Mark Stronge's UK Weather Portal http://www.stronge.org.uk Sun, 26 Feb 2017 16:57:53 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 16333552 How do snowflakes form? http://www.stronge.org.uk/2017/01/how-do-snowflakes-form/ Tue, 10 Jan 2017 20:19:46 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1509
How do snowflakes form? A snowflake begins to form when a water droplet freezes onto a pollen or dust particle in the sky. This creates an ice crystal. As the crystal falls to the ground, water vapour freezes onto the “primary” crystal, building new crystals which become the six arms …
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How do snowflakes form?

A snowflake begins to form when a water droplet freezes onto a pollen or dust particle in the sky. This creates an ice crystal. As the crystal falls to the ground, water vapour freezes onto the “primary” crystal, building new crystals which become the six arms of a snowflake.

Why are snowflakes symmetrical?

The ice crystals that make up snowflakes are symmetrical (or patterned) because they reflect the internal order of the crystal’s water molecules as they arrange themselves in predetermined spaces (known as “crystallization”) to form a six-sided snowflake.

Thanks to Virginia Poltrack for use of this photo
What determines the shape of a snowflake?

Ultimately, it is the temperature at which a crystal forms (and to a lesser extent the humidity of the air), that determines the basic shape of the ice crystal. Thus, we see long needle-like crystals at -5°C (23°F) and very flat plate-like crystals at -15°C (5°F).

The intricate shape of a single arm of a snowflake is determined by the atmospheric conditions experienced by the entire ice crystal as it falls. A crystal might begin to grow arms in one manner, and then minutes or even seconds later, slight changes in the surrounding temperature or humidity causes the crystal to grow in another way. Although the six-sided shape is always maintained, the ice crystal (and its six arms) may branch off in new directions. Because each arm experiences the same atmospheric conditions, the arms look identical.

Are snowflakes all unique?

As alluded to above, the randomness of the freezing process as snowflakes form leads to their unique shapes. Individual snowflakes all follow slightly different paths from the sky to the ground, and thus encounter slightly different atmospheric conditions along the way. Therefore, they all tend to look unique, resembling everything from prisms and needles to the familiar lacy pattern.

Here’s a video explaining the process more.

How do I take photos of snowflakes?

The temperature needs to be around -10°C as mentioned above, to get the large well developed flakes and so they don’t melt after settling. Here’s a video on snowflake photography, there are lots more on YouTube

Have fun in the snow. If you take any photos, be sure and share them with me on social media.

Original article by NOAA

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Mark Stronge's UK Weather Portal 1509
Winter Forecast 2016/17 http://www.stronge.org.uk/2016/12/winter-forecast-201617/ Fri, 16 Dec 2016 16:16:26 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1501
The winter forecast by @LondonSnowWatch is now available and covers up to the end of January. It looks to be an average cold winter with below average precipitation. More details and a full analysis is available via the link below.
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The winter forecast by @LondonSnowWatch is now available and covers up to the end of January.

It looks to be an average cold winter with below average precipitation. More details and a full analysis is available via the link below.

https://londonwx.wordpress.com/winter-1617/

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Mark Stronge's UK Weather Portal 1501
Perseid Meteor Shower http://www.stronge.org.uk/2016/08/perseid-meteor-shower/ Thu, 11 Aug 2016 12:52:48 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1472
The annual Perseid meteor shower is coming. The shower begins, gently, in mid-July when Earth enters the outskirts of a cloud of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle. Dust-sized meteoroids, hitting the atmosphere, will streak across the night sky, at first only a sprinkling, just a few each night, but the rate …
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The annual Perseid meteor shower is coming. The shower begins, gently, in mid-July when Earth enters the outskirts of a cloud of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle.

Dust-sized meteoroids, hitting the atmosphere, will streak across the night sky, at first only a sprinkling, just a few each night, but the rate will build. By August 12th when the shower peaks, sky watchers can expect to see dozens, possibly even hundreds, of meteors per hour.

The easiest way to observe the meteors is to lie down on a sleeping bag or lounger with your feet pointed northeast, looking at approximately 30-45 degrees off the radiant. You’ll soon see meteors racing along the Milky Way.

The Perseids are fragments of Comet Swift/Tuttle and are the fastest meteors of all, often producing very bright fireballs and trains lasting several seconds. Photographing them is relatively easy. All you need is a camera capable of long exposures, with a high ISO speed rating, and a tripod.

IMG_20130813_140623

Point your camera to about 50º up in the sky and about 40º from the radiant, for best results. Wide-angle lenses are not really suited to meteor photography, granted, they cover more sky, but the images will be very small and you will not pick up the fainter meteors. Initial settings should be an exposure of around 2 minutes with an ISO of 400 – 800. A fast lens with an T-stop of f2.0 or better is preferred. If you are able, set the focus to infinity, or with autofocus lenses, try focusing with a zoomed LiveView on the rear LCD screen and then don’t change the zoom and set the focus to manual. It is important to check your results initially and spending the time to get perfect focus will reap rewards in the results you can expect.

Also, make yourself a little lens hood from a piece of light cardboard to stop your lens dewing up during the evening, or use a dew heater.

Meteor photography is a bit hit and miss so be prepared to spend a few hours or more outside, wrap up warm, use a dew heater on your lens if possible, and bring a spare battery or two. Getting away from light pollution will greatly help your end results.

