Science Lesson

Pollen levels and weather: Why hay fever suffers need to keep an eye on the weather

Over 10 million people in the UK suffer from hay fever and the arrival of warm, dry weather during the spring marks the start of increased pollen levels that can continue through into autumn. The tree pollen season runs until mid-May, followed by grass pollen until late July and weed pollen until the end September. An allergy to grass pollen is most common, affecting about 95% of sufferers.

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.

All hands on deck: Climate project opens naval logbooks

Budding weather detectives are being offered the chance to sharpen their skills by taking part in a public project designed to help scientists understand the climate of the past. Visitors to the website OldWeather.org, set up by a number of collaborators including the Met Office and Oxford University, are being invited to trawl through old naval logbooks and input weather observations taken by Royal Navy ships. Volunteers will be asked to transcribe information from the digital copies of the logbooks, making notes of any weather observations.

Watching the weather: Trained weather observer Mike Robinson talks about aviation forecasting and a life spent on the move

Have you always been fascinated by weather?
Not initially, but once you start getting involved with weather it becomes almost impossible to ignore""ó¢even on your days off.

Briefing: the Southern US drought: Analysing the 2011 drought in 13 southern US states

In April 2011 the governor of Texas and presidential hopeful Rick Perry asked that his fellow Texans begin praying for ""the healing of our land"" and an end to the drought. Unfortunately divine intervention was not forthcoming and the drought continued to worsen""ó¢by late June nearly three quarters of the state was experiencing exceptional drought conditions that persisted until the end of the summer. Texas experienced its driest 12 month period on record (August 2010 to July 2011), with crop and livestock losses estimated at $5.2 billion. It was not only Texas that was affected.

Behind the folklore: St Swithun's Day: Does rain today really mean a ruined summer?

"

St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ‘twill rain nae mare

In 1716, John Gay, the author of The Beggar's Opera, published a poem entitled Trivia: Or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London – a lengthy paean to the joys of striding around the capital (ironic considering his reputation as a corpulent and entirely sedentary man of letters). In it, and with typical élan, he poured scorn upon the age-old legend of 15th July - St Swithun's Day:

Staying safe in the sun: The whys and wherefores of sun protection

It is easy to think of sunburn as something that doesn't really happen in the UK, but it can and it often does. You don't have to be sunbathing to get sunburnt; it may happen while you are playing sport, walking or even working outdoors. To ensure you have fun in the sun either in the UK or abroad, we have put together a sun factfile to encourage you to enjoy the sun safely through the UK summer.