Michael McCarthy: Enjoy cold winters while they last

Nature Notebook

Share
Related Topics

It is the winter solstice on Sunday, when the days begin to lengthen once again, albeit imperceptibly, and the great cycle of rebirth starts once more, even if the two harshest months are still ahead of us. My spirits are always lifted on 21 December because I feel that a corner has been turned and the warmth and the new life are on the way – but this year has been different: I have been positively enjoying the winter cold.

If you follow the climate change agenda and you accept the science, you will need no convincing that cold winters in Britain will fairly soon be a thing of the past. Indeed, for the past 20 years, winters have been getting steadily warmer, with noticeable results in the natural world. Many resident garden birds which are vulnerable to freezing weather, such as wrens, have been enjoying an enormous population boom, while numbers of badgers are also soaring because they have been able to dig in unfrozen ground for their main food, earthworms, all winter long. This is very likely the reason why hedgehog numbers are plummeting, because badgers eat all the hedgehogs they can find (although, curiously, no one seems to be making much of a fuss about it).

The reason we have had a chilly December is probably La Niña, the climate phenomenon which occasionally sees the waters of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean turn very cool, affecting the global climate in turn. But the current La Niña is now weakening and next year (and certainly from 2010) the super-computer climate models show global warming taking off once more.

So I have been relishing the sharp cold air on my face with a strong sense that this is the natural order of things, but there may not be much more of it. Meanwhile, I find I am more and more drawn to the carol "In The Bleak Midwinter", with its frosty wind, earth hard as iron and water like a stone, and I find myself longing for snow as much as any child does.

Majesty of the sky at night

Snowfall in London makes the most magical transformation of the cityscape, but there is an even more remarkable winter sight in the capital: the constellation Orion, greatest of all the heavenly bodies in the night sky, seen from Waterloo Bridge. If you cross the bridge from north to south, especially on a freezing but clear January evening at about 8pm, Orion the hunter blazes out of the sky in front of you, above the National Theatre and Waterloo station. It is so brilliant that even the light pollution from a million street lamps cannot hide it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to adapt and survive

Nigel Edwards
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?