Archives for December 2009

Christmas weather forecast

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:18 UK time, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The cold weather is set to continue for the next couple of days but over Christmas it should turn less cold.

Temperatures are rising a little and that means a white Christmas is unlikely for most of us although there will be patches of snow on the ground...

Last night was very cold. Bernard Morris from Rhydargaeau recorded -9 Celsius on his garden thermometer!

And tonight its going to freeze over again with icy patches on untreated roads. Some pavements and pathways very slippery as well.

Low pressure centred over Scotland is driving our weather at the moment. The air is very cold and from the Arctic and as it passes over the sea it becomes unstable forming large clouds and wintry showers.

The wind direction is crucial as to where the showers end up. Today we've had a Westerly wind so the showers have moved in from the Irish sea into Mid and North Wales. A few showers moved up the Bristol Channel as well clipping the Vale of Glamorgan.

Tonight a few more wintry showers are likely in parts of north and west Wales, falling as snow in places. Elsewhere dry and clear skies with a few mist and fog patches forming.

There will be another widespread frost. Lowest temperatures 0 to minus 4 Celsius but lower than that in a few spots.

Tomorrow another frosty, icy start and a few mist and fog patches. These will slowly lift leaving plenty of blue skies and sunshine.

However, in the South it will cloud over later in the afternoon with rain in Pembrokeshire by dusk. Top temperatures 2 to 5 Celsius but less cold on the South coast with a breeze off the sea.

Tomorrow night a short spell of rain will move across the country. Some snow too on high ground and to low levels in the North and East.

Christmas Eve another cold day. Some sunshine and just the odd shower.

Christmas Day some sunshine for a time but clouding over with a few showers. These will be mainly rain with some snow confined to the higher ground.

Boxing Day looks milder and windier with some rain.

So enjoy the cold, winter weather but be careful not to slip on the ice and good luck to all the Boxing Day swimmers out there!


Seal tackles a salmon in the River Neath

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:57 UK time, Monday, 21 December 2009

We've had some great photos sent in since we started this blog but every now and again we get something really special.

Mike Davies has been a regular contributor to the website over the years and this morning at around 11am, photographed a seal in the River Neath taking on what appears to be a good sized salmon.

You'd normally expect to witness this kind of scene out in the ocean so I wonder what has prompted this seal to venture so far up stream?

Perhaps he's discovered that there are easier and better pickings to be had in the river upstream, especially if the salmon are spawning which normally occurs between Oct-Dec but can be as late as February in larger rivers.

Fisherman everywhere will be either be drooling or sobbing quietly somewhere.

All photos by Mike Davies:



Here's what Mike had to say:

"As you can see in the one photo he caught me by surprise. In all my 65 years I have never seen a seal in the River Neath in Neath before".

"This one had a struggle to eat the fish. The seal, approx 4ft in length then swam out with the out going tide. I was very lucky to have captured these shots".


Radio 4 - World On the Move - Salmon migration

Atlantic Salmon Trust - Salmon facts 

Winter solstice

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 12:50 UK time, Monday, 21 December 2009

Today is the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere, and some people take today as the start of winter.

There's certainly a wintry look to our weather at the moment but I think we've seen the worst of the snow in Wales for the time being.

Steve Davies took this photo whilst walking his dog above Maesteg this morning:

Over the next few days it's going to stay cold side with a few wintry showers, some sunshine and frost and if you're travelling - watch out for ice and a few freezing fog patches as well.

Most people hope it will snow on Christmas Day but it's pretty rare. So where does our idea of snow at Christmas come from? Charles Dickens who wrote 'A Christmas Carol' back in 1843 may be to blame...

When Dickens was a school boy, winters were much colder and snow more common at Christmas compared to nowadays.

In more recent times, cinema, television and music have all helped to make sure the idea of snow at Christmas is etched into our minds.

Mind you, as climate change gathers pace, songs such as 'White Christmas' by Bing Crosby maybe something only dreams are made of in the future.

If you are dreaming of a white Christmas in Wales this year, it looks like it will be chilly with some frost and sunshine.

A few showers are likely but with slightly higher temperatures most of these will fall as rain with any snow confined to the high ground.

So if you happen to live on the side of a hill or mountain you might be lucky and have a white Christmas.

This is probably my last blog for 2009. 

