|Summer 2010 part 5 -
August: summer takes a vacation!
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August 2010 was dominated by a north-westerly airflow across Wales,
with moist air getting drawn north-east - clockwise around the Azores
High, itself a bit to the north of its traditional position. The air
was drawn far enough north to be cooled in its lower levels and was
then fed south-east towards the UK, passing over the relatively warm
sea and receiving more moisture from it. The remnant warmth at higher
levels allowed frequent inversions to form, so that the convection was
shallow, with the resultant clouds topping-out in the mid-troposphere
and spreading at that height to form extensive cloud-decks, severely
Windy and wet at times too, the conditions have limited outdoor
activities. The last time I went fishing was at Aberdyfi on the 2nd,
where I found lesser weevers to be in abundance - I was catching them
two at a time. This is a fish that demands extreme care in handling.
The dark-coloured dorsal fin and the long spine on each gill-cover are
both fed by venom-glands, so that if you get spiked, agonising pain and
severe inflammation will quickly result and a trip to the nearest
Casualty department is the usual outcome. So if you find a fish in a
rock-pool that looks like the specimen in the photo below, don't touch!
Most casualties though, outside of angling, are bathers who have
trodden on them. Hopefully the photo will help someone avoid an
Occasionally, the weather improved enough to take the camera for a
walk. One Sunday afternoon I revisited an area I used to walk
frequently - the wide expanse of salt-marshes that forms the inner Dyfi
Estuary below Tre'r-ddol, where Afon Clettwr flows out to join the main
The path runs down alongside the Clettwr, where banks of thistles were
alive with butterflies: Meadow Browns, various Whites and Gatekeepers
like the one below:
It took a while to get this shot - every time I got into position it
took off again!
A pair of Wall Browns turned up. In my youth, these were a frequent
sight in the Midlands where I grew up, but are relatively scarce
The path leads
under the railway bridge over the Clettwr and out onto the salt-marsh,
where a lot of detours have to be made to get round the creeks with
their soft mud bottoms:
After various toings-and-froings, the heart of the Estuary is
...with its multiple, sinuous winding
channels and isolated patches of marsh-grass and succulent salt-loving
Main Channel is less than a kilometre from the railway as the crow
flies, but that distance can be easily doubled when the creek-dodging
is taken into account! It's a peaceful spot, even at this time of year.
August 14th saw a bit
of a change with low pressure over the North Sea bringing a slack
north-easterly airflow across Wales. The unstable airmass convected
readily and thunderstorms broke out in many areas.
I wasn't expecting much over Wales but in the afternoon I noted a
severe thunderstorm that had broken out over East Shropshire. Periodic
checks revealed the storm to be hanging together as it crossed into
Wales, with rainfall rates of the intensities that can cause
flash-flooding. I figured that with such strong precipitation the storm
might sport an impressive gust-front and, plotting its course, an
intercept seemed possible just a few miles to my SE along the Mountain
On arrival up at the top of the road, the storm was approaching fast,
here bearing down on the Trannon windfarm:
Zooming out, the storm was sporting a gust-front, albeit not a
particularly photogenic one:
Although not that impressed, I decided to hang around and see what
would happen next. As the gust-front came closer, a rainbow began to
And in a moment the scene was transformed
into one of great beauty!
Here's a zoom-in. It's amazing how sun, cloud, rain and wind can
interact to transform a drab view into a stunning one in a matter of
seconds - and back again! The trick with weather photography is to be
quick and decisive!
The above two
photos, especially the first, show the land "inside" the storm to be in
deep shadow. After the rainbow had faded I drove in under the
gust-front to be greeted by instant dusk light-levels. This is a view
along the inside of the gust-front looking south.
Given the difficult shooting conditions and the now pouring rain, I
decided not to hang around. The gust-front had now raced well to my
west and on the way home I never quite caught up with it, but during
the descent of the mountain road, distant crepuscular sunrays appeared
and composed for me another fleeting scene of natural beauty:
That was not an easy photo to take due to the lashing rain - I had to
huddle over the camera to try and keep the lens dry. The leading edge
of the gust-front can be seen along the top of the image. Moments
later, the rays had gone and the scene was just another typical wet
evening in Mid-Wales!
On the 17th, the local Rotary club held an "air-day" to mark the 70th
anniversary of the Battle of Britain and once again the cool cloudy
nor-westerlies were in evidence. Many air-based events were cancelled
due to the poor weather; the only fly-past was by this Tornado, which
did produce something of interest in the shape of condensation vortices
trailing from its wingtips:
At last, on
Sunday 21st, the clouds parted for a while and, with parents visiting,
an expedition was held to look for bilberries in a local forestry
three of us, over an hour or two we managed a couple of pounds of fruit
from the heathery hillside, although had we been there a fortnight
earlier we might have doubled that. The day brought to mind late-summer
expeditions into the rolling hills above Aberedw in Radnorshire when I
was forty years younger! The visits to that area every school holiday
were among the highlights of my childhood, the time when I fell into
lifelong love with this beautiful country and its people.
damp weather has kept everything happy over at the veg garden.
Currently, I've got the shallots (below) and onions stacked in
mushroom-trays in front of the fireplace where the guaranteed draught
up the chimney is helping them to dry out nicely. All being well, there
should be enough to last over the winter. Runner beans are now coming
on in good numbers and it'll be time to harvest the maincrop potatoes
soon - I'm waiting for a dry day for that - whenever it happens!
A pattern-change looks at least possible for the rest of the month, but
it doesn't look like good news for some as the tropical storm season is
now underway and we look to be in line for the remnants of some of
these systems, which have the potential to give severe downpours and
major flooding. If anything spectacular occurs, I'll be reporting on it
in a few weeks!
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