Geography, Simplified!: Heat Waves

This post was written a good many years ago (I think 5 or 6 actually) for a blog that I used to write on with a friend. Since then I’ve been meaning to put more of my Geography Degree and teaching knowledge to good some use and yet I keep putting it off. Well, since the old blog seems destined to close down for good soon, I thought that I may as well drag some old content kicking and screaming from the pages of the past to share once more (also I’m hilariously lazy and this seems like the easiest way to bring the blog back in relative obscurity from total obscurity…) Please forgive any glaring issues, but ho hum. Welcome to “Geography, Simplified!”


It’s the summer holidays and it’s pouring with rain! What else did you expect from this wonderful country of our? A little bit of hot weather? Well, cast your minds back over the last few years (few months actually, we had a heatwave declared in June!) You can bet your bottom Pound Sterling (not Dollar. We’re not toddlers Americans) that with the hot weather comes the inevitable scaremongering from the media that will begin with some websites pondering whether our weather might descend into a “heat wave”. But what exactly is a heat wave? Let’s take a look.

“A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather, which may be accompanied by high humidity. There is no universal definition of a heat wave;the term is relative to the usual weather in the area.”

Put simply, a heat wave is a time of higher than average temperatures in an area, but since the climate of two areas may not be the same, there is no single temperature that must be achieved for it to be considered a heat wave. The reccommended definition is that when the daily maximum temperature of more than five days in a row is higher than the average temperature by more than five degrees Celsius.

So how do they happen?

Well, heat waves are usually caused by an area of high pressure where the air and the ground get heated to excess and there is very little to displace the heat, such as cloud cover. A static high pressure area (one that does not move) can create a very persistent heat wave. Hot winds blowing from tropical or desert areas can also contribute to the creation of heat waves, with the warmer air being blown onto an area that is usually cooler, combining with the high pressure area. The “Heat Island” phenomenon caused by large urban areas such as cities can also exacerbate (such a big word, so grown up!) a heat wave and make it worse, due to the prolonged period of heat, cutting down the amount of night time cooling.

What damage can heat waves do?

Medical issues such as Hyperthermia (heat stroke) and Heat rash, among others can be caused by the extreme weather. A usual precaution taken during a heat wave is to set up air conditioned “cooling areas” for the public in most cities. In worst case scenarios heat waves can kill, as seen in the 2003 European heat wave, where around 15,000 people died in France alone. Wildfires can be started in some areas, where the heat affects dry vegetation and causes it to catch alight. In 2003 fires raged through Portugal as a consequence of the heat. Heatwaves can also cause physical damage to infrastructure with pavements and roads melting and buckling due to the heat.

You mentioned 2003 in Europe?

Why yes I did. All good Geographers love a Case Study and this is ours for a Heatwave. In 2003 a heat wave erupted over most of western Europe. You can see the areas affected on the map I’ve included at the end of this post. In 2003, the summer was the hottest on record since at least 1540. This created major health crises in many countries, with France being hit especially hard. This, combined with a drought that caused a major crop shortfall in the South of the continent, caused over 40,000 Europeans to lose their lives. The UK managed to escape the worst, and was brought a short period of relief by Atlantic cyclones, bringing cool, wet weather for a few days before the temperatures started to rise once again. Around 2000 people died in the UK.

Map showing the 2003 European Heat Wave

Well there you have it. The phenomenon known as a heat wave has been broken down a bit and explained. Now, whenever this rain stops you can understand what all the scary news articles are about! See you all soon for another bit of Geography, Simplified!

 

Literary Hell

I’ve read a lot of books over the years. As a consequence of this, I have therefore read quite a few utterly terrible books. The rule seems to be that for every 3 books that you find that are great, you will find one book so bad that it makes you want to scratch your eyes out so that you can’t read anything that bad ever again. These terrible books deserve to meet a horrible fate, the kind that is arranged in darkened rooms under bad lighting. Which lead to me think of the BBC TV show “Room 101”. For those of you that don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a wikipedia entry for the show:

“Room 101 is a BBC comedy television series based on the radio series of the same name, in which celebrities are invited to discuss their pet hates and persuade the host to consign them to a fate worse than death in Room 101, named after the torture room in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, which is itself named after a meeting room in the BBC Broadcasting House where Orwell would sit through tedious meetings”

So let me introduce you to the first installment of “Literary Hell” the place that bad books go to die!

First up, and I know it’s the easiest book series to hate and lambast, BUT:

The Twilight Saga
I have the unfortunate accolade of having read the entire saga and I must say, I wish I hadn’t. Without mentioning the films (which are even worse, if that’s even possible!) the Twilight saga was a bland, unstructured bloke of prose that featured a character that was only unforgettable because of how utterly shapeless and devoid of any detail and emotion she is. The books read like a madman spewing gibberish at you in the street, with very few coherent parts that added up to make a thoroughly underwhelming plot. Spoiler Alert: Nothing Happens! The first two books are about love and loss, the third book features a battle between a vampire army and a smaller group of “friendly” vampires which we don’t see because we’re focussed on Bella and her non-adventures and the final book builds up to a gigantic confrontation that doesn’t happen and is resolved peacefully and with love and care. Utter, utter garbage. Dracula would be turning in his grave if he could see how people use the word “Vampire” nowadays (well, he would be if it wasn’t for that stake stopping him ;D ).

Mockingjay
I’ve mentioned before (here to be precise) how much I enjoyed the first Hunger Games book. The second installment wasn’t as good, but I could live with it. However, the third and final part of the trilogy was such an unadulturated crime against humanity that it’s a shock how it got through the publishers! Mockingjay takes every good aspect of the first two books and makes them awful, putting Katniss into an utterly unbelievable war setting and robbing her and the other main characters of everything that made you love them in the first few books. Marginally better than the Twilight Saga, but come on, that’s not something to be boasting about…

Fifty Shades of Grey
Oh yes. The big book of the moment, the one that everyone is talking about and hailing as amazing. Surprise, surprise, I have something bad to say about it. Now, whilst I haven’t read the ACTUAL book, I HAVE read the majority of the original ‘FanFiction’ that eventually became the book, oddly titled “Master of the Universe”. Let me tell you, don’t ever read this. If you do, you will want to rip off your skin in an effort to feel something more painful than reading it. You will never find anything more painful, not even getting kicked in the nuts. Fifty Shades of Grey was originally a “FanFiction” of the Twilight Saga, in which Bella, a student, meets Edward, who is a CEO of a massive corporation, in an interview and then  signs her life away before realising that he loves BDSM and whatever. The entire premise of the book is flawed from the start, like trying to polish a turd, you cannot make Twilight better. The real kicker, however, comes in the form of the actual writing style. The overuse of elipses between each statement is possibly my least favourite new writing trend, making everything seem like one big run-on sentence. The dialogue is so hammy that i would avoid it if you like to keep Kosher and the only thing that seems to have changed between the transition from “Poorly writtien Twilight FanFictition” to “Published Poorly writtien Twilight FanFictition” are the names given to each of the main characters. Avoid this book at all costs, it will devour your soul.

If you’re up for a challenge, I’ll include a link to the “Read Online” version of Master of the Universe. not for the faint hearted.
Possibly the worst thing to happen to literature, ever.

I hope you enjoyed the first installment of Literary Hell, I’ll be back with more once I’ve read some more incredibly bad books!