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Monday, August 8, 2022
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HomeNewsThe weather – a user’s guide

The weather – a user’s guide

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WITH the UK experiencing record temperatures and weathermen, the media and Government all playing their part in reducing the catastrophic fatalities a hot spell brings, TCWDF has asked the Met Office for its current guidance concerning other meteorological occurrences.

Rain

Rain is liquid water in the form of droplets which have condensed from atmospheric water vapour and become heavy enough to fall under gravity.

Quite often people take rain for granted and will, without thinking, leave the house if it is raining. This is an extremely hazardous and foolish thing to do; we always advise, first and foremost, caution. If you are unused to ‘getting wet’, as we meteorologists call it, it can be a destabilising and distressing experience.

Rain can creep up suddenly and deliver what we term ‘showers’. These can vary from short and sharp to occasional prolonged heavy periods. These bursts may be accompanied by other phenomena such as thunder (a loud noise in the sky) and lightning (a bright electrical atmospheric discharge). If the former is audible, we recommend using a pair of BSI approved ear defenders; if the latter is visible, we suggest that you immediately go indoors and lie flat on the floor – please close curtains and unplug any electrical equipment, and wherever possible build a small Faraday Cage to sit in.

Prior to venturing out, be on the lookout for grey clouds. These dense airborne masses are usually a reliable indicator of the potential for wet weather. We strongly urge that even if it is not immediately raining, that precautions are taken to mitigate the physical and emotional effects that can be associated with prolonged exposure. These include feeling wet or decidedly damp, irritable, and for certain individuals fleeting euphoria. It is also prudent to note that when people say ‘it is raining cats and dogs’, there are in fact worldwide no records of this happening.

For further advice and tips on how to use an umbrella please visit our website and click on the drowning person icon.

Wind

This is the natural movement of air or other gases relative to the planet’s surface and it can be a worrying event. What is particularly concerning is that like rain (see above) it can range from a gentle cooling zephyr to something far more ferocious. Individuals might find it beneficial to acquaint themselves with the relevant nomenclature (gust, breeze, squall, gale, storm, hurricane) to ensure complete preparedness should they take the decision to exit their house.

Wind, whilst not visible per se, can be appreciated by careful observation of your surroundings. The movement of tree branches from side to side, or indeed up and down, is a reliable indicator of wind being present. If you see a person’s hat being removed suddenly and not by the wearer themselves, you can safely assume that it is windy.

If you encounter wind when you are away from home, the Met Office’s advice is firstly, do not panic; that is the worst thing you can do. Instead, take careful stock of your environment: are there any sturdy shelters nearby where you can take refuge? Steer clear of unstable advertising hoardings and any loose structures. Under no circumstances should you be tempted to tie yourself to scaffolding – this could result in serious injury or fatality. Being caught out in wind can be avoided by looking at the Met Office’s website prior to leaving home. For advice on scarves and associated paraphernalia and up-to-the-minute information, simply click on the person-trapped-under-a-fallen-wall icon.

Snow

Snow comprises individual ice crystals which grow while suspended in the atmosphere and then fall, accumulating on the ground. At first glance, snow can look quite beautiful but in a short space of time can change the world around us into an icy abattoir.

Snow is white and anyone who has been exposed to it can tell you that it is also quite cold – almost icy. If handled over a period it will, as we say in the Met Office, ‘melt’, turning itself into water – please see earlier advice regarding water hazards.

Snow, for children and older people, is an accident waiting to happen and we strongly urge parents and carers to be especially alert to its dangers, both seen and unseen. A large accumulation of snow in gardens is particularly perilous, and under no circumstances should children be allowed out. If containment is impossible, a suitably qualified individual should be always present.

Our current advice, formulated in conjunction with Government, is that people should stay at home whenever snow is on the ground. Leave your house only for absolute emergencies and then limit your exposure. Be aware of your body temperature: hypothermia can set in quickly, almost unnoticed. If you must go out, ‘be prepared’, there are simple things that everyone can do to lessen the chances of perishing outdoors. Put on some clothes, yes, it sounds simple, but this is all too easily overlooked. Think about taking gloves as well; maybe a coat would be sensible?

Conducting a ‘snow assessment’ is a good way to mitigate potential dangers, and the Met Office has this available as a download PDF from our website. Please click on the Inuit-with-chainsaw icon.

Next week: How to breathe.

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Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin is a retired media executive who worked across domestic and international media.

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