Snow Disruption

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

hammond Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has asked the Chief Scientific Adviser to review the probability of severe winter weather becoming a regular feature and he plans to use the Chief Scientific Adviser’s advice to establish whether there is a case for greater investment in winter resilience in the future.

David Quarmby’s independent report into the response to the severe weather experienced earlier this month is published today. Speaking to the BBC, Mr Quarmby said “It’s certainly not true to say that the government and local authorities have not been prepared. So far as salt goes, I think we have been very ready for this particular winter. It’s just that it’s come early and been very severe.”

Mr. Hammond expressed sympathy for stranded travelers whose plans have been disrupted by the severe weather, saying that he understood that it was “particularly stressful just a few days ahead of the Christmas break.”

He added: “Nonetheless, the reality is that, with further severe weather forecast, Heathrow is likely to be operating at reduced capacity for the next few days and passengers need to recognise it may not be possible to reach their planned destinations this week.

“Once we’ve got through the problem, once we’ve got things moving again then we will have to have that discussion and find out exactly what went wrong, and most importantly what went wrong in handling passengers who were stranded.”

Addressing the road network, Mr Hammond said that salt stocks were at a much higher level than last year under Labour, and that a national strategic salt reserve now existed for the first time to support local authorities.

The problem, however, has not been an isolated British one. Other EU countries that have been hit by severe snow and ice, even countries such as Sweden, have had serious problems. Only no one seems to be mentioning it in the UK.

Germany too had to shut a number of its airports and on the roads and rails there has been chaos.

I am really amazed though that the likes of Germany and Sweden, who never seemed to have much problems in the past in severe winters, seem to be having problems now. Did everyone really think that the climate was going to be changing to so much warmer that we no longer needed road salt, grit and snowplows. It really would seem thus.

The theories as to why we have been having three consecutive cold winters recently are many and one of them the one that because of the ice melt – supposedly – in the Arctic the winters will be colder here in Northern Europe, including Britain.

What, however, if it has nothing to do with that at all but with a possibility of the Gulf Stream having left us? That possibility has looked rather on the card, and it is being caused, more than likely, by the damage that we, humans, have done to the ecosystems at the Equator, especially as regards the Amazon Basin and the rainforests in that region.

If that be the case then we better get used to a much colder overall weather pattern/climate in countries such as Britain seeing that London, England is about on the same latitude as is Toronto in Canada. Welcome, therefore, to a much more arctic Britain.

Therefore the governments, and the public, better get prepared for a completely new era of weather even though it is not new, as Britain has had very cold periods before (and I am not talking of the Ice Age here) such as in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, for instance.

Preparations may have to include more salt for gritting roads, snowplows and especially a way of insulating homes and buildings in general.

As to road, rail and air travel in such times we may have to come to terms with the fact that that may just not be possible for a while when such weather hits us. And the way things do appear in due course much of this traveling may no longer be in the real of feasibility any way once the era of cheap oil has come to an end; an end that is close to hand.

© 2010