I hope you've enjoyed reading them and thanks to all of you for your contributions and photographs. Please keep them coming in 2010.

I wish you all a Happy Christmas and a healthy and Happy New Year with lots of interesting weather!


Snow scenes in Wales

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 11:21 UK time, Monday, 21 December 2009

A photo of Pontnewynydd, Pontypool looking towards Plasycoed taken this morning by Brian Owen:

This one came into our Flickr group by 'Pol Ka' and shows a nice snow scene in the Brecon Beacons:

Rare early morning snow in Llandudno by Christian from our Flickr group:

If you've taken any nice photos of the snow falls recently, send them to us here at Wales Nature or upload them to our online Flickr group.


You can see more snow shots in the Radio Wales photo gallery

Weekend weather

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:09 UK time, Friday, 18 December 2009

When I left the house this morning it felt I had walked into a fridge. Today is the coldest day of the winter so far in Wales. Temperatures struggling despite the sunshine only 0 to 2 Celsius this afternoon. Staying below freezing on the high ground and bitterly cold with a significant wind chill.

Read the rest of this entry

Weekend snow for Wales?

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:47 UK time, Thursday, 17 December 2009

There's been a dusting of snow in parts of Wales today but not enough to build a snowman!

Mind you, it could be a different story over the weekend with a higher risk of some significant snow in Wales.

In the mean time, its a story of sunshine, frost and cold. Temperatures today reached 3 to 6 Celsius across the nation but tomorrow is going to be even colder with North Easterly winds from Russia.

Most of the snow tonight and tomorrow will be in the east and South East of England. Some heavy falls here here causing significant disruption and Met Office warnings are in place

Here in Wales, the odd snow shower tonight but most places dry. The cloud will be well broken. The planet Jupiter will be bright and low in the South Western sky before 9 O'clock.

Lowest temperatures will be between 0 to - 5 with a widespread frost and icy roads.

Tomorrow a bright and crisp winter's day. You may see the odd snow flurry, most likely in the southeast, otherwise dry with some sunshine.

Colder than today. Top temperatures 0 to 3 Celsius but feeling a lot colder in the North Easterly wind. More like - 7 in places!

So if you are popping out to the shops make sure you wear plenty of layers.

Tomorrow night another widespread frost. Temperatures falling as low as - 5 Celsius. Cloud spreading from the North West will bring a few wintry showers.

On Saturday morning there will be an icy start in many places. A little sunshine but light rain and snow will spread from the North West during the afternoon and evening.

On Saturday night there is a risk of some heavier snow.

So on Sunday some of us could wake up to a covering of snow. Sunday itself bright. Some sunshine but hail and snow showers are likely, especially in the North where they could be heavy.

Next week staying on the cold side but there's still a big question mark over what the weather will do on Christmas Day... I will keep you posted!

If you do get snow then send in your photos to me here at Wales Nature and we'll feature them next week.


Snow patrol

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:35 UK time, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

You might think its chilly at the moment but you'll definitely be digging out your thermals later this week.

I'm not expecting much of the white stuff in Wales. Just a dusting of snow in places but it's going to turn noticeably colder this week..

Temperatures today peaked at 9 Celsius on Anglesey and 6 in Cardiff but the mercury is set to drop over the next few days with Easterly winds bringing colder air in from Northern and Central Europe.

Every year without fail, people ask me "Are we going to have a white Christmas?"

It would be lovely to wake up to snow on Christmas morning, but white Christmases in Wales are fairly rare. In fact we've only had six since 1941.

The last time was in 2004. Snow fall is actually more common during Easter!


If you're dreaming of a white Christmas this year, it's still too early to say what the weather will be like on 25 December.

The computer models keep changing their minds. Mind you, all it takes is for one flake of snow to fall on the Met Office roof to make it a 'bookies' white Christmas.

There doesn't have to be thick snow covering the ground. A sleet shower would be enough.

If you fancy a flutter, the latest odds by one book maker for snow in Cardiff on Christmas day is currently 9 to 2 but with colder weather later this week I wouldn't be surprised if the odds change over the coming few days...


Meteor shower over church in Carmarthenshire

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:39 UK time, Monday, 14 December 2009

Alan Evans has been star gazing recently and took these photographs on Sunday evening at St. Mary Magdalenes church, St. Clears in Carmarthenshire.

