Michael is interested in life's little oddities and finds writing helps him to understand the world around him.
Why weather changes in the British Isles
It is often said, that the funny thing about Britain, is that we don't really have a climate as such. We have weather.
A climate is defined as:-
1 The weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period.
2 A region with particular prevailing weather conditions'. source:-Wikipedia.
Some people live in the tropics, others live in rain forests or deserts. The British live in what can only be described as a changeable environment. It is our national pastime and obsession to talk about it incessantly. 'What's the weather looking like for tomorrow'? is a common question, and so very difficult to answer, because of our location on the planet, makes it so changeable.
You could say we are a nation obsessed with the weather. In fact it is the topic of a least 3 conversations daily.
Storm Christoph Hits Cambridgeshire 23rd Jan 2021
Changes in the Weather
The UK seasons are dominated by our location on the planet, near the top of the northern hemisphere.
We do have four distinct seasons, but these do seem to change position on the calendar occasionally. We can have freezing rain in the middle of summer.
The British Isles, are in the right spot for extraordinary weather events. From the almost tropical beaches of the Channel Islands, to the snow covered peaks, that allow you to Ski in Scotland. There is weather to suit everyone's taste.
The BBC radio weather forecast for shipping is always a hoot. When you are a landlubber.
'Dogger Bank Gale force 5 rising to 7. German Bite Squalls leading to howling winds!'
Where are these places and who cares? Well the fishermen in the North Sea for one care, and they may just get a chance to sail for a safe harbour if they get the warnings in time.
Jet Stream Map
British Isle in the [British Isles]
Mainland Britain, is just one British Isle, in a group of 6000 islands, in an [archipelago] in north-western Europe. The biggest islands are, Britain and Ireland.
With the outer Hebrides to the north of Scotland, to the Channel Islands* in the extreme south, off the coast of France. (*although geographically not part of the [archipelago], it is definitely British)
Some of these British isles are little more than the stubby peaks of undersea mountains and are just a few yards across, whilst others like the Isle of Man are big enough to support their own populations, and even their own governments.
Collectively this archipelago, is the British Isles. As islanders we have lived off and from the sea for thousands of years. This may explain why we are so obsessed with the weather. If you are making your living on such a changeable elemental force as the sea, you are going to be interested in the weather.
Whilst it is true that most of us no longer make our living from the sea. The obsession persists and we still have to make a living. We need to get around and when the weather stops us doing that we get very irritated.
In the Country that Invented Railways
We have a railway system that is second to none (mostly) in the world and yet every year with clockwork precision; a leaf will fall onto the railway line and the whole system comes to a dead halt.
The British then go into their annual mantra:-
'what is the matter with this country, why can't we sort these things out once and for all. We are sick of hearing that the wrong kind of snow has fallen and that the roads are impassable' Source:- Joe & Josephine Public.
And two days later, when it has all thawed and the leaves have been swept away. We all go back to our normal routines and forget about the whole thing, until next year. When it all starts again.
UK Seasons affected by location. Near the top of the Northern Hemispere
[Archipelago] of The British Isles
Map of the British Isles
Is the Weather Changing
Now I can see the sense of not spending huge amounts of money on snow clearing equipment that is going to be used at best, for just a couple of days in the year.
Financially and from a business perspective this is a very wasteful use of resources? So we don't and every year we have the same results. Chaos!
When someone somewhere finally sits down and adds up how much money has been lost due to people not being able to get to work, or the number of flights cancelled daily.
Not to mention the loss of life and the cost to insurers (and us) for smashed up vehicles. Maybe things will change? I doubt it though. It is such a great conversation starter.
There is a saying here. 'If you don't like the weather, stick around'!
Our location on the planet, means that we are in a quite unique position to get our weather from several different directions all at once. It leads to some peculiar weather events.
We get the biting Northern Siberian Wind from the Arctic Circle that flies across the flat fenland of East Anglia and freezes everything in it's path.
The warm sea and air from the equator is delivered to our shores courtesy of the North Atlantic Drift conveyor current. This raises the temperature to around 11 °C (20 °F)*
We have palm trees growing in Cornwall (think Fawlty Towers) Torquay, is the British equivalent to the French Riviera.
These two main air currents. Cold air from the North and warm air from the equator hit landfall just where the British Isles are located.
Add to this mix the 450 km per hour jet stream that also crosses Britain and you have all the makings of a first rate weather cocktail.
