Posted by: mynaturaldiary | January 19, 2013

Guisborough Gardens (in the snow)

The heavy snows have continued, and Cafe Twitch suddenly becomes a lifeline for the local birds as extra food goes out. The Blackbirds devour the seeds on the bird table.

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Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Collared Doves come down too for the feast.

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Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)

So does a Wood Pigeon.

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Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)

Finches come through too.

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Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

But where are the Greenfinches? Dunnock hunt along teh ground for fallen seeds, rather than dine at the table.

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Dunnock (Prunella modularis)

Blue Tits make a rapid visit.

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Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

Finally, a Robin, the bird we associate with snow.

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Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

But on the west side of Guisborough is a delightfully named estate (for Twitchers), with all the roads named after birds.

A garden there is visited by two fabulous birds; a pair of Redwings and a Mistle Thrush. It is, of course, in Redwing Rising that the birds are seen.

The Redwings concentrate on berries on the trees.

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Redwing (Turdus iliacus)

And the Mistle Thrush is in the trees too.

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Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)

The Moors and the woods are deep in snow.

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The scene is alpine.

But last weekend, it was cold, but without snow. We should expect snow in January, but might there be something special going on?

It seems we’re experiencing the consequences of a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW). Combine this with high pressure over Scandinavia

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and this can cause the prevailing winds to turn to easterlies, bringing snow and freezing cold.  The recent arctic temperatures extending southward appear to be due to the break up of the Polar Vortex, which normally gives us westerly winds, which are warm and moist.

But what could cause the SSW? A possible explanation comes from the following animation from the NOAA of the temperature at 50 hPa (about 20 km up in the atmosphere (red is hot, blue is cold deviations from mean temperature).

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You can see that the heat emanates from Siberia (Kamchatka peninsula), where volcanoes are currently active. So possibly a volcano the other side of the world can plunge us into the freezer (and 4′ of snow)?

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