The QBO is to blame for worst storms in 20 years

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The builders have had a good week at long last and made good progress, which is encouraging. The wet and rough weather has hopefully come to an end but we have had 16 inches of rain since the first of December, over half our annual average in five weeks.

Let’s just hope that we don’t get the weather in the States drifting this way as we certainly do not want anything to do with an ‘Arctic Vortex Collapse’! The grass has been washed spotlessly clean all around and is a bright emerald green, and it continuous to grow. We have snowdrops in the garden which are early, and it all looks lush but very wet indeed on the clay.

We are grazing heifers behind an electric fence at Tillington with enough grass to see us through this month and more; we are feeding them some concentrates of course and they have some straw back at the yard if they fancy a nibble to mix in with the wet grass.

The sheep grazing at Crouchlands are now coming towards the end of their job, and the conditions have not been good for them of late. They are now on the last ten acres or so of that third cut silage which was never made and they can go home at the end of this month, away from the very wet clay.

However, if you are the Secretary of State and you have recently talked about the advantages of climate change for British farming, which might well be true, expect the agriculture community to give you some stick when recent rains cause damage everywhere and with a huge amount of land under water, lack of investment in drainage becomes a hot topic.

Had the Secretary of State’s comments in September at the party conference, where he said that the predicted rise in global temperature by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ‘was really quite modest’, correctly went on to state that cold winters kill the most people in the UK and that a rise in temperature would give us longer growing seasons; had that been followed by a glorious summer or a lovely early spring, he might himself have basked in some sunshine.

September is not the right time of year to predict future weather patterns, and frankly going anywhere near such a subject when one is a leading politician is more likely to backfire. David Cameron has quickly stepped in to say that he takes climate change very, very, seriously indeed, which is a slight change to a recent comment he made about getting rid of all the ‘Green ----’.

The present weather is extreme and we now know why. This has been the stormiest winter for twenty years, and the reason for it can be found in the stratosphere above the equator; a wind called Quasi Biennial Oscillation (QBO). This wind was discovered 50 years ago and it blows east to west and then reverses and blows west to east.

It changes direction and back again roughly every 26 months and when it blows west to east it coincides with stormy weather in the UK because it runs in the same direction as the jet stream, and when it blows east to west it coincides with cold winters.

It is said that the effect of QBO was the reason for the 1987 storm, but today it is weakening and should bring an end to the stormy weather here. Let’s hope so.

I visited Southampton University on Friday and was shown around ‘AD World’ by Professor Charles Banks who I know quite well and is incredibly enthusiastic about all things anaerobic digestion (AD).

He and his team of very bright students have 300 reactors at the university and although very small at about 5 litres each, constantly stirred and kept at around 36 degrees Celsius, they all produce methane which he measures very carefully.

The laboratories have that AD ‘whiff’ in the air, but the work done on digesting volatile fatty acids in food waste by adding trace elements is fascinating and although in essence highly technical, the conclusions are very clear.

Charles Banks also has many small experiments where they treat dirty water such as one finds being discharged from sewage works, and by digesting it to produce gas or interestingly pressing it through four micron membranes, he not only has clean water at the end which could (in theory) be put in a glass and drunk, but nutrients which are being used to feed algae, which can then be digested to produce methane.

Charles and his team are involved in developing solutions for commercial AD, gas upgrading, treatment of waste and so on in many countries and have had a big impact on moving the industry forward.

As we all listen to the Chancellor and his plans to axe the welfare state and the Prime Minister making promises to pensioners, we know that there is some confusion in government thinking, especially given the media coverage of the Bulgarian and Romanian tidal wave of immigrants.

It is very clear that Immigration UK is not working, because they would have told government that most of the ones who want to come to the UK are already here! There have been Bulgarian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Estonian, in the dairy industry for years. There are so many working in the building trade, including Albanians and others who have worked in the UK for a very long time; indeed as it has been correctly pointed out many of the services we depend on day to day would not function without them; Spanish and Portuguese nurses and carers were praised only last week for their compassion and caring nature.

Yet it is with incredulity that I listen to some MPs, totally out of touch with what actually goes on in this country, pretending that in some way it can all be reversed. If we can’t understand what has been going on, and if we can’t count (!), how do they think we can manage a reverse in direction?

I despair when I see the media gleefully filming MPs waiting at airports for plane-loads of immigrants who do not appear. Monty Python would struggle to better the reality we see on our television screens daily.

Having seen immigrant labour working on so many farms up and down the country in horticulture, and how growers are emphatic that they do not want anyone off the dole being sent to their farms, as past experience for many of them was not only a total lack of work ethic, but how the atmosphere changed totally amongst the working teams.

Now that all the results are all in for retailers we have some serious casualties over the Christmas period. WM Morrison has fared particularly badly, so badly that it is planning to raise £800 million from property sales and halving its annual capital spend, returning it shareholders in order to appease angry investors.

They had the worst of it over Christmas as the city labels Dalton Phillips CEO as ‘the man who missed Christmas’. Collectively the worst Christmas for over 30 years for the big four as customers feeling the effects of recession become fickle and shop increasingly with discounters.

Tough times indeed, and the future will be hard on suppliers as discounting will intensify.