Accurate forecasting is cold and wet

weather signs

It is usually good to be proved right but sometimes you really want to be wrong.

Back in 2001 when I was rural affairs editor for a newspaper in North Wales, UK, I went out on a limb.  It was the time of foot and mouth disease and by tracking all the reported cases in that outbreak against the previous one in the 1960s, I predicted the date that the final case that year would be confirmed. Although no scientist, my prediction – made weeks earlier – was just ONE day out.

So, it meant that the British government at the time, headed by prime minister Tony Blair, wasted masses of money and caused so much heartache by killing tens of thousands of animals unnecessarily. Why was it unnecessary? Because no such drastic mass slaughter took place in the 1960s yet that outbreak lasted only one day longer.

Soon after starting this blog at the beginning of August, I criticised weather forecasters and others who kept talking about driest and hottest summer since records began. From my own observations, I could not believe it and asked ‘where is the sun?’ This was one time that I would love to have been wrong.

Well, although trying really hard not to appear to be superior (ok, ok, not too superior), an almost smug ‘I told you so’ smile has just crossed my face – because, although disappointed by the weather, my analysis was right.

Temperatures may have hit a record high in some parts of the UK, though not where we live, in July but a wet and windy August made this summer the country’s coldest in the past three years.

The average temperature for summer was only 13.9C (57F) – and this was despite London Heathrow Airport recording a high of 36.7C (98F) on one sweltering day in July.

Not only was August cold but, to make matters worse, more rain fell than average for the month that ended with a wet bank holiday weekend. The Meteorological Office has now said that the counties of Dorset and Hampshire as well as the Channel Island of Guernsey had the wettest end to any summer in the last 50 years. At the same time, Cornwall and the south coast had to put up with rainfall approaching three times the monthly average for August.

slingo Dame Julia Slingo, Met Office chief scientist

The Met Office’s chief scientist Prof Dame Julia Slingo said: “No-one can deny that we have had a pretty disappointing summer with a lot of unsettled weather and only a few warm spells, especially through July and August.”

Disappointing! She got that right. Disappointing weather after what turned out to be disappointingly inaccurate forecasts of better things.

She admitted early predictions that temperatures and rainfall would be near normal had proved to be wrong. No kidding! It seems like the BBC has made the right decision to give its weather forecasting business to someone else – even though that decision was made on the grounds of costs not accuracy.

Bearing all this in mind, Lisa and I are really pleased to be moving to Spain in two months’ time. There we will be assured of long hot summers with just occasional rain. We really cannot wait.

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It’s summer? Really? Where is the sun?

cloudy sky

Do you get fed up with news reports claiming that this, or next, month is set to become the hottest July, or whatever, since records began? If so, you are just like me.

You see, it is not only the weather that irritates me with so-called summers having too much rain, overcast skies even when dry and biting winds. It is the seeming inability of the weather forecasters to get any prediction of sunny weather correct. They have no problem with rain; if that is forecast then it’s pretty definite it will rain. But say that we are set for sunny day, or even a collection of them, is doomed to failure.

Saturday news on the internet was quoting meteorologists as saying yesterday would see temperatures to rival Spain with them reaching 26 Celsius (79 Fahrenheit) in England, 24 (75) in Wales and 22 (72) in Scotland. Guess what, nope didn’t happen at least not here in Wales. Here it was only 19 Celsius (66 Fahrenheit) just after midday.

Looking out of the window, yesterday I saw a completely overcast sky with no blue showing at all. Also, although it soon died down, the wind was whistling around where we live.

So much for yesterday being the start of a heatwave.

And, for all the media hype about hottest months in the UK, there has not been one in 2015 so far. In fact, the hottest June, August, September and October since records began all happened in 2014.

This, in comparison, July got off to a great start with the hottest July day ever on the 1st but that was it. In fact, July was so cold on some days that we turned our heating on and, from talking to people, I know that they did the same thing. Needing heating in July is plainly ridiculous.

