Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Media Maladies

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Media Maladies

Article excerpt

Under the Weather

If Candlemas be fair and clear, There'll be two winters in the year.

Scottish proverb re: sunshine on 2 February [Candlemas]

Just when heatwave contingency plans were at last in place, we have had two bleak winters to ponder the more traditional problems of hypothermia, floods and accidents due to ice and strong winds. As weather pundits advised us of 'Siberian cold fronts' causing 'white-out Britain', it was an appropriate time to learn of chilly discussions regarding the plans to reform the NHS and the reported warning from Sir David Nicholson [NHS Chief Executive] of "Stalinist" controls over NHS finances while the restructuring proceeds, although conceding that some primary trusts are already 'in meltdown' over finances. While we shiver in anticipation of more chilling health service news to come, it may be safer to talk about the weather, a favourite topic for centuries and reflected in an abundance of folklore. The Candlemas 'prediction' is mirrored in other countries such as France, Germany and USA (Groundhog Day is 2nd February). Another somewhat depressing old saying is: "As the days grow longer, the cold grows stronger"; and British Isles weather data seems to support this, with January and February the coldest months following the shortest day of the year. February is often fractionally colder than January in western or southwestern districts thanks to the cooling effect of the North Atlantic. But despite cold weather misery, our forebears used to fear a mild winter for its association with higher mortality from infections, hence the old saying: "A green Christmas makes a fat churchyard".

Cold weather is difficult for those campaigning for action to combat climate change, no matter how often the more informed media remind us that climate is different from local weather. Arguments about accuracy of data and differing longterm predictions by climate experts have not helped the media presentation of this problem. Climate change conference negotiations, such as the meeting in Cancun, Mexico,1 have become increasingly fractious since the heady, hopeful days of the Kyoto Protocol on cuts in carbon emissions, which came into force in 2005. …

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