Article content from niaas.co.uk

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Mark Stronge's UK Weather Portal 1472
Unseasonal weather? http://www.stronge.org.uk/2016/04/unseasonal-weather/ Thu, 28 Apr 2016 07:00:25 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1465
For the past couple of weeks, the UK has been in the grip of Artic winds as cold, biting winds have been bringing snow, hail, thunder, lightning, and generally windy conditions to most of the UK. But is this really out of the ordinary for April? A recent blog post …
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For the past couple of weeks, the UK has been in the grip of Artic winds as cold, biting winds have been bringing snow, hail, thunder, lightning, and generally windy conditions to most of the UK. But is this really out of the ordinary for April?

A recent blog post by the Met Office puts things in perspective nicely with a visual representation of how often snow has occurred in April over the last 30 years… and it doesn’t make for a pleasant observation.

snowfall_average_1981-2010_4

While I go and clean my rise tinted spectacles, it looks like, especially for the northern half of the UK, snow generally occurs for about a week out of the 30 blessed days of April, who knew? with an overall UK average of 2.3 days of snow. There are even records from 1981 showing blizzard conditions in late April with almost a foot of snow in places. Count yourself fortunate that we don’t have a repeat of that this year, though let’s see what the next few days bring :-)

So while we make think of Spring as warm bright mornings, sipping cups of tea while looking out at the dewy grass over fog laden valleys, well, I think I may go get some lens cleaner.

For the latest snow forecast for the UK, there is a new dedicated section on the General forecasts page, click here.

Cover photo by Icon Photography.

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Mark Stronge's UK Weather Portal 1465
Storm Jonas comes to the UK http://www.stronge.org.uk/2016/01/storm-jonas-comes-to-the-uk/ Wed, 27 Jan 2016 16:09:55 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1445
Storm Jonas hit the East Coast of the United States of America leaving hundreds of thousands of homes without electricity, bringing cities to a standstill and costing at least 19 people their lives. Storm Jonas has arrived on Irish soil with its effects spreading throughout the UK over the next …
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Storm Jonas hit the East Coast of the United States of America leaving hundreds of thousands of homes without electricity, bringing cities to a standstill and costing at least 19 people their lives.

Storm Jonas has arrived on Irish soil with its effects spreading throughout the UK over the next 48 hours. It is expected to batter communities still struggling to clean up after the Christmas floods.

Storm Jonas hits the US

On the 23rd January, millions of Americans woke up to a considerable blanket of snow, as Storm Jonas hit the East Coast. The snow storm, dubbed by some as “Snowzilla”, brought Washington DC, Baltimore and New York to a standstill.

jonas8

Storm Jonas dumped approximately 64 centimetres of snow in Central Park and in Washington the snow gauge failed, although some reports put the amount at 56 centimetres.
This storm affected 75 million people, cost at least 19 people their lives and is now heading our way.

How will the UK be affected?

It is thought that by the time Storm Jonas hits the UK it will not be record snow fall; more heavy rain which will drench the western side of the UK. There are already yellow weather warnings in place for South and North West England, Yorkshire and the Humber, Wales and North East England.

Current predictions for Storm Jonas expect many parts of the UK to receive between 20 and 40mm of rain, while the most exposed upland areas could see closer to 60mm.

This is not good news as many of these communities are still dealing with the aftermath of Storms Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Eva and Frank which soaked the UK between 12th November and the 30th December last year.

Simpson Millar’s Research

Following on from the Christmas floods, the dedicated Conveyancing Team at Simpson Millar (www.simpsonmillar.co.uk) carried out some research into the flooding. They looked at each flood individually as well as researching the overall impact of these storms. The link is below.

http://floodwatch2015.co.uk/total-impact.html

Survey Results

The long term effects of a changing climate and new flood danger zones will certainly impact on how people buy and sell houses. With this in mind, the conveyancing team posed a few questions to the general public:

Do you think it was possible to avoid flooding this year?
A massive 62% of respondents indicated that they did not think this could be avoided.

Do you think the government did enough to prevent the flood damage?
74% of respondents indicated they thought the government could do more.

Do you think more could be done with Britain’s infrastructure to protect against future floods? 83% of respondents agreed there was more to be done.

Following on from the widespread flooding, the Prime Minister pledged to invest £400 million a year on flood defences over the next 6 years. Recent news reports indicate that both commercial and private properties will be able to apply for financial help following the flooding. So far it would appear nothing other than consultations have happened.

Lisa Gibbs from Simpson Millar commented:

“This will be a worrying time for so many people. The storms which hit at the end of 2015 caused wide spread devastation and many are still at the very beginning of the clean-up stage. To now hear that these communities may be hit a second time is just heart breaking and our thoughts are with them.”

“Some of those worst hit by the floods are already concerned about their properties, not only about the damage that has been done but thinking longer term, about the possibility of selling their homes when the need arises. When purchasing a new home, searches are undertaken which include an environmental search report which will report on historical flooding in the area.  It’s important that all buyers ensure that they instruct their solicitors to carry out these searches; the cost is relatively low in comparison with the potential risk. Before they exchange contracts, buyers should also ensure they can insure the property for all relevant risks, including flooding and that there are no unreasonable excesses applied. Our thoughts continue to be with these communities as they face even more uncertainty.”

Sources:
http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/warnings/uk
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/12117261/Storm-Jonas-NYC-Washington-blizzard-weather-new-york-live.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/12111695/Historic-blizzard-expected-to-strike-US-east-coast-on-Friday.html
http://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/news/news.aspx?newsid=3426

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Mark Stronge's UK Weather Portal 1445
Predawn planet alignment http://www.stronge.org.uk/2016/01/predawn-planet-alignment/ Thu, 21 Jan 2016 17:31:01 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1441
If you’re wanting to have a look at a shed load of planets all at the same time, now’s your chance. For the next few weeks Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus and even Mercury (if you have a good horizon) can be observed in the sky using nothing more than a …
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If you’re wanting to have a look at a shed load of planets all at the same time, now’s your chance.

