British Weather

euro weatherWinter arrived early. The current “arctic outbreak” has brought subzero temperatures to Canada and the United States. It proves once again that the demarcation of seasons is capricious.

“Meteorological winter” reckoning makes much more sense than relying on a solstice, which actually occurs in the midst of the season.

Prior to the arrival of this polar cold front, the shortening of the days had been the only sign of winter’s approach where we live. Our summer in Puget Sound was wonderful, and lasted long into the fall.

Although the United States Air Force preferred to assign me to hot climates, I’m really a temperate (climate) person. I enjoy seeing four separate seasons, and seek the unique joys that arrive with each of them.

I don’t enjoy any of them in excess. The record-setting snowfalls we survived during several years in Minnesota were a bit much. The relentless heat of the Mojave Desert was even worse.

We did enjoy the weather of England, when we spent three wonderful years there. I guess it takes a true Washingtonian to say they genuinely enjoyed the weather in Britain—but we did.

C.S. Lewis recognized the perceived shortcomings of England’s weather. In the eyes of many, of course, the rain that keeps everything lush and green is considered a dreary imposition on their activities. In 1950 he wrote the following to one of his American correspondents.

Here we are enjoying the dubious delights of early English spring, and I often wonder what visiting Americans make of it: for they are already arriving in surprisingly large numbers considering the time of year. I can only suppose that they all come from Northern Alaska, and find our climate a nice change! If you have any friends who think of coming over, tell them that the English summer generally falls in the third week in June.

This delightful paragraph brings to mind the apocryphal Mark Twain comment that, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

The great thing about the pseudo-Twain quote is its versatility. It is easily edited for any locale.

One last thought about winter. We Northern Hemisphereans reveal our hemisphere-centric prejudices when we fail to realize that these colder months don’t represent winter to half of the globe.

And I suspect the folks who live on that side of the world are not subject to “Antarctic outbreaks” of polar cold, due to the oceans . . . but that’s a question to research on another day.

13 thoughts on “British Weather

  1. Interesting that you posted this now. Only the other day I was musing on the wonders of actually experiencing “the seasons”. Like yours, our family was almost always posted to tropical climes. As a child, I longed to see the change of seasons as depicted in my primary school texts. Now I revel at each change; embracing each in its turn and looking forward to its successor.

    1. To each their own. I’ve met people who love living in the desert year-round. Like you, though, I like to experience the cycle of seasons. Your mention about textbooks reminded me of how I’ve spoken to so many people through the years who have never seen snow. How sad! Of course, having to navigate it on the road is another matter. Perhaps just a visit to a winter wonderland each year? As for me, I love living here where we get a “reasonable amount of” snow each year.

  2. Before I got on the computer and read this post, I was driving home this morning and found myself wondering for some unexplainable reason if Britain experiences the changing fall leaves like we have here in the US. We lived in the south of France for 11 years, and they don’t. There are mostly oaks around there, and the leaves turn brown and stay on the trees all winter. It was an amazing experience to fly back to the States one October and fly over New England. I had a window seat and just drank in mile after mile of brilliant color.

    1. I know what you’re saying about the stunningly beautiful colors of fall. I’ve seen them in other places where we lived, and we get glimmers of them in Seabeck. But the deciduous trees are so vastly outnumbered by the evergreens that you miss the awe inspired by a panorama of shifting hues.

    1. That’s nice for a change, I’m sure. Green is a great color itself, so it too belongs on the palette. Oh, that reminds me of Kermit the frog singing, “It’s not easy, being green…”

  3. I’ve always found it annoying when people declare that “winter starts on the solstice” as if that were an official and immutable law. Actually, various traditional reckonings have the solstice as the beginning, near middle, middle or just-past-middle of winter. The US government defines winter, for most purposes, as beginning on December 1 and ending on March 1. Not every place has winter, spring, summer and autumn, either. Some have the time for rain and the time of dry wind, for example. I like to go by trees and flowers, myself. Spring is crocuses and fruit blossoms. Summer is large flowers. Fall is changing leaves. Winter is bare trees. Where I am, about one tree in ten is bare. After three to five more windy days it will be half, and then it will be winter. We are having a windy day a couple of times a week. So, it will be wintertime in about two weeks, if present trends continue. That’s about average for us.

  4. Weather is what it is. Although people were complaining when we were in England, it didn’t seem so bad. Maybe it’s a “grass is greener” situation.
    While I’m aware of the reverse of season in the southern hemisphere, I never thought about what drives their weather system – now intrigued and have to look into that. (The lake effect off the Great Lakes is fascinating weather component, too…should carry sleeping bags in cars like you do in CO it looks like this year)
    Great quotes!

    1. Weather patterns are fascinating. Our grandkids got to wade in the Atlantic Ocean (in South Carolina) a while ago, and they were amazed at how warm the water was. Gave us a great opportunity to investigate the subjects of temperatures in proximity to the equator… and the effects of different currents. Coming from warm places = warmer water. Coming from frigid places (as our Washington State coastline attests) = chillier temps.

      1. The Washington State’s coast seems to always have cold cold water….I remember frozen toes and smooth oval rocks.
        Here the coastal shelf extends way out making the waters relatively shallow and the water stays warmer – too warm in summer for me. So much to really learn and remember after experiencing the real world

  5. Pingback: C.S. Lewis & Summertime « Mere Inkling Press

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