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Sunlight reduces risk of arthritis

Regular exposure to sunlight, specifically ultraviolet B (UV-B), may reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. These were the findings from a long-term study of more than 200,000 women, published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. The report speculated that vitamin D, which the body produces when exposed to sunlight, might protect women from arthritis.

The Big Freeze of 1963: One of the coldest winters on record

Image: Richard Johnson

We take a look back at The Big Freeze of 1963 - one of the coldest winters on record in the UK. When we look at the Central England Temperature records, which extend back to 1659, only the winters of 1683–84 and 1739-40 have been colder.

The most severe conditions were across England and Wales and although winter hit hard in Scotland it didn't rank as one of its worst on record.

2012: from droughts to floods: A year of two extremes

Across parts of the UK, the year began with ongoing concerns over long-term drought heightened by a relatively dry January to March but the situation was then transformed by the wettest April to June on record. There was been no modern day precedent for the extraordinary switch in rainfall amounts; the nearest comparison was in 1903.

Improved El Nino Forecasts

NASA image shows the warm water pool in the eastern Pacific during the El Niño event in 1997.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claims to have discovered a better way of forecasting the periodic warming in the eastern equatorial Pacific, known as El Niño events. These events are closely linked to severe weather in Latin America and thousands of miles further away, as far as Australia, Africa and North America.

Behind the folklore: oak and ash: Can trees predict the weather?

Oak before ash, in for a splash
Ash before oak, in for a soak

One lesson that this column frequently hammers home is that animals, birds, plants and medieval saints tend to be as unreliable in predicting long term weather patterns as the writers of those hyperbolic, dodgily-sourced tabloid articles that warned us last November of an impending Arctic white-out.