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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Weather Wisdom

After a long period of hot, muggy nights, London has had one cool wet night. I lay awake for much of the night, due to the now-unfamiliar sounds associated with heavy rain: particularly gurgling drains on the patio three floors below my bedroom.

Then I went to sleep, and woke two hours later than usual.

For several days previously, people have been commenting on their difficulties in sleeping due to the [relatively] hot and muggy weather. Today one will hear of people oversleeping and travelling in more crowded commuter vehicles [which would have been even busier has the school holidays not begun]. In some cases the stress of travelling will have offset the advantage of having deeper, longer sleep; in other cases, especially for people who work near their homes, or at home, one refreshing night will have had a restorative effect.

This is a trivial reminder of how much the weather has affected humanity throughout history. Extreme weather events have changed history. Some leaders have been associated with good weather and great good luck: other have fallen because of inauspicious weather. Population movements have been driven by the weather: and climate change is forecast to bring about the greatest mass migration of humans ever, during the present century. Freak occurrences of tropical fish in the English Channel are increasing, and Atlantic cod are moving northwards around Iceland and into the northern seas where summer ice cover is less than at any known historical period.

The options facing human history are being set by climate. How much of climate change is due to human agency is not known, but there is some evidence that human intervention has exacerbated a problem. Now Donald Trump is able to play a maverick part that could be catastrophic if the most extreme assessments of the consequences of human behaviour are valid. Thus are small men allowed to become extremely significant.

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