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stormforce 10

Implications Of A Severe Cold Winter.

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Hi there,

I am not trying to ramp this up, Everton Fox, a weather presenter for aljazeera,(who used to work for the BBC met office), said this morning that some computer models are predicting the coldest winter in a thousand years. Now this is not the first time I have heard this, someone on the forum last week also posted this, (polish scientists are predicting the same).

What would be constructive about this topic, is to get peoples thoughts and analysis on what the implications would be in our time if this where to happen.

I am not trying to scare monger or sensationalize this but its twice I have heard this in a week and the models are shaping up nicely for a bitter cold spell.

Everyone's thoughts and opinions would be appreciated.

Regards

SF10

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What I have seen and read to date, this 1000 year event is more for Eastern European, in particular Russia... Should it happen.

I believe weather patterns are changing, as they have done over over the millions of years this planet has existed.

I do feel this is ramping in its purest form. If people where able to predict the weather with such clarity, boards like this would not exist.

What we get, is what we get. Personally, I never look beyond 24/36 hours in advance and yes it can be exciting with the POSSIBILITY for snow.

Nothing like the weather to cock up peoples plans.....

After being unemployed for sometime and only recently secured a job in London (start this week), I am dreading it, if it snows big time down here (more than an inch). They just cannot cope with it all and they never, learn lessons from it all.

Getting back on topic, how many times last winter were peoples expectations dashed with a updates 24/48 hours out... Ran out of fingers!

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I know I am massively in the minority on this site, but the enthusiasm for severe cold weather amazes me.

Personally struggling to be able to get to work, facing huge heating bills and worrying about the wellbeing of elderly relatives does not excite me at all.

Sure I can see the joy of a picturebook snowy Christmas day, but weeks on end of ice days and treacherous conditions make no appeal at all, and for it to be starting in November is a disaster in my mind.

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What would be crippling is a cold year. A cold Winter last year already showed some of these effects. If this Winter were to have major cold and snow over all the major population centres of the NH, i.e., China, Western Europe and Eastern USA, and then we were to have a cold Spring, a cold and wet Summer and Autumn then there'd be problems. We'd see rocketing fuel and food prices due to a shortened growing season and a real possibility of food riots in poorer countries.

I guess we're lucky to have global warming rather than global cooling. :)

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A 1/1000 year winter might be pushing things a bit, as that would mean it was colder than at anytime in the Little Ice Age, and that might be a little bit uncomfortable. But I'd love to see a winter along the lines of the great winters, an 1894-95, 1947, 1962/63 job, or even just a great month with a comfortably minus CET. Then I can say I have done and then maybe I will be anti-cold too.

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Yes I agree with you Da Bish, our infrastructure does not cope too well, and the reason I can say this is because of last winter. For example our roads were ripped apart with the severe cold surface temperatures, schools were closed for a week due to total ice cover, and being daft as we are here in Ireland (not me) everybody was running their water taps constantly for fear of them freezing over, ignoring advice on television not to run their water taps, which incidentally drained the the resevoirs. I had the family down last xmas and there was no water to shower or bath in, so we were sitting around like silly gits xmas eve, xmas day and st stephens day.Its gets unpleasant when people start to smell and complain that can't get washed. So a one in a thousand severe winter would be the day after tomorrow on these islands, this is my opinion anyway.

regards

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This seems like a timely discussion to me. It wouldn't have to be the worst winter in a thousand years to create problems, how about the worst in 48 years? Or 64 years? Or even 32 years?

Hey, by the way, anyone notice the 16-year progression there? What was 1994-95 like?

Anyway, back to topic -- in a winter more severe than say last winter, and of comparable severity to 1962-63 let's say for reference, you could plan ahead and anticipate some of the potential problems. Local councils would be running out of grit and might want to have contingency plans for extra spreaders available as well as securing a line for supplies, if not necessarily spending ahead to get the extra supplies.

The government might want to factor in the budgetary implications of paying out extra benefits and potentially having some rescue operations and the increased demand for health care (elderly people tend to fall more often in severe winter weather).

The entire population can be placed on a higher alert level, just in case, with some sort of well-publicized instructions about snow days, keeping pavements clear, and watching the elderly neighbours if storms occur, to make sure nobody's in a life-threatening emergency. Much of this would happen anyway without the government saying anything, of course.