These shooting stars are called the Geminids and can be seen annually at this time of year.

Most meteor showers are linked to dust and debris from comets. However, the Geminids originate from an asteroid 3200 Phaethon.

Phaethon is an extinct comet which has a cloud of dust trailing it. The Earth moves through it every year in mid December.

St.Mary Magdalenes church:

Particles of dust travelling at 80,000 mph hit our atmosphere and appear as bright pale green streaks of light streaking across the sky at a rate of up to 80 per hour.

To see the Geminids, stand with your feet pointing North, West or Southwards and look up at an angle of about 45 degrees.

The point at which the meteors appear to originate (the radiant) can be traced back to the constellation Gemini. The best time to see them is around midnight and ideally an hour or two before dawn.

Wrap up warm and don't get a stiff neck!


Geminids on BBC News Online

A cold, dry spell on the way

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:04 UK time, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Following more than 50 days of wet weather, it finally looks like we are in for a drier spell of weather!

The jet stream, which steers areas of low pressure in from the Atlantic bringing rain and strong winds, is going to move away towards Iceland.

That will allow high pressure to build across Britain over the next couple of days. It will also turn colder.

Temperatures will be falling a few degrees with a risk of some light frost and a few fog patches here and there.

Longer term, it looks like it might turn very cold next week, with winds blowing in from Russia.

This is not definite at this stage  - just a possibility, but the risk is there so I thought I'd warn you.

I will be keeping a close eye on things over the coming few days...


Welsh and the weather go together

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:15 UK time, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

I've been learning Welsh on and off since I was a boy and have an O' level in the subject. After leaving school I didn't speak any Welsh but I took it up again in 1997 when I started working at BBC Wales.

In 2005, I took part in the Big Welsh Challenge which was great fun. The challenges involved me speaking Welsh in a number of different scenarios: Navigating a rally car, becoming a waiter and taking food orders as well as doing the weather forecast on S4C.

This was very difficult but thankfully it was not a live broadcast so I could have a few goes. Apparently, one viewer was so impressed by my efforts that she cried!

I've also spent a week at the Nant Gwrtheyrn Welsh Language and Heritage Centre on the Lleyn Peninsula. I really enjoyed my time there because I was totally immersed in the language and my teacher was excellent.

Whenever I go to big events like the National Eisteddfod, lots of people speak to me in Welsh and some have even given me books and cd's to help me learn.

I love all the different Welsh place names and try to put as many as possible on my weather maps.

I try and speak Welsh whenever I can and fortunately have friends and colleagues who speak the language, so I can practise on them.

It's all about confidence or hyder in Welsh and not being afraid to make mistakes.

Hopefully, I'll be fluent one day and, as you may have noticed, I try and include short Welsh phrases in my late evening weather bulletin on BBC One Wales such as:

"Shw mae?" which means "How are you?" which over time seems to have become my catchphrase! 

Here some other favourites I use from time to time:

  • Tan tro nesa - Until next time
  • Pob Hwyl - All the best
  • Hwyl am y tro - See you soon
  • Noswaith dda - Good evening

Recently, at the BBC Wales Roadshow in Pwllheli, I recorded some weather phrases for learners and some basics such as numbers etc.

Check out more of my Welsh phrases on the BBC Cymru website.

Pob lwc


Polar bears: Hudson Bay reflections

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:17 UK time, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

As part of the BBC Wales Green Season, we recently featured a short film by Tom Rugg - a science teacher from Wales who is doing his bit to raise awareness about climate change and its effects on polar bear populations.

Tom has kindly written an exclusive blog for us about his thoughts on this subject:

"In late November 2008 I stood on the shores of Hudson Bay at Cape Churchill - a gathering point for the polar bears waiting to move out onto the sea ice.

In living memory Hudson Bay has reliably begun to freeze over from the first week in November.

At the end of November 2008 the Bay was still open water. This year, forecasts predict that Hudson Bay will not freeze over until mid-December.

While climate change is a misleading and emotive term (since the history of out planet is a history of a constantly changing climate), the patterns recognised have for the most part fallen into cyclical trends.

What is new about the phenomena we are witnessing now is the speed of the change and that it is contradictory to natural trends.

