Tag Archives: Londons weather

Turned out nice again

King Charles’ Coronation enjoyed typical British weather with intermittent drizzle, not bad for early May. But let us look at if other Monarchs’coronation days set fair.

I doubt that William the Conquer enjoyed a balmy Christmas Day in 1066 when they plonked a crown upon his head.

Queen Victoria’s coronation coincided with a period of fine weather, while confusion ensued during the ceremony, largely due to lack of rehearsal time.

After waiting for most of his life, Edward VII’s, coronation on 9th August 1902, was cool and cloudy but dry with just a few fleeting flickers of sunlight.

A decade later the coronation of George V on 22nd June 1911, was a disappointingly cloudy day with a chilly breeze although the rain held off.

Changeable seems to run through coronations, George VI’s on 11th May 1937, was similarly cool and cloudy with rain during the first part of the morning and again in the evening.

The 2nd June 1953 was an atrocious day. May that year had been a superb month with weeks of warm sunshine, eight days before Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, on Whit Monday the temperature had soared to 31.7°C in London. But by coronation day November-like conditions arrived, with dull skies, a chill wind and sporadic outbreaks of rain, the afternoon temperature climbed no higher than 12°C.

So how, during the late Queen’s reign, has the BBC presented their weather forecast?

1954: On 11th January, George Cowling is the first weather forecaster to stand facing a camera in front of a weather map. To do this, the maps were drawn by hand in the London Weather Centre using proper meteorological symbols drawn onto a synoptic chart using wax crayon and were taken across London. The forecasts, presented by the same person who had made them, were not always right.

1967: Magnetic rubber symbols are introduced, stuck onto (and occasionally falling off of) a big UK map. The symbols still match those on an “official” weather chart, with black spots for rain, triangles for showers and a big spiky ‘T’ for thunderstorms.

1974: Barbara Edwards becomes the first female forecaster and fronted broadcasts until 1978.

1975: A new set of weather symbols is introduced, still magnetic but a good deal more realistic. Now some clouds look like clouds, raindrops that look like raindrops and a sun that looks like it was drawn by a 4-year-old (the symbols were created by Mark Allen, a 22-year-old graphic designer from the Norwich College of Art). Perfectly simple, but simply perfect.

1985: New computer presentation is introduced. The map can now be shaded in different colours for different temperatures, but the symbols remain the same.

1988: The first dynamic arrows to show wind direction and strength, and the introduction of rainfall radar.

1996: Shading now depicts the land more realistically, with lumpy hills and yellowy deserts.

2005: On 16 May saw the end of the weather symbols on television after 29 years and 9 months on the air, the faithful old symbols are retired from the television weather forecast, and replaced by revolutionary 3D graphics. With cloud cover indicated by the brightness on the map. Although controversial at the time with Scotland appearing a little larger than Devon, and Shetland being almost invisible while exaggerating London and the South East, it would still win a design award.

2006: A rippling effect was introduced to define seas and oceans.

Turned out nice again

I don’t know about you, but it always seems to be raining here. It wasn’t so long ago when you could identify a prospective fare from an American tourist due to the light beige raincoat draped over the arm.

So it’s come as a surprise that London is the second driest city in Western Europe. At 21.9 inches of rain a year, just behind Marseille at 20.3, and gratifying way ahead of Paris and Berlin.

Glasgow leads the way when it comes to rain at 44.3 inches a year. Glasgow also leads the way as the least sunny of Europe’s major cities, with an average of just 1,203 hours of sunshine a year, from June to September it receives less sunshine per month than any other European city. London trails along in 4th position with 1,410, even Manchester gets six hours more sunlight a year.

Unsurprisingly London doesn’t come anywhere near the top for the coldest city in Europe but can claim to be one of the hottest. The first four positions have been taken by France: Marseille, Nice, Lyon and Paris, with London at an average of 59.5ºF.

In Shackleton’s footsteps

When I start my cab for a day’s work the last thing on my mind is that I’m an intrepid traveller, but surely I must be, for last year when London was covered with 2 inches of snow the Metropolitan Police announced that the roads were ‘too dangerous’ for their patrol cars to venture out. Upon hearing this snippet of news I just shrugged my shoulders, carried on working and entered a moan in my Diary.

[N]ow four weeks later London’s roads are on the cusp of total chaos, all for the want of some salt. According to a recent newspaper article, American weathermen predicted cold of a variety not seen in over 25 years in England, while our own Met Office, after telling us that were to experience a barbecue summer, then told us to brace ourselves for a warmer than average winter in Britain.

So of course London’s councils, ever wishing to reduce spending have run down their supplies of salt, and Boris when questioned about the possibility of London’s roads being impassable, after carefully removing his bicycle clips, told us that London’s councils can’t gear up for the occasional severe winter with all the expense that they would incur for the occasional freak weather.

But hold on just a minute, didn’t the boys from the Met Office predict that we all would experience climate change in our lifetimes, and probably catastrophe would ensue within 10 years if we didn’t stop driving our cars and recycle our baked bean cans?

I hate to admit it but I’m old enough to remember the winter of 1962-3, so please try at least to look like you are interested while I relate to you the severity of that winter.

Snow fell in London on Boxing Day, by the 29th and 30th December a blizzard across south-west England and Wales left drifts 20 feet deep which blocked roads and rail routes, left villages cut off and brought down power lines and thanks to further falls and almost continual near-freezing temperatures, snow was still deep on the ground across much of the country three months later.

In the intervals when snow was not falling, the country simply appeared to freeze solid with January daytime temperatures barely creeping above freezing, and night frosts producing a temperature of -16°C in places. In January the sea froze out to half a mile from the shore at Herne Bay, the Thames froze right across in places, and ice floes appeared on the river at Tower Bridge. February was marked by more snow arriving on south-easterly winds during the first week, with a 36-hour blizzard hitting western parts of the country, drifts 20 feet deep formed in gale-force winds and many rural communities found themselves cut off for the tenth time since Christmas.

Eventually a gradual thaw then set in, and the morning of 6th March 1963 was the first day in the year that the entire country was frost free, and the temperature soared to 17°C in London helping us to recover from a winter that was probably the coldest since 1795.

So don’t tell me about climate change and that we cannot cope when we get 6 inches of snow in London during January.