Hurricanes are very common in Britain, although most people do not notice them, as they rarely make landfall. But when they do, they make a real mess. Check out the video below. We have even had snow in London on a summers day.
It seems every year that we get caught out with the snow. Why is that?
Considering that we live in more or less the same region as Norway and Sweden and that they have huge snowfalls every year. We seem to get off fairly lightly and consequently we do not invest in the right equipment to deal with heavy snow when it does come.
When the snow falls the airports close, trains grind to a halt and the roads become a skating rink. The great thing about the British driver is that they believe, that as long as they are tucked up nicely in their warm cars and trucks, that everything is fine.
They still barrel along the roads as if there is no danger. When they crash as they often do, they look bemused into the cameras of the news crews that have been sitting waiting to catch the idiots on film, for our entertainment.
A policeman will give the annual warning. 'If your car journey is not essential then please stay off the roads!'
While In the background of the camera shot, people are picking up there kids from school in huge off road vehicles? Statistically and as a matter of government policy, British children live or are supposed to live within a 5 -10 minute walk from their school. Do they really need to be picked up by car.
Winter snow in Cambridgeshire, England
Changeable weather to continue
Climate change seems to be on everyone's mind. In Britain it is quite a hot topic as it appears that if global warming continues. Britain will have warmer weather.
Climate is the average weather that has happened over the last 30 year period. In reality Britain's 'climate' is moderate. Good for growing crops and livestock.
The extremes are so rare that when we do have extreme heat or cold we cannot cope with it.
When the sun comes out everyone strips off and immediately get sun burnt. They walk around looking like burns victims. Which is in fact, what they are.
'There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing'.
Attrib:- Billy Connolly.
Britain's weather is set to remain changeable into the future, unless the world stops spinning.
Are You Ready
After All That Bad Weather Relax With This Peaceful ASMR Winter Wonderland
Changeable Weather Survival Advice
So what is the best thing to do if you get caught in unpredictable weather. Your survival skills are obvious.
If It's cold and wet wrap up warm and avoid unnecessary travel. Stay Indoors and put on extra layers of clothing rather than cranking up the heating. Make sure you have plenty of non perishable foodstuff. Canned goods, rice, pasta etc. Long life milk.
Mountain Safety and Survival
These cold snaps do not usually last long in the UK. Sometimes however they can last for a few weeks.
Be prepared and stock up on things that you may need. Get some candles in case of power failures. If you decide to try your hand at mountaineering, make sure you tell someone where you are going, and when to expect you back.
Many people get caught out every year, in Britain's mountain regions, as the weather can change very rapidly. The strong wind chill factor can make temperatures plummet in minutes. The wind can turn what was a pleasant walk in the sunshine into a battle for survival in sub zero conditions.
People just do not think that the weather can be so deadly in Britain. It can and you should be properly prepared if you want to visit the mountains
Alternatively in strong sunshine wear sunscreen factor 50 at least. Wear a hat and avoid going out in direct sunlight during 11am to 3 pm while the sun is at it's zenith.
In Britain, as soon as the sun comes out, many people are so desperate to get a tan, that they just strip right off and expose themselves to high doses of UV radiation, and the subsequent sunburns They then wonder why they are red raw and sore.
We have a word here. Tanorexic. It describes some people that just want to look orange all year, either chemically or via the sun. They want to be tanned, even if it means skin cancer. Not exactly the healthy glow advocated by Coco Chanel back in the 1930s
Britain's changeable weather does affect our moods and behaviours. Painting yourself orange may help some people. Who knows. Looks like rain!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on November 05, 2013:
Hello Laura, and thank you for taking the time to comment.
Usually comments with outbound links included, are not allowed in this comments section; but considering the source. I have published it.
Like a man in orthopaedic shoes. I stand corrected :)
Laura on November 01, 2013:
Nice article! And, by and large, factually correct. However, as a meteorologist myself, I am afraid I can't let a couple of inaccuracies slip... the main one about hurricanes in the UK.
Strictly speaking Michael Fish WAS right when he said that there wasn't a hurricane on its way - they don't survive over the relatively cold waters surrounding our islands (although why let facts get in the way of a good story)! He -and his superior offices on duty - did underestimate the strength of the winds however, so I'm not trying to suggest it was his finest hour. Here's an article which explains more, in the context of the recent "St Jude" storm: http://metofficenews.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/the-...
