Musings on the 'Beast from the East'

Blog post by John Schofield

The cold and snowy weather that hit at the beginning of March was a poignant reminder of the challenges that Sustainable Devizes are trying to tackle, and of the resilience that comes from people in a community helping each other out.


Photo from Wiltshire Police Twitter feed

 We have all seen winter weather before and this wasn’t so extraordinary. However to those concerned about climate change the causes of this particular event are interesting. For some days beforehand climate scientists had been posting on social media about the extraordinarily high temperatures in the Arctic. The temperature at the North Pole was above 0°C on 25th February.

This video explains a little of how warming in the Arctic can cause cold air to move to lower latitudes.

 Essentially the reduced temperature difference between the Arctic and mid latitudes gives less energy to the jet-stream, which then slows down and begins to meander more. These meanderings push lobes of cold air further south than normal and allow lobes of warm air to push further north than normal. This is likely to get more frequent and severe as the Arctic ice dissapears.

 Regardless of the cause the temporary paralysis of our transport systems highlights just how dependent we are on this for our everyday lives. Within two days farmers were having to throw away fresh milk, whilst stocks in shops were exhausted. For such a short while this is a minor inconvenience to most of us – perhaps less so to the farmers who have lost valuable income? However it gives cause to ponder how we would cope if supplies of fossil fuels were to be suddenly disrupted for a long period.

 What was heartening is the way in which the community pulled together in this difficult time. From farmers helping to clear roads, to 4x4 owners offering to take healthcare workers to hospitals, to neighbours offering to collect shopping for those not able to get out. This points the way to how we may be able to transition to a future where fossil fuels are not widely available, or are made hugely more expensive as efforts to tackle climate change become more serious. Perhaps such community spirit could be harnessed towards transitioning away from fossil fuel dependence, thus reducing the future shock?