Old Steadman’s Unlikely Almanack: am I a weather witch or a weather washout?

At the start of 2020, I decided to try predicting the weather for the year ahead using a folklore forecasting method, whereby the first 12 days of the year equate to the coming 12 months. (1 January equals January, 2 January equals February, 3 January equals March, etc.) So, how well did I do at forecasting the weather: am I a weather witch or a weather washout? Below, I share my original Facebook posts from 1 to 12 January 2020, along with a weather update from the UK Met Office for each month.

Day 1 = January 2020

January 2020 weather according to my folklore forecast

I’ve come over all Nostradamus-like and I’m going to predict the year ahead based on the first 12 days of January representing the 12 months of the year. Today was mild and sunny with blue skies and ice on the ground. I slipped on said ice and knocked myself out. No alcohol has been (or will be) consumed today. So, January looks to be largely dry, and also bright and frosty with occasional blackouts.

Bolt’s Law

January 2020 weather according to the Met Office

‘January was mostly mild and unsettled with westerly and south-westerly winds. Sunshine was below normal in the north-west, but it was drier and sunnier than average in the north-east, while in the south rainfall and sunshine were mostly near normal.’

Result: weather witch

Mild and sunny was on the money, though no mention of ice, except in Scotland (which is quite near, to be fair). Absolutely no mention of blackouts… so that was just me.

Day 2 = February

February 2020 weather according to my folklore forecast

High winds at 4 am and then grim and grey for the rest of the day. Youngest is fed up of my laptop wheezing and has patched together a PC à la Frankenstein from various old corpses scavenged from the (leaky) attic. So, February will be reasonably temperate, with the odd gale and slightly moist computerised monsters roaming the land.

Derwent Valley

February 2020 weather according to the Met Office

February opened with four days of changeable westerlies, then high pressure briefly moved across the country between the 5th and 7th bringing settled weather with sunshine and frosty nights to many central and southern counties. Frosts were notably fewer than average.’

Result: weather witch

Windy and temperate. Luckily, no mention of computerised robots – moist or otherwise – roaming the land. (The Frankenstein PC was later cannibalised to repair some other computers and so my old laptop wheezes on, having now seen off two attempts at replacing it.)

Day 3 = March

March 2020 weather according to my folklore forecast

As it’s now Day 4 (April), I forgot to do the Almanack yesterday so this means there will be no March (sorry, everyone). On the plus side, according to science,* forgetting things is a sign of high intelligence. *The source of this science is a furniture blog, so it may not be entirely rigorous. (I can’t post the link as it goes against Facebook’s standards! Nice that they’re taking a stand against fake science/furniture.) Just in case there is a March, Day 3 was mild and sunny.

[I forgot to take a photo for March, so just imagine a void instead.]

March 2020 weather according to the Met Office

‘It was a generally dry sunny month overall, with 82% of average rainfall and 134% of average sunshine, ranking as the 9th sunniest March in a series from 1929. Rainfall was near average in many western and southern areas but below average in the east and northeast, while sunshine was above average everywhere except in parts of the western half of Scotland.’

Result: weather witch

Pretty much on the nail. Of course, March didn’t actually go missing as I predicted, but since many of us were all locked down, it may as well have…

Day 4 = April

April 2020 weather according to my folklore forecast

Dry, but a tad breezy. The gritters were out on the hills, so could mean ice or snow coming. Bit worrying that there’s been no rain so far this decade. Could this mean we’re at risk of drought? (More worryingly, could it mean Dry January continuing until at least spring?)

Derwent Reservoir (dam)

April 2020 weather according to the Met Office

Rainfall was 48% of average, and many north-eastern parts had less than 20% of average, but the wet end raised rainfall totals close to normal in Central Southern England. It was the sunniest April in a series from 1929 by quite a wide margin, with over 150% of average in many places.’