For the next few weeks Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus and even Mercury (if you have a good horizon) can be observed in the sky using nothing more than a pair of Mark 1 eyeballs (your eyes). If you want to see Jupiter’s moons or Saturn’s rings, then a pair of binoculars or a telescope would be your next option.

Start around an hour before sunrise and, as can be seen in the graphic, you can look for all the major planets in the predawn sky.

Screenshot_20160121-170724~2

Happy hunting!

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Mark Stronge's UK Weather Portal 1441
Weatherproofing your garden http://www.stronge.org.uk/2016/01/weatherproofing-your-garden/ Sun, 17 Jan 2016 21:24:43 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1435
When the weather takes a turn for the worst, which is often the case in Britain, we do everything possible to protect ourselves (coats, gloves, hoods), and our homes (it’s always a good idea to close the windows when it’s raining, after all), so why don’t we do the same …
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When the weather takes a turn for the worst, which is often the case in Britain, we do everything possible to protect ourselves (coats, gloves, hoods), and our homes (it’s always a good idea to close the windows when it’s raining, after all), so why don’t we do the same with our gardens?

As well as keeping your garden looking its best, weatherproofing your garden can also save you a huge amount of time, stress, and money compared to not doing so.

If you already put a large amount of effort into your garden, you may feel like weatherproofing is unnecessary. However, there are many ways to protect your much-loved garden against the elements. In most cases, prevention is the best cure.

When it comes to sheds, make sure to plan ahead

Shed with logstoreTreating yourself to a new shed can make a world of difference to your garden. If you’re thinking of splashing out on one, there are two main things you should have a think about first; building materials, and placement.

Many opt for wooden sheds for their traditional and homely look, without being aware that other options are available. Wood isn’t necessarily a great option in wetter climates, and can easily rot and collapse if rained on excessively. This, as well as damaging the shed, can leave it much easier to vandalise or break into.

If you absolutely must have a wooden shed, invest in one of the many treatment options available. Many strengthen the wood of the shed, and make it much more waterproof/rot proof. Be sure that the shed is well secured to the ground by using corner posts dug deep into the ground and concreted into place. This will help stop any strong gusts of wind from lifting or moving it in the winter.

Another option you could consider is purchasing a concrete shed. Concrete is a much more secure option as opposed to wood, is fireproof, and is much more resilient against the weather, though it can be an eyesore, if not built to compliment the style of your existing house.

Once you’ve settled on a building material, think about where it is in your garden that you want to place your shed. Whatever your choice, make sure it’s out of the path of rain as much as possible, built high enough in case of flooding and that it can’t be easily accessed by vandals or thieves.

Make rusting a thing of the past

clean garden toolsHave you ever bought a brand new set of garden tools, only to accidentally leave them out in the rain and have them rust beyond repair? You’re not the first.

Stop this from happening again by making sure all metal gardening tools are stored somewhere away from moisture whilst they aren’t being used. If they do get wet somehow, wipe them dry as soon as you notice, using wire wool to clean any rust off. Spraying your metal tools with WD-40 or equivalent water displacer can help prevent rust throughout the winter months; this’ll likely prevent rust from forming.

If it’s a much larger metal object that you’re concerned about, such as a dining set, cover it over with a tarpaulin whilst it’s not being used, or if you know there’s a risk of rain that day. It may not be the most pleasing thing to look at, but it’s better than having to fork out money because something has rusted beyond repair. Be sure that if there are strong winds forecast, that everything is securely tied down.

Be wise with weather forecasts

Get into the habit of checking the weather forecast before you leave the house each day, and before you go to bed each night. This way, you can prepare for any weather that comes your way.

  • If you find out it’s going to rain during the day on the morning, you can put any garden tools away.
  • If you find out it’s going to snow overnight, you can cover over any plants, and insulate outside taps and pipes.
  • If there are strong winds forecast, take down any hanging baskets, remove plants from window sills and secure any outside furniture.

Re-think your fencing

chestnut timber fencingIt’s nice to have fencing that looks good, but you have to remember that the main purposes of a fence are its practical ones. A delicate wooden fence may look lovely in the summer, but it won’t last a second in the winter.

If your fence becomes damaged, or even collapses, it could lead to pets escaping, vandals or thieves entering your garden, or even invasions from pests. If you absolutely must have wooden fencing, make sure it is designed and built for strength and durability.

Metal fencing is a much better option in terms of strength, durability, and sturdiness in the face of unruly weather, but it can often be a bit of an eyesore depending on its design.

There are thousands of different fencing solutions out there; it’s just a case of weighing up the pros and cons of each, deciding what would be best for your needs and your garden, and having a shop around.

This article was provided by Four Seasons Fencing, based in Kent. Four Seasons Fencing has over 15 years’ experience in the fencing industry.

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Mark Stronge's UK Weather Portal 1435
First named storm, Abigail, to hit on Thursday night http://www.stronge.org.uk/2015/11/first-named-storm-abigail-to-hit-on-thursday-night/ Tue, 10 Nov 2015 16:40:26 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1421
Earlier this year, the Met Office and the equivalent, official weather department in the Republic of Ireland, Met Eirann, asked the public to submit names for storms that will come into the region this winter around the British Isles. The online forecaster, metcheck.com, and others, have been using named storms …
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Earlier this year, the Met Office and the equivalent, official weather department in the Republic of Ireland, Met Eirann, asked the public to submit names for storms that will come into the region this winter around the British Isles. The online forecaster, metcheck.com, and others, have been using named storms unofficially for quite a number of years but this change agreed by the MO and ME brings clarity to the naming convention.

