12/23/2010

Flyers predicted a cold winter

ladybird.jpgThis winter has been exceptionally cold and snowy over northern Europe, especially the United Kingdom. This was predicted very early by various flyers which flap their wings.

 


Geneva has already had two major snowfalls, and pretty well all of northern Europe is suffering also. Britain's weather is bringing back memories of winters decades ago: 1981-82 with its very heavy snow before Christmas which blocked traffic all over Britain,  1962-63, when in London the upper reaches of the Thames froze over and for many weeks I walked on ice to the nearest underground station, and 1946-47, in the middle of which my family moved from the north of England to the Midlands rather faster than did the removal van with all of our possessions. Indeed, the first week of December 2010 in Britain was the second coldest since 1772.

Although meteorologists can explain what is causing this in the short term (a high pressure zone too far south of Iceland preventing the warmish low pressure zones from dropping rain on Britain), and can provide forecasts of remarkable accuracy for several days ahead, the long-term forecast is beyond them. However, some of our winged friends have definitely seen this coming.

The migration patterns of birds are one of the indicators. Ornithologists had already reported on October that there were many more birds than usual migrating to Britain from Scandinavia. This extra migration, in particular redwings, fieldfares, brambles and wood pigeons, is always considered as the harbinger of a hard winter.

Even more curious is the choice, by the orange ladybird, of where, from late September, it chooses to pass the winter. If it creeps into crevices in tree trunks around three feet above ground then the winter will be mild. However, this year it is snuggling under fallen leaves on the ground, thus predicting a cold winter. Its hibernation habits have been a correct predictor for over a decade.

So do we have any equivalent predictors in Geneva? Perhaps I should ask Mr Metéo, of Metéosuisse, Philippe Jeanneret,who has his own blog.

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