This alien October
A hurricane in Ireland and a blood red sun in London
We’ve been having some seriously weird weather recently.
Today it was 21 degrees Centigrade (70 degrees Fahrenheit) in central London. The warm weather brought out a late blossoming of bees, lunch-break picnics in the park and men in shorts. Warm, dusty winds blow through the streets, whipping up fallen leaves.
In Ireland, Hurricane Ophelia is dying.
Ophelia began life last Wednesday as a tropical storm began to form in the middle of the Atlantic. Over the next few days the storm strengthened, heated by unseasonably warm sea temperatures. On Saturday, Ophelia was briefly classified as a Category 3 (major) hurricane as it passed by the Azores, although it did little damage. On Sunday it fanned wildfires in Spain and Portugal, picking up dust and particles.
On Monday morning, the decaying ex-hurricane slammed into Ireland, causing the deaths of three people and bringing widespread damage. A burning smell hung in the air over south-west England.
And then came the apocalypse.
It started in the west of the country, and reached London in the early afternoon. We watched as sky darkened and took on a dystopian orange hue. The sun became a giant blood-red disc. Particles from the wildfires caused shorter wavelength blue light to be scattered, making the sky appear sepia-orange.
A sane scientific explanation, but it was easy to imagine people in a more superstitious age looking at the demon sky and seeing dread portents written there.
Ophelia is the easternmost Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. The majority tack westwards, barrelling into the United States and the Caribbean. The same Atlantic storm system also produced the severe hurricanes that have caused severe flooding in Houston and catastrophic damage to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands of Barbuda and Saint Martin.
As I write this, the remnants of Ophelia are heading towards Scotland and Northern England.
This is not where you normally expect to find tropical storms.
Is this an example of climate change in action?
The link between climate change and tropical storms is poorly understood at present, but it’s possible that the warming of the planet’s surface may be increasing their frequency and intensity. The warm weather over north-west Europe, which led to the late bloom of bees and shorts in London could have also fed Ophelia on her northward journey.
Whatever the reason, weird weather events are increasingly becoming the norm.