Storm Abigail is currently south east of Greenland and tracking easterly bringing sustained wind speeds in excess of 50 knots with potential gusts much higher. The storm warning is valid from Thursday evening at 1800hrs into Friday though you can expect to see heavy swells reach the west coast of Ireland by Thursday morning.

2015 - 1

More detail and further information can be found at MagicSeaWeed.com

Exposed coasts in the west and Northwest should be aware of the chance of minor structural damage, with debris. Most trees have lost the vast majority of their foilage which should reduce the chance of tree falls. The official warning and Met Office website link is below.

Southwesterly severe gales are likely to develop across the northwest and north of Scotland later on Thursday and to extend across the Northern Isles into Friday morning. Gusts of 60-70 mph are likely with the possibility of gusts into the 80s of mph in exposed locations. Winds will begin to ease and veer more westerly across the Western Isles and the mainland on Friday morning and across the Northern Isles on Friday afternoon.

The public should be aware of the risk of disruption to transport. In addition, large waves may give rise to local over-topping along some coasts.

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/warnings/
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Mark Stronge's UK Weather Portal 1421
Day = Night http://www.stronge.org.uk/2015/09/day-night/ Wed, 23 Sep 2015 08:32:38 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1411
Today marks the day when the Sun is above the horizon for exactly 12 hours of the day everywhere on the planet. This astronomical event happens twice a year and is called the equinox. The name equinox comes from the Latin aequus(equal) and nox (night). For millennia, we have been observing this day in the calendar, …
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Today marks the day when the Sun is above the horizon for exactly 12 hours of the day everywhere on the planet. This astronomical event happens twice a year and is called the equinox. The name equinox comes from the Latin aequus(equal) and nox (night).

For millennia, we have been observing this day in the calendar, and marking the path of the Sun and the tilt in the earth’s rotation around the Sun.

equinox-globe

This is also the day when the sun rises exactly in the east and sets in the west, so you can set your sun dial using the sun today. No matter where you are on Earth, you have a due east and due west point on your horizon. That point marks the intersection of your horizon with the celestial equator – the imaginary line above the true equator of the Earth.

According to the astronomical definitions of the seasons, this day marks the beginning of autumn in the northern hemisphere and of spring in the southern hemisphere, so get out and enjoy it!

IMG_20141029_092321

 

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Mark Stronge's UK Weather Portal 1411
Lunar Eclipse on 27/28th to be SUPER! http://www.stronge.org.uk/2015/09/lunar-eclipse-on-2728th-to-be-super/ Sat, 05 Sep 2015 13:54:27 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1402
The first “supermoon” lunar eclipse since 1982 will be visible over European skies later this month.  The moon will be about 15% bigger with an expected brighter red eclipse as the Moon passes through the shadow of the Earth. This particular “supermoon” lunar eclipse is quite rare as there won’t be another one …
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IMG_5159 (Medium)

The first “supermoon” lunar eclipse since 1982 will be visible over European skies later this month.  The moon will be about 15% bigger with an expected brighter red eclipse as the Moon passes through the shadow of the Earth. This particular “supermoon” lunar eclipse is quite rare as there won’t be another one until 2033.

IMG_7575.JPG

Depending on weather conditions in the UK, the lunar eclipse will begin around 2am local time on the morning of Monday 28th September, with maximum totality at 03:47am.

The lunar eclipse will be visible to observers in North and South America, Africa, western Asia, the eastern Pacific Ocean region and Europe.

With the Moon being at perigee, this is a great time to watch a lunar eclipse with the hope that it will be bigger and brighter than all others in the last 30 years.

Last month’s SuperMoon was quite striking if you got a chance to see it.

IMG_0235-ANIMATION.gif

The moon looks larger at times because of the moon’s orbit around our planet is elliptical, so while its average distance from the Earth is 239,000 miles (384,600 kilometres) it can get as close as 226,000 miles (363,700 km) at the closest point, or perigee. When a supermoon is seen at perigee, it looks up to 14 per cent larger from Earth and up to 30 times brighter than when the moon is at its furthest from the Earth – a point known as the apogee.

Since 1900 there have only been five ‘supermoon’ lunar eclipses – in 1910, 1928, 1946, 1964 and 1982.

Times below are in GMT and provided by CalSky.com

Monday 28 September 2015
Time (24-hour clock) Object (Link) Event
0h10m21s Lunar Eclipse Penumbral lunar eclipse begins
Position Angle=60.1°, Position angle vertex=60.7°, Altitude=35.8°, Azimuth=180.7° S
1h06m51s Lunar Eclipse Partial lunar eclipse begins
Position Angle=53.6°, Position angle vertex=43.9°, Altitude=34.7°, Azimuth=197.5° SSW
2h10m44s Lunar Eclipse Totality begins
Position Angle=29.3°, Position angle vertex=9.5°, Altitude=30.9°, Azimuth=215.4° SW
2h36m17.8s Lunar Eclipse Opposition in RA
Position Angle=360.0°, Position angle vertex=336.8°, Altitude=28.7°, Azimuth=222.1° SW
2h47m08s Lunar Eclipse→graphical chart Greatest eclipse:  Total Lunar Eclipse
Saros-Number: 137, Magnitude=1.282, Position angle=342.3°, Position angle vertex=317.8°
Brightness: -2.0mag, Danjon scale L=2.9 (bright)
Duration total phase=72.8 minutes,
Duration partial phase=200.6 minutes,
Duration penumbral phase=313.6 minutes, ET-UT=68.0sec, Altitude=27.7°, Azimuth=224.9° SW
3h23m32s Lunar Eclipse Totality ends
Position Angle=295.3°, Position angle vertex=266.9°, Altitude=23.9°, Azimuth=233.7° SW
4h27m25s Lunar Eclipse Partial lunar eclipse ends
Position Angle=271.0°, Position angle vertex=237.9°, Altitude=16.3°, Azimuth=248.0° WSW
5h23m57s Lunar Eclipse Penumbral lunar eclipse ends
Position Angle=264.5°, Position angle vertex=229.2°, Altitude=8.9°, Azimuth=259.7° W

NASA has made a helpful video explaining this special event.

