Monday, 30 January 2012

Weather Instruments

For a few days last week i went to London to look around various galleries and museums and i had time to go to the Science Museum to look for old weather instruments that might have been used during the time that the Bronte family were alive (1800's). Please also refer to my blog entry about Abraham Shackleton's weather records (23rd Nov: 'Weather Diaries').
There were only a few objects on show - and in the dull museum lighting it wasn't easy to get good shots - but the above shows:

A diagonal barometer by Joseph Finney c.1770
A travelling barometer by Nairne and Blunt, late eighteenth century.
A plate showing 15 temperature scales , from JT Desaguliers, 1745
A rain-gauge, early nineteenth century
Saussure's eight-hair hydrometer by Richer, 1789
A greenhouse thermometer by Dudley Adams, c.1798
Six's maximum and minimum thermometer, using indices, c.1780

Friday, 20 January 2012

Clouds and Collecting

I met all the weather collectors yesterday for a cup of tea and a chat about the weather. Plus they gave me their cards that they've filled in so far and collected replacement ones. 100 days have already passed since they started noting the weather everyday.

I've loved looking through the comments on the cards - often alongside the weather notes are personal additions about wildlife observations, family stories and effects the weather has had on daily routines (drying washing outside, journeys delayed, walks on to the moors etc). I really love reading them.

One event that got the whole group talking was an unusual cloud formation that they all witnessed (or not - to the annoyance of one collector). It was on 22nd Dec over the valley and was an Altocumulus lenticularis. My Met Office cloud books says: 

" These elegant lenticular ('lens-shaped') altocumulus clouds are formed when a flowing layer of moist air is uplifted by the slope of an intervening hill or mountain. The wind that carries the air over a mountain rises gently, cooling unevenly as it does so, sending bouncing waves of moisture-laden air streaming away from the obstruction. Lenticular wave clouds form in the crests of these air waves."

It was also later reported on the local news too.
One of the collectors noted: " Amazing cloud formation that looked like a 5 level multi-storey car park just hovered over."

And he's not far wrong - the image above is of Preston Bus Station (which is a multi storey car park above). An amazing cloud - an amazing building.

Thanks to Mike for the wonderful image of the cloud taken from his house in Stanbury.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Failing Eyesight

I spent a few days last week making drawings of the collected weather data on to graph paper.
Let me explain:

So far since October i've read hundreds of letters by the Bronte sisters and also Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) and i'm half way through The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Bronte). I've noted down all the weather references in every text.
During this time the weather station that is sited at the Bronte Parsonage Museum has been collecting data.

So, for the drawings i've tried to cross reference the two - finding a specific text written by one of the Brontes and tried to match it up with a date from this past few months.

Their letters are dated and refer to recent weather so they were easier to match, but there are some fictional references in the novels that i've been able to find similar days in October and November last year. Get it? 

So the image above shows:

"Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view to the right hand; to the left were the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not separating me from the drear November day. At intervals, while turning over the leaves in my book, I studied the aspect of that wintery afternoon. Afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near, a scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast."

Chapter 1 in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Looking through the records from the weather station i found that Saturday 26th November was a pretty "drear November day", with heavy rain in the afternoon and gusty wind and clouds etc. So my drawing shows 12 hours from midnight on 26.11.11 

I have to say that concentrating for hours at a time focusing on graph paper has made my eyesight go completely to pieces. I suppose that now i'm in my mid 30's it's just something i'll have to get used to? I can feel an eye test coming on.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Wiley, Windy Moors

The bleakly beautiful moorland landscape around Haworth obviously had a great influence on the Brontes and their writing.
The BBC nature website describes moorland as: "upland areas with acidic, low-nutrient and often water-logged soils. In their cold windy and wet conditions colourful heather plants dominate, growing on the deep peaty layers... Some 10 - 15% of the world's moorland is found in the UK, mainly in the north and west of the country."

I wanted to ask questions about moorland and the weather and how climate change is effecting the landscape around Haworth. So, i did a little research and decided to contact Professor Joseph Holden, the Chair of Physical Geography at the University of Leeds. I wondered how and when it was discovered that a change in the climate is effecting moorland; what are these changes and why does it matter; how important are moorlands to a diverse ecosystem and how is the research conducted.

Professor Holden replied the other day with lots of information:

As to your questions - the weather is one of the very reasons the moors exist at all. The wet, cool conditions allows peat and other organic soils to develop - this weather stops plants from fully decaying and so the peat builds up over time - thereby storing carbon - and thereby cooling global temperatures by taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Changes in climate therefore impact the moors through time - and if you take a core of peat you can look back through time at what vegetation was growing and how the moors were different in the past related to different climate conditions. We have known this for a long time - I'm not sure of the first reference to it - but I have read manuscripts from 1757 for example that point out that peat isn't just the slime left after Noah's flood (which was one of the thoughts from centuries ago) because it actively grows/builds over time and can be measured to grow.

Moorlands could react to climate change in many different ways - some places may become drier or warmer and that would cause peat to decompose and be lost (ie shrink away or erode)

Moorlands are really important ecosystems for the whole of society - maybe you can watch some of our short films to find out why and also understand how we do research:

Best wishes, Joseph

Professor Joseph Holden
Chair of Physical Geography, Director of Research, Head of water@leeds

I'll keep looking at documents and websites with information about moorlands, habitat management and changes due to climate change - so if you know of anything i should look at please leave a comment with details - thanks!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Above and Beyond

I received an email from one of my weather collectors the other day.

The weather station sited at the Bronte Parsonage Museum collects data every half hour, but I also wanted to collect personal responses to the weather around Haworth too -  pure data won't tell me how the weather is making people feel or how it is affecting daily routines etc. This is where my weather collectors come into the project. 10 local volunteers kindly put themselves forward to collect information every day for a year (as much as possible).

The email from Richard made me really happy - he's not only collecting the data and filling in the postcards designed for the project, but he's put together an Excel spreadsheet with all the data plus temperature and rainfall graphs too. This will all really help the little archive of information i'm gathering - it'll give a glimpse of what a few people thought of the weather in a certain location at a certain time in history. Might this information be interesting to someone in the future? 

I hope so.

The images above are of the work that Richard has done and emailed over to me - thanks!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Wuthering Heights Film

I went to see the Wuthering Heights film last night. It's taken a while to get to see it as it wasn't showing in any cinemas around here - so we went to Manchester to see it at the Cornerhouse.

Directed by Andrea Arnold and with cinematography by Robbie Ryan i thought it was an amazing, brutal, beautiful, other worldly, abstract adaptation of the novel by Emily Bronte. I loved all the bird songs and calls and the sounds of the wind and storms - the blurring images of rushes and apples and rain and the bleakly beautiful moorland.
The change of actors from the younger Cathy and Heathcliff to older ones didn't sit too comfortably with me as the length of time would not have changed them that much. But that is my only criticism.

To make up for the fact that the film doesn't include the second generation of the families - with Heathcliff being haunted by the dead Cathy please watch this:

Its Wuthering Heights by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and it's really fab!

The image is of Top Withins taken with a pinhole polaroid camera on a trip there in 2008.