Thursday, 31 July 2008

It's raining, it's pouring ...

I'm looking out over Suzanna's labyrinth garden, and as I write this it is pouring. Not stair-rods, but a steady downpour, and it's being doing it for hours.

It feels as if July this summer has been extraordinarily wet, as wet as last summer, which seems to contradict the forecasts of the climate change experts. I looked at Met Éireann and UCD’s report Ireland in a Warmer World, which says:

Autumn and winter seasons will become wetter: increases in the range 15-25% towards the end of the century. Summers will become drier: 10-18% decrease towards the end of the century. Regional details remain elusive, due to the
large uncertainty in local projections.

Summers drier? Of course, they are forecasting what will happen over decades, two summers in a row don't make a climate, and we're talking averages over the country. But it made me wonder. So I checked actual figures for the Birr Met station. They confirm that June and July 2008 have been somewhat wetter than usual, but nothing like so wet as 2007. Temperatures have been close to average. But interestingly solar radiation in July this year is much lower than average, whereas it was close to normal last year - I think that means July has been unusually cloudy.

Contrary to my perception, it is cloud that is the real feature of this season. And I can see the results in the garden. Plants that like a bit of sun, like dahlias are rather late. The tomatoes and cucumbers in the polytunnel are pathetic. And Suzanna's hot peppers in the greenhouse are barely surviving.

The big success this year is Suzanna's salad leaves, which she is growing in pots barricaded with chicken-wire. Another is the peas, which we are eating almost every day, despite the depredations of the hares. The latter seem to have left us, thank God - I haven't seen any for a week or more, though I can still see the forms they made in the meadow. The potatoes are also eating well - we have tried the first Pink Fir Aple, confirming my opinion that they have the best flavour of all, though we have yet to sample the Belle de Fontanay.

Another casualty of the season seems to be the butterflies. Earlier on we had plenty of Holly Blues, and the browns don't seem to mind the cloudy conditions, but there are almost no Vanessids - I haven't seen any Painted Ladies or Red Admirals, just an occasional Small Tortoiseshell. Rather disturbing, though since they are immigrants from the continent I expect they will bounce back next year.

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