Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Sudden stratospheric what?

20th January 2013

Last night, I saw BBC video clips about the phenomenon that has been behind our cold spell. Apparently, a mixing of air between the troposphere (up to 10 km high) and the stratosphere (10-50 km high) in the atmosphere has disrupted the usual polar winter vortex and had an effect on our weather too, with the usual Atlantic jet stream getting blocked and winds drawing cold air from Europe over to us. Part of this whole thing is something called sudden stratospheric warming and it gives weather forecasters a hint of what is to come even if it doesn’t become an Arctic spell of wintry weather like what we are getting now.

Macclesfield’s nearby hills have been getting their share of the white stuff, but its hold on the town is more tenuous. In fact, there was a semblance of a thaw earlier on today. Many pavements were clear of ice and snow as I popped down the Riverside Park by the river Bollin for a short taste of the winter conditions. There were plenty of folk out and about too and many of them were walking dogs. Not everywhere was coated in white and the river was flowing well too.

The sights of green grass with which I was surrounded could be changed though by what is falling from the sky as I am writing these words. It is nowhere near as heavy as some places though the Met Office is forecasting near constant if light snowfall for tonight and tomorrow, so who knows what could build up on us? Still, we are not expecting dumps like what south Wales and south-east England got or what has been predicted for both sides of the Scotland-England border.

Funnily enough, times like these used to have me wondering about seeing hills and they coated in white, but the excitement of snowfall appears to have been lost on me for whatever reason. It might have been those cold spells in the winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 when I got my fill, but there may be other factors. After all, having ageing parents means a certain amount of worry in times like these and there is the obvious nuisance factor of snow and ice too. Or is it the general greyness that seems to be accompanying this cold snap where I live? Still, the mix of white snow and grey skies can be a powerful one in photos so that could liberate me for whatever is jaundicing my outlook right now. It’d be no harm leaving the cares of the world behind me for a while to enjoy something that usually happens to be ephemeral in our climate.

As it so happens, my eyes have been feasting on sunlit greens and not grey whiteness. The cause has been a catch-up with trip reports from last summer and autumn. There should be more to come and I may have one from this year in the form of a walk along the Macclesfield Canal from Congleton to home from last Sunday too. The one long walk a month plan remains and I am hoping to be among hills more often too. Of course, that depends on how life goes this year and that is a story yet to told and may have a few unexpected twists and turns too. January, normally a quieter month, has been a roller coaster ride already too so I’m keeping an open mind as to how things will go from here.

Update 2013-01-21: Overnight, Macclesfield (and its nearby hills too since keeping the roads from Buxton to Macclesfield and Congleton clear is quite an effort) did get quite an accumulation of snow until it stopped around midday. Some of it has melted since but there still is a lot of whitening with snow sticking to trees now too. With the cold week ahead, it looks like it’ll stay a while too, so a weekend escapade may come to pass. It’s not likely to be too adventurous and a train journey along the Settle to Carlisle railway line came to mind last week. Making a loop of that outing using the West Coast Mainline popped into my head too. It’s a far cry from the heights where you’d need an ice axe and some avalanche awareness. Maybe I might get to the foothills yet like I did in previous cold snaps; today’s whitening certainly brightened my day in its own way.

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