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Philip Eden


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  • Location: south wales 200m asl
  • Location: south wales 200m asl

    Philip Eden, a trained meteorologist from the university of Birmingham worked for several years as a weather forecaster in the oil industrybefore he started his career on the radio, well known to the audience of BBC Five Live since 1994. He writes for The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and also authored a couple of very popular weather books. Philip writes weekly features for WeatherOnline UK & Ireland since March 2001.

    Over to Philip!

    1) What weather type interests you most of all? Why?

    Oh, I'm a snow nut like everyone else, I usually find an excuse to go

    out for a long walk whenever we have a decent fall (not that that

    happens very often these days). But there is the proviso that, as I get

    older, the thought of falling over and breaking something does

    occasionally intrude ... having a dodgy back doesn't help either.

    But I should also say that I find something of interest in all types of

    weather, and scarcely a day passes without something surprising or

    unusual happening. I even chose to live on a hillside facing west so

    that I get to see some fantastic sunsets.

    I know that there are a lot of people who are fascinated by weather

    extremes, especially heavy snow, violent thunderstorms and tornadoes,

    but if that's all that interests you, you are missing out on an awful

    lot of other things, and you are going to be awfully bored and

    frustrated during the long gaps between extremes.

    Anyway, back to snow, I was lucky enough to grow up in the 60s, so I had

    some pretty exciting winters when I was at school, including that of

    62-63 and I can still remember the weather detail for practically every

    day from December 22 to March 4. There were some other good snowstorms

    too ... notably 4th March 1970 when it lay 15 inches deep in Birmingham

    (which is where I was then), and the forecast the previous night had

    been "sunny spells and scattered wintry showers". They wouldn't get

    away with one like that now!

    2) What subjects did you take at school, and at what age did you

    decide you wanted to pursue metoerology/climatoligy?

    It was *that* winter. There was a whole generation of meteorologists who

    were inspired by the winter of 1947, and another one -- mine -- who were

    inspired by 1962-63. When I was at school the only way of pursuing a

    career in meteorology was to take maths and physics, but I perversely

    chose to go down the geography route as that was my best subject. I took

    four A-levels ... the others were maths, french and economics -- an odd

    combination for a meteorologist. What it did was to give me a broad

    education, a feel for language, and an ability to be critical ... all

    things which have stood me in good stead in the broadcasting and writing

    worlds. Too many scientists (not just meteorologists) become too

    narrowly specialised too early. That's probably where the "boffin"

    phenomenon comes from. These days, the Met Office no longer believe that a thorough grounding in maths and physics at the expense of everything

    else is necessary for all their staff, so if your maths isn't too hot

    there's still hope for you yet.

    3) Have you ever experienced an extreme weather event? If so, what?

    Well, I've talked about some of the big snowfalls already. What else?

    Well, I worked in the Gulf area for a few years and when I was in Dubai

    one summer in the early-80s we had several days with a maximum

    temperature of 47ºC. I don't actually like hot weather at all, but at

    least in Dubai everything was air-conditioned -- home, office, car,

    sports centre, hotels, supermarkets, etc etc, so I didn't have to spend

    much time out in it. But I do have a vivid memory of crossing a large

    empty car-park made of black asphalt -- the heat radiating from that was

    unbelievable. Lowest temperature I ever experienced was in Aberdeen one January ... minus 19.

    Around the same time I also did some tours of duty on the oil rigs in

    the northern North Sea when the oil production platforms were being

    installed. I remember one New Year's Eve going out to do the 3-hourly

    weather observations in a fierce gale. Normally I'd take my whirling

    psychrometer and hand-held anemometer onto the heli-deck to make the

    measurements, but not that day -- I would have been blown away. In the

    end I had to make do with standing on the upper gangway on an exposed

    corner of the rig; I measured a sustained wind of 72 knots, gusting to

    90 knots, and I was battered and soaked by vicious clouds of spray being

    torn off the top of the waves by the wind. We could actually estimate

    the wave height pretty accurately by looking at the legs of the

    production platform next to which our rig was working. Waves on that

    occasion averaged 30-32 feet high. That was scary.

    4) We have a lot of 'snow-lovers' on our community, so here is the 'be

    all and end all' question!: Can you see this Winter being cold, average,

    or mild? Much snow?

    Well, we are certainly in a sequence of very "un-westerly" months at the

    moment. Whenever the westerlies come back, they get interrupted again

    after a week or ten days. If this continues -- and it's a big 'if' --

    the coming winter should be an interesting one, although the chances of

    it being a historic snowy one are pretty small. The worst that could

    happen for snow-lovers, I suppose, is that it ends up being totally

    anticyclonic, like 1991-92 was.

