Tag Archives: weather

Nature on a rollercoaster

The traditional split of seasons into four blocks of three months has been one that never seems to fit a calendar exactly. When growing up in the countryside in Ireland, the understanding was that the seasons might not have always matched up to ‘conventional’ wisdom. Spring starts in February, usually when the first daffodils appear and cuckoos can be heard for the first time. The season of growth continues on through until about mid-May. Summer then (theoretically at least) appears from about the end of May, through June, July and August. By the end of August, there is a slight chill in the air and the colours begin to change, showing autumn oncoming. Depending on how wet or cold November is, autumn can last through to the middle of the month. Winter is then the ‘shortest’ season, usually lasting a maximum from mid-November to the end of January. There can also be a degree of flexibility from year to year as the weather patterns allow it, but in general when the months of best weather are between 10 and 20 degrees in temperature, and the worst between 0 and 10, then the flexibility in the months is understandable.

In bloom

A noticeable difference after moving to Poland was the much more distinct difference in the seasons – although it did take a while to realise that the natural flow meant six seasons in the year, as best summarised by Sylwia in Warsaw. Especially when compared to the temperate weather of the British Isles, it was much easier to appreciate a properly hot day (30°C + temperatures), or feel the bite of a real winters day (-10°C or less). However, recent adventures in ordinary life have made me wonder if even Poland’s weather is on a rollercoaster ride, swinging wildly up and down. It began in mid-March, when we were in the middle of Przedwiośnie (pre-spring). We had a couple of fine days where the temperature gauge was about 20°C. However, over the Easter weekend the temperatures dropped suddenly, so much so that snow fell (in southern parts of Poland, at least).

Merry Chri… Easter?

As the long Majówka week(end) approached, it meant the weather swung in the other direction, with there being a few days of real summer sun and 30 degree days. Many people who had the week off work were thanking their lucky stars for such fortune. And then to sum it up, as the majority returned to work after the long week(end), today (Monday May 7th) brought clouds, rain and temperatures barely scraping above 10°C.

As a race, humans tend to be fairly resilient and can adapt well to different climates, temperatures and seasons without (too) much complaint. However, a few images, smells and other sensations made me realise that nature must be on one hell of a rollercoaster recently. This was summed up on a short walk around my apartment block. The bushes and grass was already getting somewhat out of hand, having had a huge growth spurt. The main green areas near the buildings had huge numbers of dandelions which had popped up. However, the 30°C temperature seemed to have ‘fooled’ the dandelions into fast forward, as most of the yellow flowers had disappeared, replaced by the silver-grey heads when the dandelions wish to spread their seed and repopulate. There were also some pine trees where the old and withered brown pine needles of last winter had not fully fallen and dropped yet, but the young green shoots were pushing on to get as much sun as possible. It all made things feel like nature felt it needed to move quickly in order to make the most of ‘summer’ which it was not prepared for.  It reminded me of the time when I once travelled from Calcutta in India to Kraków, via London within about 15 hours and went from plus 26°C (India) to plus 2°C (UK) to minus 12°C (Poland). I got the flu very quickly afterwards as my body could not cope with such wild swings. The recent swings in temperature made me wonder how ‘sick’ is the planet, if there does not seem to be fluid transitions through the seasons any more, but rather wild variations from one week (or month) to the next? Not everyone is willing to agree with global warming/climate change, but it would appear that the signs seem to be growing of the instability in weather making predictions of upcoming weather much more difficult.

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The Times They Are A-Changing

With the recent time change in March from ‘winter’ time to ‘summer’ time, it is easy to notice the evenings beginning to stretch, and the sun popping up earlier and earlier in the mornings too. For most people, it tends to lift the mood also, as they tend to have more to look forward to with the longer days and the prospect of upcoming summer holidays. However, when considering the time changes and the evenings becoming stretchier, I have had a feeling at the back of my mind saying “But… evenings were stretchier in Ireland”. To me, this feels like a form of jet-lag. However, this is not traditional jet-lag. Normal jet-lag is where the body is thrown off by a sudden change in multiple time zones. This results in the circadian rhythm of the body being out of line for a few days at least. However, the jet-lag that I experience is more what you might call geographical jet-lag with a long time delay built in for good effect.

To explain further, with Ireland being on the GMT time-zone and Poland on GMT+1, the one hour time difference was never going to cause too much trouble. However, I originally come from the western part of Ireland and am now living in Kraków. With Kraków being (generally) in the eastern part of Poland, I have slowly begun to realise the differences in timing of days based on the times of sunrise and sunset. This is where I have felt my form of jet-lag.

