Weather aftercast

When you mention Scottish (or British, for that matter) weather on the Continent, everybody immediately imagines rain, rain, and more rain. Having been on the island three times before I thought this was somewhat exaggerated; after eight months I still do*. I don’t know the average yearly rainfall data, but it seems to me that the difference is more about how frequently the weather changes. A clear Scottish sky in the morning doesn’t mean it won’t rain in the afternoon. A morning rain in Bohemia usually does mean that you won’t see the sun for the whole day. Similarly, floods don’t happen there every year, let alone every month; when they do happen, in the worst hit areas you don’t wade ankle-deep or knee-deep: you don’t wade at all because you would need an aqualung.

I came here in November. Having followed on the BBC website the previous two harsh winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11, I was naturally curious what my first Scottish winter would be like. In the end the winter temperatures rarely fell below zero, while in the old country they had a couple of weeks when they didn’t rise above -15C. Several months later they rarely reached 20C while back there they were daily over 30C. I need not tell you I prefer the Scottish model. Except perhaps for missing a bit the picturesqueness of a snowed-in town or countryside.

What admittedly did take me rather by surprise was not how rainy, but how windy the country was. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20: it stands to reason that an island would be more open to winds than a river basin. But it hadn’t occurred to me how much so, although my perception may be partly influenced by spending considerably more time outdoors – and by having to smoke outdoors.

Anyway, in my eyes Scotland isn’t a rainy, but a windy country.

First of all I was however suprised by something else: how clean the air was. Mind you, I’m talking Glasgow, not the Highlands. I hadn’t expected the air to be as polluted as at the turn of the 20th century; on the other hand, I didn’t expect it to be perceptibly cleaner than in Budweis with its six times smaller population and comparatively insignificant history of heavy industry. I put it down to the closeness of the sea as well.

Another surprise was sunsets. I had been used to red ones and suspected people sending photographs of orange ones to the Beeb of doctoring the snaps. After a month and a half here I concluded that not only are orange sunsets quite natural here, they possibly even outnumber the red ones.

Which brings me to the length of nights. During winter I didn’t notice any difference, but during spring it seemed more and more like the dark was coming fairly later than I had been used to. As the summer solstice kept approching I almost wondered whether Strathclyde had white nights. I began making notes and found out that the difference was not imagined. Glasgow lies only 7° to the North from Budweis, yet the longest day was almost one and a half hours longer.**

I already wonder what surprises Scottish autumn will have for me.

* NB: This was written before I learned that 2012 meant the wettest April-June period on record.
** According to the the website it was 17h 36min in Glasgow (19/6, sunrise 0430, sunset 2206) and 16hr 13min in Budweis (21/6, sunrise 0457, sunset 2110).



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