Anyone with a vehicle would be wise to buy a few extra jugs of windshield washer fluid now while it's presumably easy to find, perhaps also a product that is very easy to get in Canada, lock de-icer (if it's not available there, a business opportunity looms, lock de-icer is great when you've had a few days of freeze-thaw and some sleet or freezing rain has frozen your door locks).

The trains are less likely to be disrupted than buses or planes for regional travel, so the train authorities should perhaps be planning extra staff and standby coaches or whatever they could do to increase capacity. And they should be looking into the logistics of keeping tracks clear if there should happen to be much heavier snowfalls especially in regions that haven't seen them in many years.

A lot of this preparation would cost very little and would be a good test run even if this winter proves less than severe but another one down the road might turn out this way. I would have to imagine that governments have some of this already handled in contingency planning.

Of course, if you've read our LRF (BFTP and myself) we are talking in these terms too, not saying worst winter in a thousand years (because that would mean colder than 1684, 1709, 1740, 1795, and a few other big-time winters) but it's not so much the mean temperature that requires the forethought, a cold, dry winter poses only some of the above challenges. A heavy snowfall winter would be the big story, and looking at this massive arctic outbreak on the charts so early in the season, one can only speculate how many more of those would come and go before a huge dumping of snow was in the works, I mean even with this first one there would appear to be pretty significant potential in places like eastern Scotland, northeast England and parts of the Midlands, even the southeast, to see 10-30 cms of snow. The rate of snowfall given the warmish SST values and the depth of cold air would be significant, especially over inland parts of the northeast.

So in conclusion (my brethren) I would say, word to the wise, do what you can individually to stock up and if you don't need it all this winter, you'll be set for next winter. I think the car emergency kit concept is good but probably well-known and you should have had one of those available before now. But it should be a preparation just in case you're stranded outside of walking distance to warmth and safety, including blankets, warm clothes, and two or three days of emergency rations and bottled water. Plus some device you can use as a toilet. This is also something that people in snow belt areas of Canada routinely carry, but not those who live in more moderate climates.

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Just like last winter it's OK for a couple of weeks at a time mabe 2 or 3 times through winter, but when it goes on and on the costs and problems mount up.

We would soon get to a stage where isolated area struggled to keep food and fuel in stock.

As an example hardly any villages and even small towns have there own bakery anymore but rely on bread from Warburtons or whoever getting through almost daily.

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I wouldn't welcome a "once in 1000 years" severe cold winter, and I say that as someone who found last winter enjoyable. But I think our chances of getting a winter that cold are zero because it would need to be colder than the coldest winters of the Little Ice Age, when global temperatures were over 1C down on today's and north-west Europe was over 2C colder (solar minima make a much larger impact on a regional level than on a global level). It is physically possible to get a colder winter than last year's, particularly away from northern Scotland- a persistent, more east based negative NAO would do the trick- but I think anything along the lines of 1683/84, 1739/40 or 1962/63 is out of bounds now.

Teleconnections are favouring a cold start to this winter but probably a mild January and/or February, so I think a winter anywhere near as cold as last year is long odds against- I am expecting something close to 2008/09 overall in terms of overall temperature and snowfall, i.e. near the long-term average but cold and snowy by 1988-2008 standards.

Snow in particular polarises opinion greatly because it has very strong advantages and disadvantages, and it can be difficult for the more ardent snow haters and snow lovers alike to see the other side's point of view. That said, most of the non-weather-enthusiasts I know have a love-hate relationship with the stuff, i.e. depending on the circumstances they can be found on either side of the fence. What I will say is that I thought that in both Norfolk and the Tyne and Wear area people dealt with last winter far better than the media made out- in particular the media made out that the vast majority of the population bar a few children saw the snow as the worst thing since World War II, when in reality opinion on it was polarised as above and they were focusing on one extreme position. But I think if we were to get a really severe winter in terms of prolonged cold, like 1963, then the vast majority of the population, including much of this forum, would end up in agreement with the media after a couple of months of it.

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Personally I love discussions like this because they are interesting and can do no harm. I always find some people oppose such discussions on the basis that talking about it sometimes mean it will happen!

