Volcano drums up Edinburgh storm

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Scientists have discovered an intriguing connection between Edinburgh and the tropics which may explain Robin Cook's abrupt interest in the rumbling Soufriere Hills volcano, now threatening to bury Montserrat.

According to new research, whenever a tropical volcano blows its top, the city of Edinburgh suffers two cold, stormy winters - as do Mr Cook's constituents in Livingston, just 13 miles west of the city, where this October the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference will take place.

Even though the two locations are 4,000 miles apart, investigations by Alistair Dawson, from Coventry University, and Kieran Hickey, from St Patrick's College, Ireland, have found that Edinburgh's meteorological records between 1770 and 1988 show a close match between bad weather and tropical volcanic activity.

The scientists found that the city's strongest storms occurred in the winters following three of the biggest volcanic eruptions on record.

For two winters after the April 1815 eruptions of Tambora in Indonesia, and that of Krakatoa in August 1883, Edinburgh endured gales of Force 7 or stronger for 70 days of the year - twice the usual frequency. The year after El Chichon erupted in Mexico, in March and April 1982, there were more than 50 days of strong gales recorded in the city.

The connection is probably due to the enormous amounts of dust that volcanic eruptions can throw into the stratosphere. There, the dust circulates over the Earth's surface and temporarily cools the surface below.

Why Edinburgh and its environs should be particularly chosen to suffer is unclear.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it did not know whether Mr Cook was aware of the research. "Our immediate concern is the people in Montserrat. And I think Mr Cook would be sympathetic to bad weather anywhere."