That system, and the 1987 "Great Storm", both exhibited the characteristics of a 'sting jet'. This is what can bring the very strongest wind gusts.
The Beaufort Scale has Force 12 - 'hurricane force' - to describe the strongest SUSTAINED winds (i.e. not gusts) we see over the shipping areas around the UK, and I think that is what you alluded to in your comment about "not making landfall". It is true that it is incredibly rare to get sustained winds of that strength over UK land areas. The gusts could reach that speed too for a relatively short time, but it is erroneous to describe those as hurricane strength since the hurricane is also defined by its sustained winds (using the 0Saffir Simpson scale) and its gusts will be even higher!
Hope that clears things up...
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on October 06, 2013:
O! so you saw this in the Times tillsontitan. Only 2 years later :)
Well that is good news, as the weather is always topical, especially in the northern latitudes of New York and London.
Evergreen rocks don't you think? ; )
Mary Craig from New York on October 04, 2013:
I'm so glad you put this in the Times so I could read it 20 months later!
What a truly informative piece on British Weather. I didn't realize oh, about 90% of what you said. Living in NY I get to see all kinds of weather and the recent changes haven't been good ones.
Your photos were really good and I love the "tanoreexic".
Voted all the way across because your humor made it fun to read!
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on April 19, 2013:
Hello Mazzy Bolero,
The weather is definitely changing. It always has and always will.
Mazzy Bolero from the U.K. on April 19, 2013:
They say we had such a long winter because the Gulf Stream clung to the coast of Africa this year. What if it stays there? We could have a climate like Nova Scotia. That's scary.
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 17, 2013:
Thanks Sue Bailey,
Glad you found it interesting. It is always good to hear from satisfied readers.
Susan Bailey from South Yorkshire, UK on March 17, 2013:
Wow! I didn't realise there was so much to say about the weather. Marvellous detailed hub with great pictures. A good read. Voted up and interesting
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 15, 2013:
I visited Chicago many years ago and know first hand, what they mean when they call it the 'windy city'.
Your weather is just as changeable as ours in the UK.
I do believe we are on the same line of latitude on the planet and you have the great lakes to contend with too. Great comment.
Thanks for dropping in.
torrilynn on March 15, 2013:
I could understand your ever changing weather
here in Illinois one day It is hot one day it snows and the next day it rains
trying to predict the weather here is like trying to find a needle in
a haystack! thanks for the read.
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 15, 2013:
Thanks for dropping in and chatting about the British weather.
It is a funny topic, and one that we all chat about all the time.
Spring is in the air too.
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 14, 2013:
I've always heard of the unpredictable British weather. And I now know why. Thanks for sharing the details and wonderful photos, Michael.
Voted up, interesting and sharing.
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on July 23, 2012:
I defer to your superior knowledge of these strange things. 'It is a chupacabra print' I see it now lol
WD Curry 111 from Space Coast on July 22, 2012:
Like I said, you can't fool a redneck from Florida. It is a chupacabra print.
Dang, I wish I thought of that yesterday!
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on July 22, 2012:
I am mamulcahy lol. It's my name. Glad you liked the photos.
The footprint is exactly as I took it. I suspect it was a fox. As the snow was melting it just appeared much bigger.
Well that is what I assume. It could well be 'bigfoot's cousin' :)
WD Curry 111 from Space Coast on July 21, 2012:
Who is mamulcahy? A good photographer for sure. That isn't Bigfoot . . . it is a dog print within a human footprint. You can't fool a redneck from Florida, even though we don't have snow.
Now I know where Americans get our weather obsession. You haven't experienced real weather until you sit through a major hurricane! It's no joke, so don't throw a hurricane party. Unfortunately, it is best to stay sober.
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 26, 2012:
Thank you onlooker.
Nice you had the chance to experience our lovely British weather.
onlooker on March 24, 2012:
If you don't like the weather stick around, eh? the first day we got off at the heathrow and on the way, in the cab...the rj asked, "what is the subject most talked about in the UK?" Later we got to know why, of course. It was like a revelation. This hub brings back fond memories. Thank you! Good afternoon.
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 05, 2012:
O my word! So lucky to be going home.
I lived in cape town between 2003 and 2011 and loved every minute of my time there. I am a Brit married to a South African.
George is fabulous. I played at the golf course there at Fancourt. It is fabtastic.