For me, among all the hardship that would come with a severe winter, there is a realisation that life doesn't have to be lived at a million miles an hour which is the impression so many people try to impress upon us. Also it brings home how important local things are and the local community is. No doubt we would see lots of headlines about how many billions it would cost us....funny how whenever this happens we never see reference back to it in the ensuing months of reasonable weather!

The biggest thing for me about a severe weather is what changes it would bring about to our laws. We get very seriously effected in much of the UK travel wise, not least because we have no law or culture about using winter tyres. And economically it would make no sense at all to impose such a law enforcing their use because severe winters are so rare of late. Not only would it impose a personal cost upon the public, a lot more maintenance would have to be costed to protect the roads from the damage inflicted by winter tyres. But the roads suffered anyway last year judging by the potholes, so if it was then considered we are entering a spell of expecting harsh winters, encouraging, or even forcing, the use of winter tyres might be something that get's talked about a lot more.

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One of the things that occurs to me should we get a severe winter is that this country has never really been prepared prior to the onset of a prolonged bitter spell. Back in 62-63 (and I remember it well) the number of cars on our roads was but a fraction of todays so any future heavy snow would cause far greater chaos than happened in those relatively far off days,with countrywide transport problems food supplies would be limited so I reckon in our "modern" era we are probably in a worse position as compared to the last severe winter of say 1979( I omit last winter as whilst in the North-East there was plenty of the white stuff the way it fell in lowland areas did not really exascerpate traffic problems to any great degree).

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<br />I know I am massively in the minority on this site, but the enthusiasm for severe cold weather amazes me.<br /><br />Personally struggling to be able to get to work, facing huge heating bills and worrying about the wellbeing of elderly relatives does not excite me at all.<br /><br />Sure I can see the joy of a picturebook snowy Christmas day, but weeks on end of ice days and treacherous conditions make no appeal at all, and for it to be starting in November is a disaster in my mind.<br />

I couldn't agree more. The milder the better for me.

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It is physically possible to get a colder winter than last year's

Sorry if I have misinterpreted that, but are you effectively saying that last winter was the coldest that any of us are likely to ever experience again in our lifetimes?

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Sorry if I have misinterpreted that, but are you effectively saying that last winter was the coldest that any of us are likely to ever experience again in our lifetimes?

JCP.....doesn't what you quoted from his post suggest he is not! What he was saying to my mind was that we could get a colder winter than last year, but not one of the coldest winters in the last 1,000 years.

Rollo :good: excellent point. Our roads are so crammed these days with so very few cars using winter tyres that it doesn't take much in the way of snow and ice to get the situation where just a few cars experiencing difficulty has an extensive knock-on effect and paralyses everything.

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One of the things that occurs to me should we get a severe winter is that this country has never really been prepared prior to the onset of a prolonged bitter spell. Back in 62-63 (and I remember it well) the number of cars on our roads was but a fraction of todays so any future heavy snow would cause far greater chaos than happened in those relatively far off days,with countrywide transport problems food supplies would be limited so I reckon in our "modern" era we are probably in a worse position as compared to the last severe winter of say 1979( I omit last winter as whilst in the North-East there was plenty of the white stuff the way it fell in lowland areas did not really exascerpate traffic problems to any great degree).

Yeah i am not so sure i would want a Winter even colder than say 62/63 now.

Being 14yo then i enjoyed the sledging,skating on icecovered waterways,snowballing etc.

Now i am an old wrinkly though so although i like to see some snow and crisp frosty bright days--a week here and there would be ok for me but not 3months of it.

Like you say Rollo so much more traffic now and it would quickly come to a halt if the snow was frequent and long lasting.

We,as a nation,don`t invest in Snow/ice equipment like Scandi and other cold areas as we don`t normally get such Winters.

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I have yet to meet a single person who didn't enjoy last winter. But that said, the snow wasn't severe (compared to say 1947) away from Northern Northumberland and North Eastern Scotland and it was generally sunny. I think if we had a prolonged period where very deep snow drifted and caused roads to be impassable for long periods and had temperautures that were comfortably below freezing by day accompanied by a wind chill then peoples patience would snap pretty quickly. Plus, we wouldn't be allowed to enjoy it because some suit clad birk in London would be guilt tripping us by constantly reminding us of how bad it all was for our precious all important economy.

