So that’s it really. Summer is almost over for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Next stop ‘The Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness’, as publicised by John Keats. For those of you in the southern half of the globe, please use your imagination or perhaps read this article in six months’ time.
To say the least, the weather this year has been most peculiar, with long periods of very hot weather and unexpected rain. Although generally speaking, for us gardeners, it has been an abundant year, with the added bonus of less necessity to mow our dry and discoloured lawns. When I say ‘for us gardeners’, what I really mean is that I actually have one, nothing of a higher level.
Wherever you are in the world, however, this has certainly been a weird year for weather; and that’s not my use of the word, it’s the general opinion of meteorologists. There has actually been snow in places that don’t have a word for toboggan. I ask you, is everything going downhill?
We had ‘The Beast from the East’ earlier on, with bitingly cold winds and then in August when I was on holiday in Portugal we had temperatures of 44 degrees centigrade which made going outside most unpleasant. We almost felt like sheltering inside the oven to keep cool!
Now before you say it, I know that many of you experience much hotter temperatures in your neck of the woods, and on a much more consistent basis, but this was unusual for Portugal, who along with many other parts of the world, have as a result experienced myriad forest fires and by contrast the monsoons have been causing floods where they have never been experienced before.
Is it climate change? Yes of course it is; the climate this year is certainly different to last year, but is it due to our long-term degradation of the Earth?
I’m not sure that I really know the answer to that. I made a cursory examination of the available records and abnormal weather conditions are nothing new. We’ve had very long hot summers in the past and from the 17th to 19th centuries people would sometimes be able to skate on the Thames.
Of course the principal beneficiaries here are the news media who publish endless pictures of empty reservoirs and crowded beaches and snowbound traffic (in winter of course). Then as soon as we return to normal the whole thing is completely forgotten.
We also now have a propensity to give names to various weather patterns. For example, in the UK, storms are given names so that we can identify them, and to meet the exigencies of political correctness they are chosen alternately male and female – wow, I’m on first name terms with a storm!
In addition, I’m sure that there must be a degree of censorship here as I really can’t imagine a very severe storm being called ‘Bert’; it would surely lose its sense of drama - I should point out at this stage that the above comment is not meant in any way to cause offence to all of you Berts out there.
As I’ve mentioned before, writing this column always takes me on a voyage of discovery and it has just occurred to me: What’s happened to the hole in the ozone layer? We don’t hear much talk about this phenomenon these days, and I’ve hardly heard anything recently about blind sheep in Patagonia, so were they pulling the wool over our eyes?
Seriously; the Montreal Protocol in relation to CFCs and other harmful gases has certainly had a beneficial effect. Together with this and a degree of original scientific misinterpretation the problem has apparently diminished. We are now free to spend all of our time worrying about climate change.
So, as we prepare for autumn we must expect both a gradual cooling of our weather and a yearning for those temperatures that we loudly cursed not many months back. Pretty soon we’ll be using the autumn season to batten down the hatches in preparation for winter and calling upon all of that Vitamin D that we built up during the summer. It is possible that we could be facing the warmest winter on record, or if not, the coldest winter on record – or maybe both. Whatever happens, it is sure to be perceived as bad for us. The one consolation is that at least Bert won’t be held responsible!