Result: weather witch

My drought predictions were eerily accurate. No snow, except in the Scottish Highlands, which I don’t think I can claim, but there were a lot of frosty nights, so I’m claiming this one as a result. Also, in case anyone was worried, Dry January did not extend until spring (or indeed the end of January in my case). Have to say, given the lack of rainfall, the reservoir seemed pretty high…

Day 5 = May

May 2020 weather according to my folklore forecast

Although warm, sunny and mild in the valley (T-shirt weather, in fact), it was foggy on the tops and there’s residual snow in them thar hills, so May may be snowy. Wouldn’t be the first time, to be fair. Was going to share a magnificent waterfall video from possibly the best-named waterfall in the world, but seem only to have filmed my thumbs. Will plagiarise a copy from fellow reservoir spotter. (The film below is from my fellow reservoir spotter – shared with permission, of course.)

Cauldron Snout near Cow Green Reservoir

May 2020 weather according to the Met Office

Northerly winds brought a cold snap from the 10th to 15th, with wintry showers for the north and east of Scotland, and some overnight frost.’

Result: weather witch

As well as the widespread cold snap, there was also mention of snow mid-month in the north east, so I think this is a reasonable prediction.

Day 6 = June

June 2020 weather according to my folklore forecast

Twelfth Night/Epiphany. The Magi visit the Christ Child. The moon seems to fancy itself as the star in this little nativity play. A warm day, bit breezy, rained for three minutes. The drought continues. Watch out for the second coming in June. (And yes, I know that 5 January is more commonly held to be Twelfth Night, but I go with 6 January, which has cost me more than one pub quiz in the past.)

Image may contain: night and sky
The moon taking a starring role

June 2020 weather according to the Met Office

‘Flooding and fallen trees caused travel disruption in south-west England on the 11th and flooding caused travel disruption in Durham and Middlesbrough on the 12th.’

Result: weather washout

My drought predictions were a total washout, given the level of flooding. Also, to my knowledge, there was no second coming.

Day 7 = July

July 2020 weather according to my folklore forecast

Drought continues. Mild and dry but terrifyingly windy. Trees are bending and swaying a lot. (High winds scare me and I can never sleep, mainly because our roof used to fall off a lot.) Unsurprisingly, with my rubbish filming ability, this video fails to show the true terror of nature. If July resembles today, I’ll be hiding under my bed for most of the month.

Moon and clouds on a windy night

July 2020 weather according to the Met Office

‘Persistent heavy rain and strong winds caused some impacts on the 4th and 5th. Fallen trees caused power outages in Cumbria and disruption to rail travel around Leeds and Halifax, between Carnforth and Hellifield, between Guildford and Clandon and in Tower Hamlets. The following three weeks saw no substantial impacts, but on the evening of the 25th a tornado in Northampton caused some damage to property.’

Result: weather witch

Although my drought prediction was way off beam, I think a tornado counts as ‘terrifyingly windy’, so I’m claiming this one.

Day 8 = August

August 2020 weather according to my folklore forecast

A mild, sunny and breeze-free day. The drought continues (best start filling a few pans to be on the safe side).

No photo description available.
Tree near to River Derwent

August 2020 weather according to the Met Office

‘Rainfall was 135% of average and sunshine was 88% of average, and it was a cloudy and wet month over most of the UK, but it was drier and sunnier than average in north-west Scotland.’

Result: weather washout

Unless I can claim relative proximity to north-west Scotland, I got August completely wrong. To be fair, I’d have done better by just guessing as it always seems to rain in August lately. And I could have filled my pans by just leaving them outside.

Day 9 = September

September 2020 weather according to my folklore forecast

At last, the great deluge! The drought is over with a wet and miserable day. If you listen to the video below, you’ll hear that the river is high after all the rainfall but it’s easing off now and the birds are singing again. So, September will be rainy, but cheerful with it. (Please ignore the atmospheric drifting mist towards the end as that is just boiler breath and no good for prognostication.)

Rainy day over the Derwent Valley

September 2020 weather according to the Met Office

‘For most of the UK it was a dry sunny month, with 77% of average rainfall and 117% of average sunshine, but rainfall was above average in Norfolk and in parts of western Scotland.’