We can argue over the causes of climate change, but what we must acknowledge is that adding mind-boggling volumes of CO2 to the atmosphere can only make the whole situation worse - even if the methane released from thawing tundra seems a natural rather than man-made process.

The wholesale drowning of polar bears is not seriously predicted by anyone (though sightings of polar bears in open water more than 30 miles from land and the discovery of washed up polar bear corpses have increased in the past couple of years in the Beaufort Sea area).

But the more rapid decline in multi-year ice than any scientists predicted is of course going to lead to cases of increasingly desperate bears hunting on poor quality ice.

With the pack ice in recent years breaking up almost a month earlier than recorded in living memory, the impact on polar bears is painfully predictable.

The scientists and researchers I interviewed in Hudson Bay in 2008 were eminent in their fields.

Their data from the Beaufort Sea and Hudson Bay area confirmed a decline both in the number and condition of the polar bears they were studying over a 25 year period with a worrying increase in the mortality of 2 year-old bears who were foraging on the ice for the first time independent of their mothers.

Polar bears are an arctic icon and have become symbolic of our relationship with the biodiversity of the planet. 

Current predictions indicate that we will lose a circumpolar Arctic species of polar bear (ursus maritimus) and be left with a fragmented population restricted to the surviving ice floes South West of Greenland.

Evidence does suggest that polar bears have been "absorbed" by brown bear populations in previous interglacials.

The species are closely related and polar bears appear to have "re-emerged" when conditions have become more favourable.

But these evolutionary processes take time...

Will we be content to have lost such a majestic species over such a large part of its present range in the hope that one day, in the eons beyond our own lifespan, it may reappear again?"

Tom Rugg

Sunshine on the way!

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:16 UK time, Monday, 7 December 2009

For those of you fed up with the rain and constant wind - there is, at long last, a change on the way...

High pressure is going to take over from Thursday bringing a dry spell of weather.

Some sunshine, lighter winds with a threat of overnight frost and fog.

At the moment, next weekend looks dry and beyond that, our computer models are hinting at a cold snap.

I'll keep you posted.

Sign up to this blog's RSS feed over on the right hand side of the page and keep up to date with my forecasts online.


Sowerby's beaked whale washed up

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:34 UK time, Monday, 7 December 2009

Look away now if you're squeamish - another dead whale I'm afraid but a pretty rare find for South Wales nevertheless.

They tend to live in deep water in the North Sea area between the UK and Norway although they do crop up elsewhere from time to time. One was once discovered off Florida but is thought to have lost its way.

Also known as the North Sea beaked whale - this rarely seen squid hunter was first discovered in Moray Firth in Scotland. It was named four years later by English artist - John Sowerby hence its name.

They're pretty reclusive creatures though - rarely seen, keeping well away from ships and as such, little is known about them.

This one was washed up at Sker beach, near Porthcawl in late summer.

Images by Harvey James & Gemma Coombes:



A friend of mine had taken some photos of it whilst walking 'wilmot' the dog and e-mailed them in describing it as 'a dead dolphin'.

And to the untrained eye that's pretty much what it resembles, especially in an advanced state of decomposition!

I picked up the 'Seaside News' this morning (our local free news magazine in Porthcawl) and was surprised to see the creature described as a Sowerby's beaked whale!

So I thought I'd better dig out the photos for you. I have to say this is one species I'd not come across before.

You can read more on this story in the Whales in Wales blog and see a photo of one washed up which was in much better condition than this one.

So there we have it - another species of whale washed up in Wales this year. That's the third or fourth one I've covered in this blog in recent months but I'm sure there have been plenty more.


Weekend weather (5-6 December)

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:20 UK time, Friday, 4 December 2009

September and October were both drier than average. In fact September was the driest in Wales since 2002 but we paid the price for this, in November with over 13 inches of rain!

This was more than double the average of 156.8mm, making it the second wettest November in Wales and fell just short of the November record of 336.9 mm set in 1929.

Looking ahead, there is more rain to come this weekend but I can promise some dry weather as well.

Friday afternoon: Cloudy with spots of light rain. Highs of between 5 to 8 Celsius with a S > SE breeze.

During this evening a band of heavier will spread across Wales. The rain lasting 2 or 3 hours followed by clearer, drier weather but with heavy showers in the South and West.

