I love Windy. It was introduced to me by a work colleague some years ago and I used to sit poring over it obsessively – usually looking for rain. No doubt you’ve heard me whitter on endlessly about the severe lack of rain in Bloomsbury (which is in central London in case you didn’t know). It turns out I wasn’t making it up. It’s not just that I love rain and “imagine” it never rains. It really DOESN’T ever rain. By March, I could have told you that we were heading for a drought. A weather pattern had set in and seemed unlikely to change. You get a kind of “instinct” about weather patterns that probably comes about when you live in the same area for a while. For decades, even. For way, way too long.
Nothing annoys me more than this weird fallacy that it’s “always raining in London.” Er, no, it isn’t. In central London, it has been getting drier and drier as the years go by. One year in five (ten?) you may get a number of showers. And that’s it. It seldom rains in winter and seldom gets cold enough to bother with a big coat. It never snows. It never rains in spring. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get some rain in August, which is when all the schools are shut for the holidays. Yes, I know, every year is not the same, but generally speaking, this is the pattern. I remember thunderstorms in May. I remember deluges on Wimbledon when they were trying to play tennis in July. I remember carrying an umbrella. I don’t actually know where my umbrella is at the moment. I literally haven’t used it since last autumn although I can’t say when exactly. I’ve checked my diary (I obsessively record rainfall) and can’t actually find any rain. November was mostly warm and utterly grey, as was December. And January, now I come to think of it. Oh wait, here’s an entry at last – it appears it last rained properly on August 9th 2021. That’s over a year ago. So we’ve been in this rainless state for literally a year. There have been occasions when the terminal greyness produced drops in the air – you’d notice them if one landed on your cheek while out walking. But none reached the ground. It’s not just the grass that is deader than the deadest dead thing you ever saw, but the streets and squares of Bloomsbury are littered with dead saplings. No one waters them. No one gives a shit. Most people, from what I can gather in conversation, utterly love it when it doesn’t rain. They never want it to rain. They want it to be dry ALL THE TIME. Hey fuckers – THAT’S CALLED A DROUGHT.
Back to Windy. I’m not any kind of expert on reading complex weather maps but the “drought intensity” toggle is interesting. Looking at this recent image, why does it seem to be telling me that the drought intensity in the south east of England and the centre of Europe is GREATER than in the Sahara desert? I thought deserts were the driest places on the planet? This is some of the information I can find about the drought intensity applicable to the south east (with my bit of London in it):
Drought intensity compares the actual amount of water available to plants with the values recorded for the given area during the same time period of the year between 1961 and 2010. Each drought intensity class represents a particular drought period return probability.
D5 (Extreme drought):
- Soil: Soil is dry and dusty, long term soil moisture deficit
- Precipitation: Severe long term precipitation deficit, severe risk of wildfire occurrence
- Vegetation: Extreme drought impacts on crops, expected yield loss of 40 % or higher, drought impact on grassland is causing cattle feed deficiency
- Water bodies: River flows and water bodies level on multiple-year minimum, small bodies of water may dry out
Obviously it’s going to be normal for the Sahara not to get rain. That doesn’t mean it’s a drought. It’s just desert conditions. The fact that I feel as if I’m living in a burning hot dry dusty dustbowl of horror is, possibly, just my personal opinion. And an obsessional one at that. It’s funny how you tend to obsess about the things you don’t have: rain, money, a government that cares…..
PS I wrote this blog on Sunday and am posting it today, Tuesday. Last night (Monday) it rained for ten minutes. Ten whole minutes. I hung as far out my window as I could go and got as wet as I could. It was bliss.