Result: weather washout

There are mentions of flash flooding in North Yorkshire and Norfolk, but I don’ t think I can claim this one.

Day 10 = October

October 2020 weather according to my folklore forecast

Today began with a beautiful moonset, huge and golden, which my filming totally fails to convey. Owls are hooting in the trees if you listen carefully. A sunny and mild day, with gales later, and a lot of ice on the ground. (At dinner time, a car left the road and ended up in our neighbour over the road’s garden, which made a nice change from ours. No injuries mercifully.) So, October will be bright and clear but icy with a risk of snow (and an occasional flying car) and gales later in the month.

Moonset

October 2020 weather according to the Met Office

‘It was drier and more settled from the 14th to 19th with mainly easterly winds, but the rest of the month was mostly wet and windy. Rainfall was 154% of average and sunshine was just 65% of average, and it was the equal 4th dullest October in a series from 1919.’

Result: weather washout

Totally wrong for October, and sadly, no mention of flying cars.

Day 11 = November

November 2020 weather according to my folklore forecast

Started off with a bit of a rainbow and blue skies. Very high winds for most of the day (highest so far this year as they blew some heavy furniture off the deck). Bit of snow in the hills. Then loads of sleety rain. So, November looks set to be pleasant at first and then cold, wet and windy and a bit snowy on high ground. (In all honesty, this would be easy to guess for November, but I’m being scientific.)

Rainbow over Derwent Valley (a boring and badly filmed – but otherwise uncontroversial – video)

November 2020 weather according to the Met Office

‘November was mostly mild with southerly winds, but there were brief spells of colder,
settled weather with widespread fog
, especially towards the end of the month. It turned wet
and windy around mid-month with gales in places.’

Result: weather witch

Cold, wet and windy – and plenty of fog, too. I’m counting this one. (In order to share videos on WordPress, I first have to upload them to YouTube. After uploading this one, YouTube sent me a rather unpleasant email, saying they had age-restricted the video, and pointing out that there was no strike against me, although the ‘yet’ was implied. One appeal later, and all age-groups can now watch what may well be the dullest video of all time.)

Day 12 = December

December 2020 weather according to my folklore forecast

Sunny, warm and mild with blue skies and no wind or rain. Encouraged by the warm weather, I popped outside to fill the bird feeders in a T-shirt. I shouldn’t have gone in the front garden: sorry, neighbours. All round, a lovely day. So, December will be positively balmy…

No photo description available.
Sunset over Northumberland

December 2020 weather according to the Met Office

The Met Office hasn’t yet published its December findings (I’ll update this once it does). In the meantime, I can say that I failed pretty abysmally to predict the fact we’d have a White Christmas – we had snow on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in my neck of the woods.

Result: weather washout

To be fair, it has been pretty decent weather so far this month, but speaking as someone who spent their childhood in duffle coat, wellies and muffler from October to April, I don’t think I can count this.

Overall result: weather witch 7/12

I’m claiming to be a weather witch (but only just). Following some outrageously selective analysis of Met Office summaries, I can claim a degree of accuracy for my attempt at using a folklore weather forecasting system in 7 out of 12 months. On the downside, there were no computerised robots roaming the land with cars flying overhead, there was no second coming, and I totally failed to predict a White Christmas. However, I did completely forget about the month of March, which I think was pretty accurate considering many of us had to stay locked indoors for 23 hours per day following lockdown. Still, I won’t be submitting my CV to the Met Office any time soon.

So, that’s the end of my weather forecasting career, and also the end of my blogging career as this will be my final post. I’ve enjoyed blogging, and I’ve especially enjoyed interviewing other people, but I’m hanging up my blogging boots so I can concentrate on writing my next novel. Thank you to everyone who has read, followed or supported these posts – and thank you to everyone who agreed to be interviewed – I’m very grateful to you all.

I hope that 2021 is a kinder year for everyone.

Best wishes, Helen

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