We often talk about returning to SA when we retire. We just may do it too.
Good luck with the move and keep in touch.
LadyLyell from George, South Africa on March 05, 2012:
Goodmorning from sunny Sydney!
My husband and I are moving to George in the Cape. George, on the Garden Route has everything to offer us as a retired couple. Last year we were there for three months and fell in love with the area. We previously lived in Johannesburg but escaped from the crime scene there. A gun at my head was the last attempt someone would have on my life. Enough and no more!
I love the country, the people, the weather and most of all the affordable cost of living in SA.
My profile touches on my life spent between the two countries.
Are you originally from SA?
I think SA stays in ones blood somehow.
Well, it's time to return to my packing with only weeks to go.
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 03, 2012:
You are so lucky to be moving back. Where are you moving too?
Those that fly away for the British winter are called swallows.
Summer in the UK winter In SA. We have many friends that do the same thing.
I couldn't personally. I wouldn't come back again. lol
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 03, 2012:
I never got down to Georgia but it sounds like you have some weird weather there too.
You describe the sultry season so well, it reminds me of Gone with the wind? somehow!
Got Georgia on my mind now lol
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 01, 2012:
Thank you Theresa,
I am glad you liked it. I have just re-read it. O dear I must have been very distracted, I have fixed it now.
Britain is in a peculiar position geographically.
Hence the peculiar weather. Four seasons in one day has happened.
LadyLyell from George, South Africa on February 29, 2012:
This informative article read similar to emails I receive from my South African friend now living in Hampshire. I've noted that she loved the snow at first but now escapes back to South Africa Dec/Jan to avoid all.
I'll stay in the southern hemisphere thank you and moving back to South Africa next month to live puts me far from the English weather conditions.
Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on February 29, 2012:
Enjoyed your hub! Very funny!
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on February 29, 2012:
It's a roller coaster here in NE Georgia as well. Right now it is thundering and the wind is blowing with a tornado watch! But it would not be beyond impossible to have snow next week. The only time we have stable weather here is in June,July, August and September when it is nothing but one thing...Hot and severely muggy! Great Hub on changeable weather and as always awesome pics!
Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on February 29, 2012:
Hi Michael -
Somehow even though I know how far north England is, like everyone else I guess, I don't think of you guys as having snow. The pictures were absolutely fabulous. And as someone who used to teach world geography, I loved all the geography terms, explanations, pictures. and maps that you use. All in all a terrific job, very enjoyable. Theresa
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 27, 2012:
Great hub; love the humor. Some day I might actually get to visit there..it's on my bucket list, which seems to be getting longer and not shorter.
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 22, 2012:
Thanks Vinaya Ghimire,
Glad you liked it. There is a saying here. 'If you don't like the weather, stick around' lol
It is so changeable and it is a national obsession.
Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on February 22, 2012:
I have not been to Britain but heard quite a lot about the erratic British weather. I enjoyed reading this article. There is so much to learn from this hub.
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 21, 2012:
How's the weather looking over there? lol That is the first thing we say here to. It is a national obsession and I guess you guys may have got it in your DNA :)
Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on February 21, 2012:
I am assuming the U.S. must have inherited our obsession with the weather from England. It is all we ever talk about, too. If it is going to snow, it is the first news story for the night. Completely ridiculous!
Fun hub and voted up!
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 14, 2012:
Thanks everyone for your great comments, I am having network connection issues related to 'the weather conditions' and cannot stay online for more than a few minutes at a time. I will reciprocate asap Thanks for SHARING.
Dexter Yarbrough from United States on February 14, 2012:
Hi Molometer! Whenever I watch television and the story-line or documentary is about Great Britain, it seems that the weather is always cold! Not necessarily snowy but cold. Maybe it's just the stuff I watch! Perhaps I should just take a trip there and see for myself!
Brett C from Asia on February 13, 2012:
Up, funny and interesting. Being a Brit, I can relate and honestly DO NOT MISS it. I think that one of the main reasons we complain is that we are pretty useless as a nation as far as preparation is concerned. South Korea has -20 with 1m of snow fall overnight, but it is life as usual. They also have four seasons, but it doesn't seem to be an issue for them. In the UK, as you mentioned, a weather change brings the country to a halt ... something isn't right there! lol
Thanks for SHARING.