Clear Skies.

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Mark Stronge's UK Weather Portal 1402
Noctilucent cloud season incoming http://www.stronge.org.uk/2015/05/noctilucent-cloud-season-incoming/ Fri, 22 May 2015 22:57:16 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1365
The first noctilucent clouds of this season have been spotted from NASA’s AIM spacecraft. These beautiful midnight clouds illuminate the twilight sky of summer. If you see any be sure to report it at the NLC Observers website. Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere, located in …
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The first noctilucent clouds of this season have been spotted from NASA’s AIM spacecraft. These beautiful midnight clouds illuminate the twilight sky of summer. If you see any be sure to report it at the NLC Observers website.

http://ed-co.net/nlcnet/

NLC Observers

Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere, located in the mesosphere at altitudes of around 85 km, and are visible only when illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon while the ground and lower layers of the atmosphere are in the Earth’s shadow; otherwise they are too faint to be seen. Noctilucent clouds are not fully understood meteorological concepts. Clouds generally are not able to reach such high altitudes, especially under such thin air pressures.

Every summer since the late 1970s, radars probing Earth’s upper atmosphere have detected strong echoes from altitudes between 80 km and 90 km. These altitudes comprise the “noctilucent zone,” where water vapor crystallizes around meteor smoke to form icy noctilucent clouds (NLCs). The first NLCs of the 2015 northern summer season were spotted by NASA’s AIM spacecraft on May 19th. The radar echoes have followed close behind.

nlc_geometry

The NLC season runs from late May until late July, but they can also be seen at other times of the year, but this is rare. The normal latitude zone for observing NLC displays from is latitude 50º to 65º with 55º to 60º being most favourable. North of about 60º, it does not get sufficiently dark during the middle part of the season, so they can be difficult to see. NLC displays can also be seen from the corresponding southern latitudes with the season being December and January rather than June and July. Also, as there are fewer landmasses most of the displays are recorded by ships in the area.

Taken from Killyleagh, County Down.
Taken from Killyleagh, County Down.

NLC can be observed in various ways, but undoubtedly the easiest way is just with the naked eye, as like aurora they can spread right across the northern horizon from north east to north west, and the altitude due north can be several degrees, with the star Capella frequently appearing to be embedded in them. NLCs vary in brightness and shape, more information can be found at Martin McKenna’s excellent website, Night Sky Hunter.

http://www.nightskyhunter.com/Noctilucent%20Clouds.html

Night Sky Hunter

Photographing NLCs is relatively easy; you will need a tripod, first and foremost. Then you simply take a long exposure time of around 10 – 15 seconds, depending on the brightness and the F-stop of your camera lens. If you take photos over regular intervals you can build up a beautiful animation/video of the clouds in action.

It is thought that NLCs exist at a temperature minimum in the Earth’s atmosphere. If the NLC height were to change, it would indicate a temperature change in the structure of the atmosphere, so the height of a display could be a possible warning of global warming and other effects.

Original article can be found at the Northern Ireland Amateur Astronomy Society.

http://www.eaas.co.uk/cms/index.php?&view=article&id=26

NIAAS – Noctilucent Clouds

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Mark Stronge's UK Weather Portal Taken from Killyleagh, County Down. 1365
Solar Eclipse viewing online http://www.stronge.org.uk/2015/03/solar-eclipse-viewing-online/ Thu, 19 Mar 2015 11:41:35 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1349
Here are links to live video feeds of the solar eclipse. Streaming begins around 0800UT with first contact around 0830UT on Friday 20th March.
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Here are links to live video feeds of the solar eclipse. Streaming begins around 0800UT with first contact around 0830UT on Friday 20th March.

http://www.videoastronomylive.co.uk/#!channels/c20zy
Video Astronomy Live
http://www.solareclipse2015.org.uk/live-webcast/
Solar Eclipse UK
http://youtu.be/iuViyuvvQ18
RTV10 tv station, Sant Esteve Sesrovires, Catalonia, Spain
http://www.nrk.no/troms/solar-eclipse-1.12257825
Longyearbyen, near the North Pole

http://www.virtualtelescope.eu/webtv/
Virtual Telescope
http://eclipse2015.ie/live/
Eclipse Ireland
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKduWOwWC5s
Faroese Broadcasting Corporation
http://www.misioneclipse.es/directo/
MISIÓN ECLIPSE, Toshvan, Faroe Islands
http://eclipsi2015.ub.edu/
Department of Astronomy and Meteorology, University of Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

http://live.slooh.com/stadium/live/the-total-solar-eclipse-of-2015
Slooh Live WebcastCentre for Maritime Studies, University of the Faroe Islands, Torshavn
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8Vo_b5BhVM
Mogens Winther Observatory at AGS, Alssundgymnasiet Sønderborg, Denmark
http://cesar.kso.ac.at/sofih.php
Austrian Solarobservatory, Kanzelhöhe

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Solar Eclipse public observing locations http://www.stronge.org.uk/2015/03/solar-eclipse-public-observing-locations/ Tue, 10 Mar 2015 22:11:24 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1346
Weather permitting, there will be a huge number of public observing events taking place, on the morning of Friday 20th March, throughout the UK and Ireland. I have put together a Google Map of the locations, who is running the event in each location, and a contact website address. If …
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Weather permitting, there will be a huge number of public observing events taking place, on the morning of Friday 20th March, throughout the UK and Ireland.