August is supposed to have a heatwave and with three weeks left that is still possible. But realistically it really is only possible, not probable at all. I would not put money on it and I am most certainly not going to be holding my breath in anticipation.

It may be memories that have improved with time but I can remember sunny summers in my childhood. Not every day, of course, but days and days when I could enjoy being out in the garden enjoying the sunshine. And I can clearly recall my mother and then teenage sister sunbathing on our lawn much more frequently in the early 1960s than would be possible now.

As for yesterday equalling the temperatures in Spain, what a laugh. Even if they had reached the predicted levels, they would not have been anywhere close to those in Spain. Checking yesterday’s weather where we will be moving to in November, I found it to be 31 Celsius (87 Fahrenheit), a bit different from the UK.

It just makes our plans all the more attractive and confirms that we are most definitely doing the right thing. All that lovely sunshine and natural vitamin D too. Lisa and I really cannot wait to be there.

MS is the driving force behind our move to Spain

There were a number of factors which lead Lisa and I to want to move, then to decide roughly where to go and finally to choose what we consider to be our perfect home but, without a doubt, multiple sclerosis was – and is – the main incentive.

Let me explain. Taking things in order, we realised that our present rented flat is not suitable to convert to being totally wheelchair friendly if my MS deteriorates enough for me to reach that stage. Currently, I do not use a wheelchair at home, only when I am out and about. But we had to think of what the future could hold, so we needed a place that either was already suitable or could be easily converted if the need does arise.

Secondly, we knew that my former marital home was for sale and a deal would be likely to be finalised by the summer and then I would have just six months to spend it on a new home without my benefits being affected.

So, having decided to move, we then started to look. We scoured websites like Rightmove that are popular ways for estate agents to advertise properties they have for sale but nothing seemed to match our needs.

We were getting fed up with the weather and we both wished for more sunshine. Also, we had noticed that my MS symptoms seemed to get worse as temperatures changed; more consistent weather was called for. Then, one day we were talking about our holiday two years ago when, on my November birthday, we had been sitting outside a Barcelona bar sipping Sangria in the sunshine. And that was when I suggested to Lisa that we should move to the south of Spain.

She was unsure at first as she didn’t want me to later regret leaving the nation of my birth. No such trouble for her though, as Lisa left the USA more than three years ago. Also, for the 18 years before she moved to Wales she lived in Florida so had become used to hotter temperatures. Anyway, once she was reassured about my feelings, she was as enthusiastic as I had become.

Picking an area of Spain was a little more difficult as we did not want to be far from the sea but wanted to live close to Spanish people and did not want to be surrounded by tourists. We settled on Almeria province but not the city itself, the home we found is within easy reach of a little village but only a 15 minute drive from the Mediterranean.

After looking at details of many Spanish properties online, we knew we had to take a trip out there, which we did at the end of April. It was so worth it. We knew as soon as we entered the second property that it was for us. It felt like our home and while I was sitting talking to the owner, Lisa was already working out in her mind what could go where.

Our living room in Spain looking from the back door through the wide arch into the kitchen diner. Beyond the display cabinets on the left is another wide entrance way into the hall that gives access to the wetroom and two bedrooms

Some work needed to be done before we move in but this is already in hand. We agreed the details and accepted a quote and the seller, who lives nearby, agreed to oversee the work for us. When I received my share of the money from my previous matrimonial home, we completed the purchase of our dream home that will be wheelchair accessible right from the start. Actually, we received the money into our bank account on a Friday and we completed the purchase on the Monday.

The work includes stripping out the old bathroom and installation of a wet room complete with a large shower area with a fold-down seat, fitting a new wider back door and fly screen leading from the living room out onto the decking, a ramp from the back garden up to the decking and a levelled and resurfaced walkway from the drive to the back garden. There is other work being done as well but these are the main items to make life easier for me.

It really is ideal and living in the warmth with plenty of natural vitamin D will be perfect.

As an added bonus, we even have a second bedroom so friends and relatives can stay.