Alastar Packer from North Carolina on February 13, 2012:
Your making a habit of putting out very fine articles molometer and this ones no exception. I'm a bit fascinated by British Isles topography and well, everything else about it too. It's not surprising Brits are obsessed with the weather being an island nation and at the top of the hemisphere like you wrote. Those tracks may be from a dog that stepped in a persons. But then again one never knows do one. Good hub molometer.
Movie Master from United Kingdom on February 13, 2012:
Hi molometer, a fantastic hub, I really enjoyed this!
The news the other night was so comical (yes on the news as well as the weather forecast) the headlines were up to 10cms of snow expected in some areas! People must laugh at us - as we grind to a halt!
Many thanks and voted up
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 12, 2012:
Thank you everyone for your great comments. I am suffering from connection issues so will come back to these comments when it is more stable.
Stuart Goddard from Bradford on February 12, 2012:
Well even more topical up here in the Pennines. My home is only two minutes away from the M62 motorway which was for years the highest motorway in Europe.1,200 feet above sea level. Definition of motorways is defined by maximum and minimum gradients here and other things. It can be a foot deep in snow here and be none at all within 20 miles. It has serious consequences on rearing cattle and livestock which we need to add salt licks,mineral licks and copper deficiency which is common. This is all due to excessive rain and snow washing out elements in the ground. In reality I love it especially in winter. voting up great,
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on February 11, 2012:
My brother, you have great information here. I learn many things from you. But my favorite is "Winter In Cambridgeshire" pictures. You have done a great job. Rated up and take care!
Ian Dabasori Hetr on February 11, 2012:
This hub should become hub of the day...Lot of effort has been put into making this hub...Its useful because I have learnt new things here. Voted right up. Hope you enjoy mu hubs as well.
Judi Brown from UK on February 11, 2012:
The weather is certainly our default form of conversation. Can't think of anything interesting to say? There is surely some weather related comment to make! It's a great icebreaker!
Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on February 11, 2012:
Are you sure you're not writing about Texas? Okay - I don't recognize the scenery. I hadn't realized your beautiful country was experiencing severe climate issues, too; I guess it's becoming global. This hub is food for thought for every country - thanks for posting it. Voted up, useful and interesting.
James Kenny from Birmingham, England on February 11, 2012:
A well written and entertaining article. As a fellow Brit, I can completely relate, talking about the weather is often the default subject of a conversation when there's nothing else to talk about.
Tammy from North Carolina on February 11, 2012:
Fascinating Molometer. The weather in the US is also acting unpredictably. I live in Western, NC and we just had ravishing, deadly tornadoes in January. It is very unusual and cause for wonder. Great hub!
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 11, 2012:
Not just the British -- weather is an obsession in the U.S. too, in areas with changing weather. Here is Southern California, we mostly ignore it because it's so sunny all the time. Voting this Up and Interesting. Thanks for SHARING.
Annette R. Smith from Ocala, Florida on February 11, 2012:
What a wonderful hub! I enjoyed reading about the national obsession with weather. Your snow pictures are very pretty, and the "Fawlty Towers" clips were fun! By the way, we have a similar saying in Texas: "If you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait a minute and it will change." It's mild and sunny here today. Voted up and interesting!
James W. Nelson from eastern North Dakota on February 11, 2012:
Didn't work. I guess I don't know how. The title is "Will and Kate" Will and Kate
James W. Nelson from eastern North Dakota on February 11, 2012:
Very humorous hub, Molometer, I read and watched everything except the song. I do believe climate change is definitely with us. Here in North Dakota I can see change everywhere, and I think drastic change is coming sooner then we hope.
I think Britain is the best friend America has. Good to see Prince Harry volunteering for Afghanistan even though the Taliban "want" him. Our President wants us out of that country and has given the enemy a timeline. How stupid. When we leave that country the Taliban will come back so fast and all the rights women have gained will be gone. It's tragic that our young men and women are dying there, but leaving will be hugely tragic too.
I did one hub about the marriage of Will and Kate you might enjoy. That couple is so charming and so needed in the world. I will try to give you a link.
Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 11, 2012:
Thanks Emma, I love the snow having just spent 8 years living in the semi desert region of South Africa. To me it is like being a kid again, I love it.
Hope you get through this cold snap okay, I am sure you will survive lol. Just remember to wrap up warm.
Emma Kisby from Berkshire, UK on February 11, 2012:
Yes, as a fello