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1962/63 was the coldest winter since 1740 and probably beyond that. We would cope if we had another winter like that we would have to otherwise you might as well say thats it folks were doomed- people adapt and many may be able to work from home. Actually last year I got used to the cold . One statistic which is strange and great,fewer elderly people died of Hypothermia last winter (coldest for more than 31 years than in the last 10 previous winters. My theory is elderly people( I will be one sooner rather than later)forget to put on extra layers when the temps are marginally cold but when it really does get cold friends, family, neighbors make sure they are OK. :drinks:

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I think a 1962/63 repeat would definitely be a lot harder for heavily populated areas of England to deal with than last winter was. Last winter may have been comparably snowy but it was 2 to 3C warmer in most regions, and as a result we didn't get anywhere near the same persistence of snow cover and regular sub-zero temperatures. However, I think the most disruptive winter of the twentieth century would not be 1963, but rather 1947- that one was almost as cold as 1963 and also somewhat snowier (probably the snowiest of the century).

Trickydicky mentions sunshine and I think that's also a significant factor that is easy to overlook. 1963 was a sunny winter for most, and 1947 was a dull one. If 2009/10 had been a dull winter, it may not have made any difference to the media's portrayal of events, but it would certainly have weighted the general public opinion of it more towards the negative. One interesting facet of last winter was that the coldest and snowiest spells were often the sunniest, while the inverse was often true in 1947.

Plus, we wouldn't be allowed to enjoy it because some suit clad birk in London would be guilt tripping us by constantly reminding us of how bad it all was for our precious all important economy.

I felt that the media got like that at times last winter, particularly during the first half of January.

I'm left wondering how Scotland dealt with the severity of the 2009/10 winter because in northern Scotland it was a record-breaker. But one of the ironies of UK winters is that southern England is more prone to prolonged severe cold than lowland Scotland despite, on average, seeing milder winters and considerably less snow, due to scenarios of persistent continental air like 1947 and 1963, whereas Arctic-dominated winters like last year tend to have cold spells separated by less cold interludes. It sounds to me as if Scotland's most disruptive winter was probably the 1954/55 one which was similarly cold in January and February and had some particularly heavy snowfalls.

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...

I'm left wondering how Scotland dealt with the severity of the 2009/10 winter because in northern Scotland it was a record-breaker. But one of the ironies of UK winters is that southern England is more prone to prolonged severe cold than lowland Scotland despite, on average, seeing milder winters and considerably less snow, due to scenarios of persistent continental air like 1947 and 1963, whereas Arctic-dominated winters like last year tend to have cold spells separated by less cold interludes. It sounds to me as if Scotland's most disruptive winter was probably the 1954/55 one which was similarly cold in January and February and had some particularly heavy snowfalls.

If Winters were consistently very cold I think you would just adapt, get used to it and then just get on with life as normal. I was in Saskatchewan in Canada a few years ago with temps at -35c and 6 feet of lying snow. People were still driving, kids going to school etc, they just get on with it. I was up at Lake Tahoe in January when they had 24 inches of snow in 24 hours, again people were still driving etc. It took the local authorities about 3 hours to scrape and grit the roads after which we were out again, albeit with snow chains, snow boots, skidoos etc.

I think a local example of this is the high winds we get in Edinburgh City (for a metropolitan area anyway). Whats not ended up in the Forth a long time ago will stay put :)

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If Winters were consistently very cold I think you would just adapt, get used to it and then just get on with life as normal. I was in Saskatchewan in Canada a few years ago with temps at -35c and 6 feet of lying snow. People were still driving, kids going to school etc, they just get on with it. I was up at Lake Tahoe in January when they had 24 inches of snow in 24 hours, again people were still driving etc. It took the local authorities about 3 hours to scrape and grit the roads after which we were out again, albeit with snow chains, snow boots, skidoos etc.

I think a local example of this is the high winds we get in Edinburgh City (for a metropolitan area anyway). Whats not ended up in the Forth a long time ago will stay put :)

SL...it's an economic thing as well through. In Canada the severity of the winter is pretty much guaranteed so investing in all the equipment and employing people to work it makes sense. Whereas forcing people to use winter tyres or such like and investing in the equipment and its employment over here, even in Scotland to some extent, is not going to seem very prudent in most years.