I have put together a Google Map of the locations, who is running the event in each location, and a contact website address.

If you do plan to travel to one of these events, please be sure and check the event website for more information and to contact the organiser. Limited places are available at some of these events. Be sure and arrive in plenty of time as the Moon will not be waiting. Exact eclipse start times vary, but any time from 08:20UT in the south, to 08:35UT in the north.

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Solar Eclipse Observing Tips http://www.stronge.org.uk/2015/03/solar-eclipse-observing-tips/ Sun, 08 Mar 2015 22:54:12 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1323
On the morning of Friday 20th March 2015, the Moon will pass in front of the Sun, blocking the Sun for a brief time and causing all of the British Isles to enter a period of twilight around 9:30am! Depending on your location in the UK, the Moon will begin …
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On the morning of Friday 20th March 2015, the Moon will pass in front of the Sun, blocking the Sun for a brief time and causing all of the British Isles to enter a period of twilight around 9:30am!

Solar-eclipse-2015-vDepending on your location in the UK, the Moon will begin to pass in front of the Sun at 08:22UT in Southampton and around 08:36UT in the far north of Scotland.

Unfortunately, for us the the UK, this will not be a total solar eclipse, and as with any observation of the Sun, special precautions need to be taken in order to observe the Sun safely. In the Faroe Islands, there will be a total solar eclipse, so if you are planning a holiday there, you may just see the eclipse, weather permitting.

As you can see from the gif above, the totality track is the black spot that crosses from the SW to the NE but the area where the partial eclipse is visible is much larger. The closer to the black spot you can be, the greater the Sun will be eclipsed.

What will it look like?

A video showing the night before and morning of the eclipse.
2015_03_05_20_22_17.mp4

A closeup of the Sun and Moon.
2015_03_05_20_15_03.mp4

There are lots of opportunities to observe the eclipse, and this will be the last eclipse in the UK for a decade.

Safe Solar Observing

A number of strict rules should always be adhered to when observing the Sun.

  • When using a solar filter, always place the filter on the sun facing end of the telescope as the focused Sun will melt filters at the eyepiece end in a matter of seconds.
  • If stopping down a large aperture telescope, make sure that the stopped down area is not receiving any stray light and blocks the Sun completely.
  • Make sure that the filter cannot be blown off by gusts of wind – use some masking tape to secure the filter in place.
  • Never leave a telescope pointing at the Sun unattended.
  • Always check the solar filter is in place before you look through the eyepiece.
  • Never look at the Sun through an unfiltered telescope using eclipse shades or a welder’s filter. And don’t use a camera with a telephoto lens, even if the lens has photographic filters on it that appear to darken the Sun.
  • Filters that are not safe, though they are sometimes recommended in old books, include smoked glass, stacked sunglasses, crossed polarizing filters, and neutral-density camera filters. While these may greatly dim the Sun’s glare, invisible radiation may get through and damage your eyes.

(Extract from the NIAAS website)

Where can I observe the eclipse?

Anywhere in the UK, but if you are looking to observe the eclipse along with thousands of others, local astronomy clubs will have observing locations throughout the UK and Ireland.

To find a local astronomy club in your area, please check out the links below.

http://fedastro.org.uk/fas/members/
http://www.irishastronomy.org/index.php?option=com_weblinks&view=category&id=28&Itemid=14

What way can I observe the Sun safely?

There are a number of safe ways to look at the Sun, including:

  • solar glasses
  • a telescope
  • binoculars
  • monocular

Be aware that looking at the Sun can cause permanent blindness and needs care and attention to do safely. Children should be supervised by adults at all times.

Solar Projection

You can project the image of the Sun using a refractor telescope, one side of a pair of binoculars or a monocular. NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN DIRECTLY THROUGH AN UNFILTERED TELESCOPE, LENS or CAMERA.

To project the image of the Sun safely, set up your refractor telescope with eyepiece or binoculars on a tripod in a clear level location. Observe the shadow that the circular shape of the instrument makes on the ground and point the telescope in the direction of the Sun. Using a white piece of card, hold the card in front of the eyepiece and use the focus ring to achieve a sharp image. Start off with a wide angle eyepiece, e.g. 40mm. before zoning in with a higher magnification.

solar_projection
Photo by Giles Campbell-Wright, Australia

If you want to use a pair of binoculars, it is best to cover one of the lenses.

Solar-eclipse-Baja-projection-method
Projecting with a pair of binoculars on a tripod. Courtesy of Universe Today

You can even use a pinpoint of light to project an image like a pinhole camera. In this example, a colander has been used to project hundreds of suns :-)

From Imgur
From Imgur

 Solar Filters

There are a number of different types ranging from a few pounds to over one hundred pounds depending on the type you want.

For most people, a pair of solar glasses will be the best way to observe the eclipse. These are safe and easy to use with children and available on Amazon.

For those with a telescope, you can make a relatively cheap solar filter using Baader Solar Film which comes in an A4 sheet which you then have to cut and glue onto a homemade lens cap. Instructions here. You should ALWAYS place the solar filter securely in front of the telescope, never at the eyepiece.

If you don’t have time to make a filter, you can purchase one made of solar film below.

eBay seller selling solar filters to fit most lens caps
eBay seller selling solar filters to fit most lens caps

Or for something a bit better quality, have a look for “Thousand Oaks” solar filters which are glass solar filters specially designed for telescope observing and photography.

If you are using a digital SLR, you can buy a Neutral Density filter, ND-100,000 which is specialised for solar photography. Do not be tempted to buy ND-1000 and build them up as the heat generated could be catastrophic.

