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Day 363: Two things have stood out this year

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Helen Czerski Helen Czerski | 09:00 UK time, Thursday, 29 December 2011

Distance travelled ~ 932'318'400 km


It’s very liberating to be completely and utterly soaked by a rainstorm, especially when what’s falling out of the sky are raindrops the size of large peas.

helen czerski


I tried to explain this to the director and crew who were huddled beneath enormous umbrellas, missing out on all the fun. They were not convinced. They had not come to India during the monsoon to get wet. That was my job.


The thing is, weather is fun. We are brought up to hide from it a bit, to carry on (usually with a British stiff upper lip) in spite of it. But it’s not going away, so I think that we might as well appreciate it. As long as it’s not giving you hypothermia or sunburn, why not just play with whatever the atmosphere is doing today?

For 23 degrees, we’ve been lucky enough to travel to some fantastic places in our global weather patterns. Different parts of the planet receive different amounts of energy from the Sun, and this is just the start. That energy is carried around the planet by the ocean and atmosphere, and the result is a giant pattern of hot and cold air, dry and moist air and huge swirling wind systems. The pattern is never exactly the same from one year to the next, but there are features that are present all the time (tropical thunderstorms and the jet stream), or that return every year (spring showers and hurricanes).

Two things have stood out for me. The first is how little we appreciate the depth of the atmosphere. I realized this properly while looking at the tornado we found in June.

tornado, midwest US


It’s almost certainly the biggest thing I’ve seen whose scale I’ve been able to understand. We know that the clouds are high up, but until you see a single thing joining the clouds to the ground, you have no idea what “high up” means. The atmosphere is big, vertically as well as horizontally.


The second thing is how little we actually look at the sky, especially in Britain. We’re too busy getting on with things on the ground, and anyway there are lots of buildings and trees in the way. Above us thousands of tonnes of nitrogen and oxygen are flowing around, carrying water and energy, and all we do is complain about it when it gets uncomfortable down here. But if you look up, you can usually see some of the structure of the atmosphere, and that gives you a hint about the larger scale patterns that cover our continent and our planet. Next time you look up at the sky, imagine how all this is connected to the weather over Iceland and Morocco and Costa Rica.

The last day of filming for this series was on the south coast of England, near Beachy Head. We haven’t done that many days filming in the UK, and it was as though the weather was determined to prove that it shouldn’t have been neglected.

helen czerski


As the day went on, we had incredibly hard rain followed by hail, very strong winds and occasional spells of sunshine. My boots filled up with water and at the end of the day I felt as though I’d been in a giant washing machine for a few hours. It was impossible not to be impressed by what the atmosphere was up to, even on our own doorstep.


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