Looking out the bedroom window this morning I sense the winter is heading our way, the mornings are darker and the skies are grey. Switching the TV on BBC weather girl Carol tells us that there’s a chance of frost on higher ground and as the rains heads in from the Atlantic Summer is definitely over. With so much variation in weather here in the United Kingdom it asks the question “what really controls the weather ?
Compared with other countries of a similar latitude the climate of England is mild and wet, due mainly to its closeness to the Atlantic ocean and the effect of the Gulf Stream. Although England has the reputation of being an extremely dreary country that is constantly inundated with rain, this is not exactly true. Yes, England has more rain than Italy and the temperature is comparatively cold, but the weather also varies by region. Southern England is generally sunny with mild winters and cool summers. If you were to visit London in summer, than you would probably experience temperatures between the lower sixties and mid seventies with several days of rain. In winter, the temperatures would probably be in the lower to mid forties with rain. It rarely snows in England, 2010 being an exception.
Northern England is a different story with much cooler weather (though not much more snow) and much more rain. The reputation of dreary English weather is more true for the north than the south.
The Gulf Stream
The world’s oceans move constantly. Ocean currents flow in complex patterns and are affected by the wind, the water’s salinity and temperature, the shape of the ocean floor, and the earth’s rotation. The Gulf Stream is one of the strongest ocean currents in the world. It is driven by surface wind patterns and differences in water density. Surface water in the north Atlantic is cooled by winds from the Arctic. It becomes more salty and more dense and sinks to the ocean floor. The cold water then moves towards the equator where it will warm slowly. To replace the cold equator-bound water, the Gulf Stream moves warm water from the Gulf of Mexico north into the Atlantic.
The Gulf Stream brings warmth to the UK and north-west Europe and is the reason we have mild winters. Without this steady stream of warmth the British Isles winters are estimated to be more than 5C cooler, bringing the average December temperature in London to about 2C. At the end of the last Ice Age, when the ice sheet covering North America melted, the sudden increase in fresh water reduced the salinity of the north Atlantic surface water and therefore less ‘dense water’ sank and moved towards the equator. This reduced, or even shut-down completely, the warm Gulf Stream. Temperatures in north-west Europe fell by 5C in just a few decades.
Recent observations have shown that since 1950 there has been a decrease of 20% in the flow of cold water in the Faeroe Bank channel between Greenland and Scotland. This is one source of cold dense water that drives the density-based component of the Gulf Stream. There may be an increase in flow from other cold water sources, but, if not, it could be the start of the slow down of the Gulf Stream.The IPCC believe it is very likely that the Gulf Stream will slow down during the 21st Century but very unlikely it will undergo a ‘large abrupt transition’. The average reduction predicted by the various models used is 25%. This slowing will have a cooling effect but the temperature will still increase in the region overall.
It suggests that the British Isles, especially western regions, will see a significantly smaller temperature increase than other areas of land mass. By the time all this really takes effect the chances are that you my readers and the two of us will probably be long gone. Hopefully by then we will have lived a long fruitful and rewarding naked life exploring all the parts of England and Europe that I’ve mention in this blog but not yet visited and all those other places that I’ve not yet discovered and not yet mentioned.
If the weather is warm and you are in the mood to try something different, why not shed the stresses of urban life and your clothes at the same time. We do and it’s a wonderful feeling. Mention naturism and most Brits smirk or make fun but really it’s a “way of life in harmony with nature”. You may be surprised to learn that there are millions of naturists in the UK and many millions more naturists worldwide.
Many naturists have their first experience abroad – good weather being rather important. But in the UK naturists can choose from 180 venues and 100 beaches. Most clubs have covered heated pools, saunas and sports facilities. Give it a go – just think of the all-over tan!