As you can see in the below graph (found at Gaisma), at the peak of summer between VI and VII, the sun begins to rise in Kraków before 4 am and darkness finally hits at about 9.30pm. (Alternatively, of course, in winter this means the sun rising at 7am and it being dark by 4.30pm).

Gaisma Krakow

“It’s always sunny…”

However, in Galway in the west of Ireland (as in the below graph), mid summer sees dawn at about 4.15am but the sun does not fully set until almost 11pm. This means that Galway also receives more sunlight than Kraków.

Gaisma Galway

“… except when it’s dark”

I have memories from  my youth of gloriously long summer evenings in Ireland. Some especially exceptional ones  include a few by the seaside in Galway when watching the red fiery ball of a sun sinking into the sea in the west at about 10.30pm. Alternatively, I have remembered sunlight hurting my eyes at 4.30am in the morning in Poland.

Sunset

“Sitting on the dock of the bay…”

I should admit that I am more of a ‘night owl’ than an ‘early bird’ and I tend to operate in zombie mode for an hour or two in the morning until I properly wake up. So having talked about the time changes and differences, it’s easy to see why I like to have a longer evening. But being a night owl means I can enjoy the long winter nights just as well! I’m sure the little differences are something I’ll adjust to over time.

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The pressure

Recently a lot of Polish people have been complaining to me about pressure. At first I assumed they were talking about career stress but then I remembered none of the people I know have proper jobs. They meant atmospheric pressure. I’ve never heard another human being comment on the dearth or abundance of air molecules above their head before. “I feel terrible and I couldn’t sleep; the pressure is so low” said one. I boggled. A whole new world of undreamed of and slightly unsettling possibilities opened up before me. “You can actually feel that?” I gaped. “What’s it like? Does it hurt and, more importantly, is it going to start hurting me?”

Earth's atmosphere

The atmosphere. It’s there all the time and probably up to something.

I’ve become a bit paranoid about it now. I lay awake in bed trying to sense the behaviour of the trillions of tons of gasses pressing down on me. It’s all a little unnerving but, so far, I seem to be completely insensitive to barometric variation. As far as I can make out it’s a talent unique to Poles. I’ve certainly never heard a British person comment on the pressure and we spend at least 65 percent of our time discussing weather. This could be my big break. If I take the idea back to the UK and start a blog about pressure I could add a whole new dimension to British weather conversation. I’ll be up there with Darwin and the guy who invented the phrase “It’s too cold to snow.”

darwin

Darwin – quite bright but failed to add anything meaningful to the discussion of weather

The only trouble is that I have a sneaking suspicion it’s all a load of bunkum. Surely if it was a real ailment there would be a pill or a powder for it. Actresses pretending to be the mothers of small boys would be hawking the stuff every five minutes while I’m trying to watch Sniper for the nine hundredth time: “When it come to protecting my Tomek from pressure I don’t experiment; Press-o-stop was good enough for my grandmother and it’s good enough for us.” – small boy jumps out of airplane followed by beaming mother and grandmother in wheelchair.

Sniper

Tom Berenger and some other bloke in Sniper. This film is on more often than the news in Poland.

I’m intrigued and a little afraid of what other hidden talents I may uncover the more Polish I understand. “Cholera jasna these fluctuations in zero-point energy count are playing havoc with my bowels this morning!” “I know, and I still haven’t gotten over that dreadful gauge boson storm yesterday.” “Oh I’m a martyr to it…” etc. It may turn out that Copernican cosmology was simply an elaborate explanation for a throbbing headache.

copernicus

A 16th-century Polish pamphlet on nagging headaches and their cause

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Myth #24: Poland is a cold and grim place

Most people associate Eastern Europe (actually Poland is in Central Europe, see Myth #46) with grey skies, icy winds, and blizzards. The number of times I’ve told people in the UK that I live in Poland and get the response “Brrrr, it must be chilly over there!” Well, it is in the winter yes, but they’re always astonished to hear that I’m luxuriating in 30-something-degree temperatures for four months of the year while they’re shuffling around in the perpetual drizzle that masquerades as the British summer. For some inexplicable reason most British people imagine that Poland is somewhere in the Arctic and therefore more or less perpetually under six feet of snow. Weird. Polish summers are lovely, especially down here in the south. You can depend on long stretches of hot sunny weather from late May until late August, and often beyond. When rain does fall it usually does so all at once in evening thunderstorms, which clear up quickly leaving the air fresh and cleansed.

It’s called a continental climate people; hot dry summers and cold snowy winters. Look it up.

Shockingly grim

planty.jpg

Brrrrr, ear muffs and fleecy hat weather

fields.jpg

More myths? We’ve got a million(ish) of ’em!

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