    What I would say, however, is this. Whatever the underlying trend in the

    world climate, there is absolutely no reason at all why the synoptic

    patterns which produced famous cold winters like 1947 and 1963 couldn't

    happen again. And a winter with a mean temperature one or two degrees

    higher than 1963 would still be a very cold and very snowy one. My

    money's on 2007-8.

    5) What do you find to be the biggest factor in producing a cold

    Winter in the UK? Northern Hemisphere snow cover? Solar activity? NAO?

    Ah, well I suppose I've just answered that. Snow cover over northern

    and central Europe is, of course, very important because that reduces

    the temperature of the lowest layer of the atmosphere ... and the really

    long winters have all been easterly, not northerly. I have not seen any

    research that persuades me that the variability in solar output has any

    impact on the synoptic patterns which produce our coldest weather. It is

    a branch of meteorology which has suffered severely over the last 75

    years from being peopled by oddballs.

    Now, the NAO. It's important to remember that the NAO is simply an index

    of the strength of the circulation in our part of the hemisphere. It

    doesn't have a life of its own. The NAO index is a result of the

    sequence of synoptic patterns which make up a month, or a season, or a

    year, not the other way round. The synoptic patterns do not happen

    *because* the NAO is positive or negative; the NAO is positive or

    negative *because* of the synoptic patterns. On that basis, a very cold

    winter will inevitably be associated with a negative NAO index, but the

    NAO didn't cause the cold winter.

    6) What did you make of the breaking of 100F this summer? A one-off

    synoptic situation? Climate change?

    Both, I suspect, although I don't *know* any more than anyone else does.

    Recent research has shown that extreme high temperatures in the UK are

    increasing at a rate of 0.7 degC per century. The 1990 record was 0.4

    degC higher than the previous record in 1911, that's a rate of 0.5 degC

    per century. But the 2003 record was 1.5 degC higher than the 1990, and

    that's a rate of 11 degC per century!!!!! So I think that the synoptic

    detail had a considerable input on this occasion. I happened to be in

    France during that heatwave, and we had 11 straight days between 37 and

    40ºC with night minus around 22-24ºC. It was an endurance rather than a

    holiday, and I can quite understand why so many people died from the

    heat there.

    7) Who do you most look up to in the feild of meteorology/climatoligy,

    and why?

    The people I most look up to are long dead, so I can spare their blushes

    by naming them. Victorian trail-blazers like G.J Symons and James

    Glaisher I have immense admiration for ... they set up climatological

    networks, Symons's rainfall network was over 5000 strong (all voluntary

    observers) by the time he kicked the bucket, and he administered it,

    analysed the data (all by hand, remember, in those days), and published

    an annual volume, for over 40 years. In the 20th century I have tried to

    follow in the footsteps of Hubert Lamb and especially Gordon Manley,

    both superb writers on the subject, and also meticulous collaters and

    analysers of data. If any of these people had had computers to help with

    their work they would have been able to do so much more. If you've

    never heard of any of these guys, you should really spend one of those

    long winter weekends researching them -- they led fascinating lives and

    should be an inspiration to anyone interested in our weather and

    climate. As far as doing the weather on the radio is concerned, if I

    needed any advice there was only one person I would turn to, and that

    was Jack Scott, who, by the way, is still very much alive. Younger

    readers may not remember him ... he was the chief BBC telly forecaster

    from about 1967 to 1983, and went on to Thames TV until about 1988.

    Best regards

    Philip Eden

    Philip's book's can be found on amazon, some title's include:

    The Daily Telegraph Book of the Weather (New Century)

    Weatherwise: The "Sunday Telegraph" Companion to the British Weather


    Weather Facts (DK Pockets)



    These links can (hopefully!) be used to access information on them.

    I would like to thank Philip for the time and effort he has put in for this interview....a round of applause for Philip Eden!


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  • Location: North-East Midlands
  • Location: North-East Midlands

    Well done du_snow and Phillip Eden for putting together such a great interview. Great thoughts, and very good questions! Hopefully we will keep getting more and more new facinating interviews.... Has anything been lined up???

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  • Location: south wales 200m asl
  • Location: south wales 200m asl

    Glad you liked it guys :D

    I havent got anyone lined up atm, but Im working on a few. ChaserUK has got Gary England for an interview, but he's busy atm with other things :)

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  • Location: lootons, bedfordshires, somewheres in SE Englands & E Anglia
  • Location: lootons, bedfordshires, somewheres in SE Englands & E Anglia

    gufaaaaaawwwwwwwwww mr sledgerholics! u is cracks ups! maybe u is should do those interviews eh? gufaawwwwwww!

    well dones du snows!! me glad u is asked the 'winter will be likes' questions! u is should puts that right at top of interview!! :D

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