Or, for a cheaper option for digital SLRs, you can buy a Cokin filter adapter and some Baader Solar Film and glue the film onto the flat surface of the Cokin adapter.

 

Understanding more about the Sun

For more information about the Sun and the features you can observe, please check out John McConnell’s (Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society) excellent guides below, and follow him on Flickr. (with a few of my own sunspot photos included).

solar observing
Solar Observing Tips
Solar Features
Solar Features

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Driving tips for winter weather http://www.stronge.org.uk/2015/01/driving-tips-for-winter-weather/ Thu, 01 Jan 2015 10:43:36 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1300
As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, the roads can become more hazardous. Frost, ice and snow mean that you need to take extra car in maintaining and driving your vehicle. The best way to handle the change is to prepare for winter driving. The RAC have provided a nice, …
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As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, the roads can become more hazardous. Frost, ice and snow mean that you need to take extra car in maintaining and driving your vehicle. The best way to handle the change is to prepare for winter driving.

The RAC have provided a nice, easy to use, winter driving checklist which includes all the things you need to do, check and carry for car maintenance and emergency situations.

This checklist has been designed so that you can print it off and keep it in your vehicle for continual reference.

If you would like to support this website, please hit the donate button on the right, many thanks.

With thanks to the RAC for this helpful Winter Driving Checklist For Car Maintenance And Safety – An infographic by the team at RACShop

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Storm observations – Record 21.48 metre waves http://www.stronge.org.uk/2014/12/storm-observations-record-21-48-metre-waves/ Sat, 13 Dec 2014 01:31:51 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1284
Over the last few days, we have experienced the first major winter storm with gusts of up to 69 knots (80mph) and waves reaching a massive 21.48 metres (that’s 70.5 feet). The amber wind warnings were out with the public advised to “be prepared” though from many reports online, people …
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Over the last few days, we have experienced the first major winter storm with gusts of up to 69 knots (80mph) and waves reaching a massive 21.48 metres (that’s 70.5 feet). The amber wind warnings were out with the public advised to “be prepared” though from many reports online, people didn’t bother, and paid the cost.

In Portstewart, Co. Londonderry, a jogger and a dog-walker were overcome with waves while walking on the beach, but managed to clamber ashore. Other incidents with outside furniture being blown into windows, trampolines and other loose debris becoming a serious safety hazard to anyone in their path, all demonstrate how these warnings should be taken seriously.

Before the online data disappears into a computer somewhere, I thought I would put some of the available weather recordings together and let you see the wave height and atmospheric pressure comparison that show how this rapid change in pressure caused such voluminous waves to occur.

We also seen a term not often used in the shipping forecast to describe sea state.

malin

“Phenomenal” describes a wave height of over 14 metres. The term comes from Captain H.P. Douglas, a hydrographer in the Royal Navy in the 1920s. To find out more, you can read about him on Wikipedia.

Another sexy weather term has also appeared during the build up to this storm. A weather bomb! A “weather bomb” is an explosive cyclogenesis, when a storm intensifies as the pressure at its centre drops rapidly by more than 24 millibars in 24 hours.

The meteorological phenomena known as rapid or explosive cyclogenesis occurs when dry air from the stratosphere flows into an area of low pressure. It is a rare event which almost always happens at sea with the North Atlantic having the right conditions for it.

For more information, visit the Met. Office website.

If you enjoyed this article please share it.

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Indian Summer approaching? http://www.stronge.org.uk/2014/09/indian-summer-approaching/ Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:58:40 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1206
While we enjoy this fine settled period of weather throughout the UK, I thought I would take a moment to look at the origins of, and outlook for, the coming few weeks of weather that is commonly called the Indian Summer. The Met Office Meteorological Glossary first published in 1916, …
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While we enjoy this fine settled period of weather throughout the UK, I thought I would take a moment to look at the origins of, and outlook for, the coming few weeks of weather that is commonly called the Indian Summer.

The Met Office Meteorological Glossary first published in 1916, defines an Indian summer as:

a warm, calm spell of weather occurring in autumn, especially in October and November.

So while I am guilty of, and many others are calling this warm September an Indian Summer, it isn’t technically accurate.

The leading theories regarding the origins of the “Indian Summer” suggest that it comes from the Native Americans (American Indian) who are said to have taken advantage of mild autumnal weather to hunt and forage later in the day to build up winter food stocks.

The first recorded use of the phrase appears in a letter written by a Frenchman called John de Crevecoeur dated 17 January 1778. In his description of the Mohawk country he writes “Sometimes the rain is followed by an interval of calm and warm which is called the Indian summer.”

Shakespeare also used the expression “All Halloween Summer” in Henry IV part I for a period of warm sunshine as October gives way to November, but it is only since the 1950s that the UK has adopted its useage and now it is widespread as any period of warmer weather after August is now called an Indian Summer!

For the next couple of weeks into mid-October, the high pressure is set to stay over the UK with low pressure systems starting to take over when the wind and rain of Autumn will return to close the end of a great spell of weather.

James Madden, meteorologist with Exacta Weather, said: “High pressure is likely to build in from the south of the island of Ireland in the early part of October.

“This is likely to bring some further Indian summer-type weather and mild to warm conditions within this period for several days at the very least, in particular in southern and eastern parts of the country.

“Although some areas will still be at risk of seeing some rain and showers at times, some further drier weather and decent spells of sunshine are likely to develop once again.”

But he warned: “The middle part of October, possibly a little earlier, will see a major reversal of these mild and settled conditions. Low pressure will become a more dominant feature and conditions will become largely unsettled, with above-average rainfall amounts across many parts of Ireland.

“It will also begin to feel markedly cooler, particularly in the evenings when the first major frosts of the autumn could begin to develop.”

