Monday, February 02, 2009

Transport hit as UK wakes to heaviest snow in decades.

Viewed from my window it looks like a winter wonderland but the Met Office are warning that we are actually witnessing, "an extreme weather event" and that the snow is set to stay for the next week.

The heaviest snow for two decades moved into Britain on a freezing easterly wind last night after gathering strength over the North Sea. Falls of up to 10cm (4in) are predicted initially on the south-east coast and inland as far as London before the storms head north.

It was already causing chaos last night as trains were delayed and some airport runways temporarily closed. Gatwick and London City airports were both temporarily shut as their runways were de-iced, although City failed to reopen, as it closes ordinarily at 10pm. A Gatwick spokeswoman said that 23 flights had been cancelled and 18 diverted, although the runway reopened at 10pm.

A number of train services linking London and the south coast were also delayed or cancelled as snow drifted on to the tracks. And all London bus services were withdrawn, according to Transport for London's website.

High ground in Kent and Sussex could see as much as 20cm fall. "Severe disruption to roads and airports is extremely probable during the peak of the Monday afternoon rush hour," said Tom Defty, head of forecasting operations at MetService.

On TV they are warning that it might get as cold a minus 5 and the BBC are currently telling me that it is "very dangerous out there".

They are reporting that parts of the M25 are closed and, strangely, they are also telling us that there is no London bus service for the whole of today.

Contrast that with what is currently taking place in Australia:

Leaves are falling off trees in the height of summer, railway tracks are buckling, and people are retiring to their beds with deep-frozen hot-water bottles, as much of Australia swelters in its worst-ever heatwave.

On Friday, Melbourne thermometers topped 43C (109.4F) on a third successive day for the first time on record, while even normally mild Tasmania suffered its second-hottest day in a row, as temperatures reached 42.2C. Two days before, Adelaide hit a staggering 45.6C. After a weekend respite, more records are expected to be broken this week.

Ministers are blaming the heat – which follows a record drought – on global warming. Experts worry that Australia, which emits more carbon dioxide per head than any nation on earth, may also be the first to implode under the impact of climate change.

So, in Australia they are suffering from excessive heat whilst, here in London, we are witnessing "an extreme weather event" which is so cold that you have to look back some twenty years to find anything comparable. And what is happening here is set, for the first time anyone can remember, to last for a week.

At the moment I, like almost every other Londoner, am viewing this as an exciting aberration, and a pretty one at that, but it'll be interesting to see how we all feel after a week of this weather.

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