Stormy weather: past, present and future

It’s been henting down recently, with a succession of weather fronts, heavy rain and consistently strong winds reaching gale force at times. On the one hand there’s nothing new in this, as the hundreds of wrecks around Cornwall’s coast testify. These brought welcome temporary relief to coastal communities if they could succeed in snaffling away the wrecked goods before the authorities. But they also brought problems inland.

Carew wrote in the late 1500s that “the country is much subject to storms, which fetching a large course in the open sea, do from these violently assault the dwellers on land, and leave them uncovered houses [most roofs were thatched], pared hedges and dwarf-grown trees as witnesses of their force and fury … ”

Penzance seafront in January

Later, John Wesley had obviously had enough of the rain. During an early trip to Cornwall he commented: “I saw a strange sight, the sun shining in Cornwall”, a view that could be echoed this month.

Train derailed in the blizzard of 1891

Backalong, we used to get more snow. In the Breage parish registers there’s an entry in 1692: “great snow fell at the end of January and the beginning of February”. This heralded a series of cold winters. In 1814, the snow on January 14th was so bad that the mail coach overturned at Mitchell Common.” “The snow in many places was as high as the horses’ shoulders”. Further east, it was impossible to make out the road at Goss Moor. Travellers had to stop trying to cross the moor as stream works excavated very close to the road made it too dangerous.

Snowstorms are less likely now. Instead the climate scientists predict up to 30% more winter rain over the next half-century and an increase in ‘extremely wet days’ as we continue to be strangely unable to stop increasing our carbon emissions, let alone cut them.

Get ready for the next storm. It’s on its way.

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