1) Spring to early summer: From the beginning of April to the middle of June, British weather is at its most variable. According to Lamb there are fewer long-lasting spells of consistent weather conditions in this period than at any other time of year. Surprisingly, it is also the time when we are most likely to have long stretches of northerly winds.

2) Mid- to late summer: From mid-June to early-September, we are fairly likely to have settled weather, especially in the period from the middle of July to the middle of August - but whether it will be good weather or bad is in the laps of the weather gods.

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