No frost tonight! Lowest temperatures, 5 to 8 Celsius.

Saturday: Scattered showers in the South and West first thing in the morning will die away to leave a few hours of dry and bright weather. However, rain will reach Pembrokeshire around midday.

The rain will be spreading across the rest of the country during the afternoon, reaching NE Wales after 3 pm.

Top temperatures 8 to 11 Celsius with a S > SW breeze.
Saturday evening: Wet and breezy. Some heavy rain with strong S winds. Gales on exposed coasts and high ground.
The rain will be heaviest in the South and West with a risk of localised flooding. Overnight lows 7 to 10 Celsius.
Sunday: Early rain will clear leaving a mixture of sunshine and scattered showers. Most of the showers in the South and West. Breezy. The SW wind fresh to strong with top temperatures around 10 > 12 Celsius.
Monday: Low pressure will bring another spell of rain and strong winds followed by blustery showers.
Have a good weekend

Sea monsters terrorise Newgale beach

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:58 UK time, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Thousands of these weird and wonderful creatures - which look like they're on the run from Torchwood have been washing up at Newgale beach in Pembrokeshire recently.

They are however completely harmless and are actually called goose or stalked barnacles.

This pic was sent in to our Flickr group by Aligail1:

goose_barnacles.jpgUnlike most other types of barnacle which have small feeding arms known as 'cirri', they rely on the motion of the water to feed, so tend to be found only on exposed coasts throughout  the temperate oceans of the world

They will often attach themselves to ships and clumps of driftwood and as such, do get washed in from time to time.

We had some similar scenes on Gower at Oxwich Bay earlier this year in August.

In some countries they're considered quite a delicacy to eat and believe it or not - were once thought to be birds rather than barnacles!

Their colouration is very similar to that of the barnacle goose (use your imagination) and since no-one had ever seen a barnacle goose hatching out in Britain...

People believed they came from these crustaceans and grew up on ship's hulls before developing feathers and flying away.

And why not? It makes perfect sense...

Why our very own Welsh monk, Geralt Gymro or Giraldus Cambrensis as he's known in Latin, also got involved and claimed to have seen goose barnacles turning into barnacle geese in the 12th century.

Clearly a man with a wicked sense of humour who lived a very exciting and colourful life.

If anyone else has similar tales or fables connected with other wildlife species, then I'd love to hear your stories - so please feel free to add your comments to this blog.


Goose barnacle article on ARKive

Goose barnacle on BBC Wildlife Finder

A cold snap 'shot' across Wales

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:07 UK time, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

With cold, clear skies - much of Wales awoke to a spectacular, frosty sunrise this morning.

Derek informs me that the coldest temperatures recorded were in Tirabad, Powys and Hawarden, Deeside which got down to -4 C, but much of Wales reached minus figures.

Many of you have been e-mailing photos in to Derek so I thought I'd showcase a few of them here, to give you a snap shot of the weather across Wales this morning.

Sunrise over the Preseli's by Cliff Benson:

Dawn in Bridgend by Robin Jenkins:

Frosty but beautiful morning in Haycastle, Pembs by Ann Riggs:

Views over Snowdon by Colin Cormack, Anglesey:

Sunrise by Gareth Jones:


Tree O'Clock events in Wales

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:47 UK time, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

This weekend the BBC and partners across the UK will attempt to break two world records.

The first will be for the most number of trees planted in one hour between 11am - 12 noon on Sat, 5th December and the second record for multiple locations.

It's all free - all you have to do is turn up and lend a hand.

For a limited time only, BBC Breathing Places has joined forces with Plant for Life to give away thousands of trees to get people involved in the world record event known as Tree O'Clock.

If you're looking for an event to attend in South Wales then the Gendros community centre could be the one for you.

They're aiming is to plant over 300 trees on 5 December so wear suitable clothing and be prepared for some digging!

Half the trees will be planted as a hedge on a bank and the other half within a fenced each helping to defining the edge of the "wild play space" and providing food and shelter for the local wildlife.

The address is Gendros Road East, Gendros in Swansea.

Email Jo Mullet for further details or phone 07967 127364.   

Contact the National Museum of Wales for more Tree O Clock locations around Wales. Many of the museums are getting involved, so give them a ring for details.

The National History Museum in St Fagans has an event on.



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