Posted tagged ‘weather’


January 11, 2016

As readers of this blog will know, many parts of Britain have had to deal with serious flooding. The North-East of Scotland had, until about a week ago, largely escaped the heavy rain and wind that caused such damage elsewhere, but over recent days that changed dramatically. By the weekend many towns and rural communities had been affected. The rather pretty little town of Ballater (near Balmoral Castle), for example, has been so badly flooded that some are wondering whether it can ever be restored to its prior state.

My own neighbourhood has not fared well. We live outside the village of Tarves, and the little road from our house was by Friday submerged, though still passable with care.

flooded road

Not far away, the river Ythan burst its banks in the village of Methlick.


The actual river is on the left, above – the large expanse of water on the right is a flooded field, and the houses on the far right were at one stage about three feet under water.

One other feature of the floods has been the flow of unexpected items in the torrents caused by the floods. In one location two mobile homes were dumped by the flow of water in a person’s back garden, having been pushed over the garden wall; sitting on top of one of them was a BMW car! In the photo below the car was carried along by the water and left stranded on the edge of a flooded field.


It is to be hoped that the weather will now settle down – there has already been too much damage.

Photo: the summer of 2012

September 12, 2012

This photograph, which I took last month in Grafton Street, Dublin, summarises for me the summer of 2012. There had just been a terrible downpour of rain, and there were still some raindrops in the air. But now the sun had come through, and so you see people with umbrellas, and others in shirtsleeves.

On the whole, I suspect not many will remember this summer with any great degree of fondness. And we always manage to hope that the next one will be better.


June 23, 2012

It has not been the very best late June that I can remember. I believe we have not had quite as severe weather as has been experienced in some other parts of Great Britain, but it has been pretty bad.

Here is how it has looked on the coast just north of Aberdeen.

Aberdeenshire Coast

Aberdeenshire Coast

The snow report

December 1, 2010

I spent two hours this morning moving between different parts of Dublin in journeys that should, in aggregate, have taken me 20 minutes, even in heavy traffic. It took so long because it was snowing, and because this creates chaos when it happens in Dublin. One car caused a major problem when the driver got out, leaving his car standing in the middle of the road, while he made a call on a public call box on the pavement. Another car had skidded into the middle of the road and the driver was so shell shocked that she was unable to move it. Another major problem was caused by a truck delivering something or other and just stopping on the road to do this, without pulling in at all to the side.

Today’s weather in Dublin is not good, but it is not that bad either. I suppose we are so bad at handling snow and ice because, by and large, it is such a rare thing.  We just can’t deal with anything in our weather other than ‘scattered showers’, which is our default meteorological condition. But at least it has given us a topic of conversation other than the Irish taxpayer’s bailing out of the German banks. And that’s something.

Thoughts in the snow

January 8, 2010

On Wednesday I had to take a tricky decision, though not one that I could have taken differently. At about 5 pm I was informed by some of my staff in DCU that if we were to keep the university library open up to the normal time – 10 pm this week – we would potentially be putting both staff and users at risk. Earlier in the day there had been some heavy snowfall, some of which had briefly turned to slush, and at this point a severe frost had set in and conditions had become hazardous. On top of that, conditions on the roads were rapidly deteriorating, and sending people out with their cars later that evening would have been reckless. So I gave instructions that the library was to close forthwith for the evening; and I asked that the announcement made to users should invite them to contact me directly if they had any concerns. This latter invitation was made in particular because I am well aware that there would have been students there preparing for their imminent semester 1 examinations.

In the event I did receive some messages, but I hope we have been able to help those who needed support or advice, and indeed that those who were inconvenienced understood why this was a regrettable but necessary step. And so Thursday on the campus was very eerily quiet, if rather pretty. I suspect it was not much different in the other universities.

But while I know that, all things considered – and in particular the safety of staff and students – I took the right decision, there is a little bit of me that thinks that as a country we should be able to cope rather better with this sort of thing. I am reminded of early January 1982 when severe weather also hit the country. We may complain about inadequate gritting now, but back then there was none at all. The snow had fallen in similar quantities to what we have just experienced now, but absolutely everything closed. There was no public transport, and for private motorists the roads were death traps – chiefly because most drivers had no idea how to handle icy conditions and were just skidding helplessly this way and that. My then employer, Trinity College, didn’t formally close, but when I managed to make my way to my office, mostly on foot from Monkstown where I lived back then (oh the shame of it, a southside address), I couldn’t get in because everything was locked and nobody was to be seen. And so I had to walk all the way back, and just outside the RDS actually got hit by a car careering out of control (but thankfully was not hurt).

So we are a bit better now, but still not great. In conditions which wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary for people living in, say, Chicago or Wroclaw, we are tempted just to give in. We say we don’t experience this kind of weather enough to warrant buying the equipment and supplies to deal with it when it does occur, but on the other hand we have reached a state of development where weather conditions should no longer put us out of action. And so when one or two students, while saying they realised why I decided to close the library they still thought we should have been able to keep it open, I kind of understand where they are coming from.

Tomorrow I imagine I’ll enjoy the snowy campus a little more in very quiet conditions. But in reality I know we should be firing on all cylinders. And goodness knows what it will all be like after the predicted heavy snowfall on Sunday. Anyway, getting to the office (25 yards from my home) is no problem for me, so I’ll use this time to do some creative things.

A Saturday in June

June 7, 2009

We’re now well into June, so it goes without saying that the weather in Ireland (after a really hot and sunny interlude) has turned really nasty. Saturday was the coldest, wettest and windiest day since – well, since last summer I guess. It was seriously unpleasant. The first really major downpour came very suddenly, just as I was walking some 300 yards from my car to the studios of Newstalk radio. I was a guest on their early morning news show, in which I participated while totally drenched. One of the topics that excited most interest was the mistake made by an examinations superintendent in a school if Drogheda, who handed out the wrong Leaving Certificate paper to students and thereby pushed the entire national examination system into turmoil. I confess that I really feel for the man. We also got to talk to a British MP on the subject of the survival (or not) of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and with the new Lord Mayor of Belfast, who is actually a woman – which in Belfast is a significant development.

Drenched all over again on the way back to the car, and so I made my way back to my office to work on two papers I am delivering at two conferences next week, one in Bath in the UK and one in Galway. Although the topics are different, what I am trying to communicate in both of them is that we must entertain the idea that our inherited understanding of education and scholarship will need to change dramatically as society’s needs are also changing.

My other major commitment on Saturday was the handing out of awards at DCU’s Intergenerational Learning Project. This involves DCU staff and students working with older and retired people  in two learning modules, Introduction to Computers, and Introduction to Science. It is part of our commitment to the idea of DCU as an inclusive place that serves the needs of the whole community, and we have been fortunate to receive funding for this from the Government through the Department of  Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The older learners had all the enthusiasm and energy of young students and had clearly enjoyed and benefited from the programme. They will support the growing realisation (or what I hope is the growing realisation) that older and retired people are not passive recipients of care and welfare, but active contributors to national development and prosperity. It is hard not to feel optimistic in such company.

The rain continued all day, and is still pouring down as I write in the early hours. But it was a good day.