He added: “The unsettled theme is likely to persist into November, but with an even cooler edge to affairs as frosts and frequent fog patches begin to develop at times.

“A number of deep low pressure systems are also likely to bring some further periods of strong winds and high precipitation. There is also the risk for some wintry showers to develop within this period, most notably across higher ground in parts of the north, but not necessarily be restricted to these parts.”

Sources for this article.

Met Office – BBC – Belfast Telegraph

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Tropical Storm Bertha on its way http://www.stronge.org.uk/2014/08/tropical-storm-bertha-on-its-way/ Wed, 06 Aug 2014 16:10:20 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1191
If you have been following the long range forecasts this week you will have noticed a certain level of inconsistencies in the forecasts. This is due to tropical storm Bertha which is making a beeline to the British Isles. So far, the latest weather models are showing strong gale to …
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143841W5_NL_sm

If you have been following the long range forecasts this week you will have noticed a certain level of inconsistencies in the forecasts. This is due to tropical storm Bertha which is making a beeline to the British Isles.

So far, the latest weather models are showing strong gale to storm force winds coming on Sunday to the northern half of the UK with driving rain, the amount of which is currently unknown. These winds are set to last for about 3 days so be sure and be aware if you are making any travel plans or doing any outdoor activity.

You can keep up to date with all the latest forecasts on the UK Weather Portal.

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My Essential Windows Apps List http://www.stronge.org.uk/2014/03/my-essential-windows-apps-list/ Sat, 29 Mar 2014 17:49:16 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1123
Installing a new PC can be tedious, what with the number of apps that you use and have to download after installing Windows. With that in mind, I have created an essential list of free applications for Windows. *****Please be aware that the applications with stars on them are a …
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banging_head[1]Installing a new PC can be tedious, what with the number of apps that you use and have to download after installing Windows. With that in mind, I have created an essential list of free applications for Windows.

*****Please be aware that the applications with stars on them are a warning that the app will want to modify, change or install unwanted apps when you are installing so take care and read each window or you could end up with Ask toolbars, your default home screen and search engine changed and other such annoyances.*****

https://www.google.com/intl/en_uk/chrome/browser/desktop/index.html
Google Chrome Browser

http://chrome.google.com/webstore/launcher
Chrome App Launcher, have all your Google apps in one place
http://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hangouts/nckgahadagoaajjgafhacjanaoiihapd?hl=en
Google Hangouts for Chrome 
http://www.java.com/en/download/manual.jsp
Java without the Ask toolbar

http://www.videolan.org/vlc/download-windows.html
VLC Media Player – Plays all video formats 
https://imageresizer.codeplex.com/
Image Resizer in Context Menu, just right click 
http://www.getpaint.net/
Image and Photo Editing, fast and free

http://www.7-zip.org/
7zip RAR and ZIP file handler 
http://mediaarea.net/en/MediaInfo
Media Info gives technical info for video and audio files *** 
http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner/download
Ccleaner, registry and file cleaner 
http://www.piriform.com/recuva
Recuva to restore deleted files 
http://www.piriform.com/speccy
Speccy to see the components of your PC 
http://www.puransoftware.com/Puran-Defrag.html
Automatic Defragment tool, not required if you only have an SSD drive. **

http://www.mediamonkey.com/
Media Monkey, organise your music collection
http://www.poikosoft.com/
Easy CD Converter Rips and converts CDs to mp3s/flac with cover art ***** 
https://support.google.com/drive/answer/2424384?hl=en‎‎
Google Drive sync

http://download.cnet.com/Media-Player-Codec-Pack/3000-13632_4-10749065.html
Play FLAC files in Windows Media Player ****** 
http://www.synaptics.com/en/drivers.php
Synaptics Driver – For Laptops to enable gesture support, two finger scrolling, two finger right click and three finger middle button/close tab.

I hope you find this useful, let me know in the comments.

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Windows 8 weather app http://www.stronge.org.uk/2014/03/windows-8-weather-app/ Sat, 15 Mar 2014 19:22:57 +0000 http://www.stronge.org.uk/?p=1113
This is a bit of a hidden gem in the app world. The “Modern” interface of Windows 8 has been struggling to gain traction in promoting the apps available to it, but this is one app that you definitely should open and setup. The home screen is visually appealing with …
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This is a bit of a hidden gem in the app world. The “Modern” interface of Windows 8 has been struggling to gain traction in promoting the apps available to it, but this is one app that you definitely should open and setup.

The home screen is visually appealing with a daily view of the next five days weather, with a percentage chance of rain for day and night and a maximum and minimum temperature.

windows8-1weather-home

 

All Windows 8 apps generally scroll from left to right and you can see above the hourly view that is partly displayed to the right, seeing this will depend on your screen resolution. Another feature of Windows 8 apps is the right click context menu. In this app when you right click, you can configure multiple locations, set your home location and also view skiing and world weather.

For each day of the week shown above, you can get more detail by clicking/tapping on the day and this will display a new hourly and historical weather view which gives the average statistical weather from the last ten years.

windows8-1weather-today

The hourly view is scrollable/swippable up and down so you can see the predicted weather for every hour.

windows8-1weather

To the right of the main view you can also see a map of the British Isles with 4 different overlays available, including hourly temperature, precipitation, satellite and cloud forecasts.

windows8-1weather-precipitation

The interface works quite well in displaying a lot of information in an orderly fashion and the app gets even more appealing when you factor in the ability to have the app in a split screen/sidebar view and have a live tile on the start screen which flicks through each of your saved locations.

windows8-1sidebar

If you haven’t opened this app in the Windows 8 start screen, I would encourage you to try it out. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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