Changeable Forecast for Global Weather Stamps; as Global Warming Threatens Violent Weather Changes to Britain's Climate Harry Hawkes Looks for a Silver Lining in Our Latest Set of Postage Stamps Going on Sale Next Week
'Poms are boring. They're always on about the weather,' the blunt young Aussie maintained, downing another beer . . .
Well, it's all very well for him, though he seems to get through his share of disasters - Aussies burned to death by mammoth fires sweeping through tinder-dry forests, engulfing homes and vehicles. Then there is sunburn, the increasing incidence of sun-induced skin cancer and so on.
Yet, it was a valid point for there are few of us who are disinterested in what tomorrow will bring. It is this rapid changeability which we are anxious to discuss with others.
We are warned that global warming is likely to bring pronounced fluctuations in our weather patterns - higher tides, torrential rainfall, flooded rivers, lashing gales, even tornados with thousands made homeless by falling trees.
The report, from Britain's Department of Health, gives the conclusions of research by the expert group on climate change and health set up by the Government two years ago.
By 2050, says the report, warmer temperatures and extra rainfall could provide mosquitoes with better breeding conditions and the possible reintroduction of malaria to Britain, with the Norfolk Fens, Thames Estuary, Somerset Levels and parts of south-east Kent being the areas most at risk.
Next Tuesday we Poms will carry this fixation with the elements one step further. Royal Mail will issue on Tuesday a set of four weather stamps - a set which includes the world's first heat-sensitive stamp.
The stamps are 19p (2nd class), 27p (1st class), 45p basic airmail and 65p (airmail over 10gms).
Bright and colourful, they are aimed at trying to capture the diversity and rapid changes in the UK's weather. To emphasise this, the printers, De La Rue, which have produced the stamps, have used a special type of ink on part of the 27p value. This means that the thermochromatic ink used for a cloud can change colour when it is warmed, for instance by using fingers to rub or hold the top left corner of the stamp.
The effect is to change a dark and gloomy cloud into cheerful blue sky.
In addition to being printed in sheets of 100 single value stamps, they are also produced joined together as a miniature sheet costing pounds 1.56 with one of each value merged into a 'barometer' design.
'We expect the miniature sheet to be a very popular and out-of-the-ordinary gift - whatever the weather,' commented Mr Mark Thomson, managing director of the Stamps and Collectables Division of Royal Mail.
The stamps are the work of Mr Howard Brown, one of Britain's most notable stamp designers, already responsible for three previous sets commissioned by Royal Mail.
They were the 1991 Maps issue; the 1993 Maritime Timekeepers set (with David Penny); and the 1996 Football Legends stamps.
For the new weather stamps, Mr Brown used drawings by Mr Tony Meenwissen who has designed covers for the Radio Times and illustrated articles for The Sunday Times magazine.
The first day of issue includes some excellent postmarks from weather-related places, including Fraserburgh, in the north of Scotland, currently the windiest place in Britain.
The Met Office at Bracknell, Berkshire will have two first day of issue handstamps, both really collectable. …