Today’s title would better describe the total rainfall for April 2011, rather than being part of the rather saccharine word picture for a little April shower (as is more traditional). It would seem that April was the 11th driest month (of any flavour) in the last 100 years – it seems Cambridge has had less than 5mm of rain since the start of April.
This level of dryness takes me back to October 1978 which was similarly, astoundingly dry – and when I was the principal factotum for the Weather Club at the Kentish Secondary Modern school I was then attending. I think this was partly because I lived very close to school – and thus our Stevenson screen – and perhaps also because I was the club’s only member (or only active one) other than Mr Woollard who ran it. It was my daily checking of the school rain gauge that demonstrated the autumnal drought, and which led to the start of my media career. Somehow, the story was picked up by BBC Radio Kent and I was subjected to an in-depth interview. But this was such a major story that it was too big to stay in Kent, and later I was whisked from a biology lesson to be interviewed for BBC Radio 1. This was long before Radio 1 was cool – if, indeed, it is now – and when it had a kid’s strand on a Saturday morning to which my exclusive meteorology-based piece belonged.
In subsequent years, my radio career has rather stalled. I’ve had a few emails read out on Wake up to Wogan, and appeared on both 209 Radio and BBC Radio Cambridgeshire talking about tennis – I know, who’d have thought: me being interviewed about sport?! In the latter of these live radio appearances (my earlier, pre-teen radio career was recorded), I correctly predicted the results of both the mens’ and ladies’ singles finals at Wimbledon – so if any readers are interested in my top betting tips, I am available at my normal consultancy rates.
However, that stroll down memory lane – pleasant though it may have been – is rather closely related to a digression (probably too closely to marry). In fact, I was inspired to write about rainfall – or rather its absence – by a number of recent events.
Last night I was at a concert given by a piano and ‘cello combo (OK, given by their players – but without the stringed devices it would have been reduced to mime or humming). A splendid programme included Estampes by Claude Debussy – which I am sure you know is divided (like Gaul – cis-Alpine, trans-Alpine and Unmitigated) into three parts, the last of which is entitled “Jardins sous la pluie”. This reminded me of the recent severe lack of pluie which my garden has found itself beneath – so bad have things become that (a) I may have to retract a previous post and admit that Sawston does have a semi-arid climate and (b) actually pay for water to irrigate my crops.
The news yesterday reported that a European satellite, which goes by the rather dismal monicker of SOMS, can tell how much water there is in soils across Europe by examining microwave emissions – and apparently, they are dry (I know, I should have warned you before making such a shocking and unexpected assertion). Apparently, the earth (in common with the ancient universe and a small box in my kitchen) emits microwaves – and the quantity varies depending on how moist my garden is. Could there be some way to tie into this satellite, so that in my absence my tubs and cash crops could be watered automatically? I feel ESA may have missed a trick here.
My final observation relates to the Met Office here in good ole Blighty. In normal climatic (i.e. wet, grey and miserable) conditions, their five day forecast invariably shows the 5th day as dry and sunny. The Met Office is part of the Ministry of Defence, and I think that in order to reduce civil unrest they have instructions to provide a beacon of hope as part of their forecast (they assume everyone will have forgotten the promised improvement by the time it fails to arrive). Interestingly, in these drier times the 5th day of their forecast always seems to promise rain – though once again, it never seems to be delivered. I can only assume that their instructions have been changed to reduce the risk of armed insurrection by worried gardeners and farmers… (These people have easy access to rakes, hoes and other sharp or pointed tools, and I doubt our ever diminishing army or police could hope to contain them if they rose in open rebellion).
However, as I’m on holiday next week – I’d quite like Wales (at least) to remain subject to drought conditions for a little while longer…