Weather Wise

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The Independent Online
TRYING to find out more about all the extreme weather we've been having recently, I chanced upon one a site on the Internet that gave me all the information I could have wished for, and plenty more besides. If you call up you will reach the home page of the Tornado and Storm Research Organisation, and if you are not then waylaid by fascinating stuff about tornadoes, hurricanes and ball lightning, you will find a fascinating table of weather extremes in the UK.

You will discover that Seathwaite, in Cumbria, had 6.78 inches of rain on 8 May 1884 - a record for the month unless you believe the 7.60 inches approximate figure at Walshaw Dean Lodge in West Yorkshire on 19 May 1989.

The lists of hottest and coldest days for every month, from 1875 to 1990 raise some interesting questions regarding global warming. If you look at the dates of all these records, you will see that the warmest days are not, as might have been expected, all clustered in recent years. The warmest February days were mainly in the 1890s; the warmest May days were in 1922 and 1944; the highest September figures were in 1906 and 1911.

Days of extreme cold are also just as likely to have occurred in the 1970s as in the 1890s. Global warming, whether it is due to greenhouse gases or our slow emergence from the Little Ice Age of the 17th century, may be raising the average temperature, but the extremes seems to have been affected very little in the past century.