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That relates to a point I often make re. elderly mortality and the like. Broadly speaking many studies seem to make an inference that if cold-related deaths reduce by X in winters that are 2C above present-day averages, if winters warm by 2C, cold-related deaths will reduce by X. It isn't quite as simple as that, because as winters get milder people become less prepared for cold. In all probability if winters get 2C warmer cold-related deaths will reduce but only by a small fraction of the expected amount.

The same goes for increases in cold-related deaths when colder winters arise, and for heat-related deaths when hotter summers arise.

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1962/63 was the coldest winter since 1740 and probably beyond that. We would cope if we had another winter like that we would have to otherwise you might as well say thats it folks were doomed- people adapt and many may be able to work from home. Actually last year I got used to the cold . One statistic which is strange and great,fewer elderly people died of Hypothermia last winter (coldest for more than 31 years than in the last 10 previous winters. My theory is elderly people( I will be one sooner rather than later)forget to put on extra layers when the temps are marginally cold but when it really does get cold friends, family, neighbors make sure they are OK. :drinks:

Very few people die of hypothermia, excess winter mortality is normally as a result of influenza, pneumonia and cardiac problems. Scotland revealed a fall in deaths last winter but this is a continuation of a downward trend largely as a result of vaccination programmes, especially in the wake of last year's swine flu outbreak. It may be possible that the less that people are able to come into contact with others because of bad weather, infection rates may be further curtailed. Also people may be less likely to be exposed to the cold outdoors if the weather is more severe than normal.

The provisional figures for England and Wales have not yet been released; they are published tomorrow 23/11.

However, after the cold of the previous winter, England and Wales saw a 49% increase in winter deaths, and Wales alone had an alarming 74% increase.

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An interesting thread - the bit I always wonder about is the reliability of our gas supplies given that we are at the 'end' of the gas pipeline. If E Europe get as cold as predicted will it put too much strain on supplies? Last year we got by, but some non essential commercial users did get turned off.

Car deliveries from Germany (Wolfsburg) were delayed due to snow in Feb/ March time so I imagine there is potential for even more effects if this were to turn out to be even harsher winter.

Certainly the start of heavy gritting in November will cause real consternation in local councils, who have just been seeking to make unprecedented spending cuts and trimmed all vestiges of flesh from already hard strapped budgets.

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Very interesting. I was 14 in 1963 so I remember that Winter well and can recall the problems that we had living out in a very rural location. Some of those problems would certainly not have changed, others would be worse or not so bad. I remember my Dad fixing burst after burst in our old draughty unheated house. This would probably be less of a problem in todays well heated and insulated homes with frost guards on boilers, etc. Another thing that sticks in my mind was the state of the roads, obviously I was too young to drive then but I remember the huge tunnel like walls my dad drove through just to get to the shops, gritting just didn't do the trick back then, the roads were rutted to like nothing I've ever seen since. I'm not sure how this would pan out today, for sure there's a lot more traffic but equipment has improved drastically since 63. We now have a few snow blowers and loads of ploughs compared to a handful back in the day. Of course, a really major blizzard could leave them all stuck in the depot...the main thing that would concern me is people will ignore the warnings (they always do), and get overwhelmed by a blizzard, 4WD is useless if you get stuck in a queue on a snowbound motorway. Foods supplies were for our family O.K back then but only 10 miles away they had to make helicopter drops, these days I'd expect panic buying and shortages of certain food, not good. Travel and sport were badly disrupted and I'd expect most Airports and railways to suffer badly. Back in 63, railways were usually cleared by Steam Engines which could slam through huge drifts at a fair speed (there's some great videos on YouTube), diesels just don't have the weight to do this without disintegrating so they would need plenty of snowblowers.

Then there's the question of School closures. In 63 my school never closed despite the fact that was deep lying snow from December 26th through to March 10th or so. In todays world with the way kids are wrapped in cotton wool and with the compensation culture imported from the U.S it would mean a lot of kids having a couple of months off. There's probably a lot more things I haven't considered but I'll leave it there for now.

Coping with a 1,000 year event would be VERY challenging, it's possible that we'd have to ask for outside help but another countrywide 47/63 style winter wouldn't be that bad. There were always periods of recovery even though it stayed below freezing most of the time.

Pete

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