Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Memory and Truth

When it comes to the past, I prefer to investigate and research facts, rather than make sweeping statements or rely on the human memory, which is fallible, no matter how good someones powers of recall are.

How many times have you heard someone say, "When I was at school, every summer, we would get 14 hours of blazing sunshine every day, there was a drought and it would be in the 80's and 90's. Then, in the Winter, we would have two to three feet of snow from Christmas to the end of February, and it snowed everyday".

There factually is some truth in this. We haven't had severe winters in the last 20 years or so (Only 1990/1991, 1995/1996, 2000/2001 and 2008/2009 would be classed as cold, but none were severe). It is true that we haven't had winters like those of 1946/1947, 1962/1963, 1978/1979 and 1981/1982 for some time. Other cold and snowy winters have been 1916/1917, 1928/1929, 1939/1940, 1940/1941, 1941/1942, 1954/1955, 1955/1956, and 1984/1985.

So on this evidence, it is true there is a trend for mild and rainy winters. I think this represents a trend, perhaps exacerbated by global warming. As a weather observer, I believe there is some truth in that theory, and it must be halted, but it is also correct that there were many very mild and dry, or very mild and wet winters in the past. 1920/1921, 1934/1935, 1942/1943, 1948/1949, 1949/1950, 1974/1975, 1988/1989, 1989/1990 and 1997/1998 come into that category. No-one talked about global warming in, say, January 1921 or December 1934, or February 1943, did they?

Outstanding summers in the 20th Century have been in 1911, 1921, 1933, 1947, 1949, 1955, 1959, 1975, 1976, 1983, 1984, 1989, 1990, 1995 and 2006. What I would term good summers occurred in 1900, 1906, 1914, 1934, 1940, 1961, 1964, 1991, 1994, 1996 and 2003. There have, however, also been some poor summers, notably in 1903, 1909, 1912, 1920, 1922, 1924, 1927, 1930, 1931, 1946, 1954, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1987, 2007 and 2008 but people persist with the "Brilliant summers, snowy winters" theme. This is further proof...

So the claims of people that in their childhood in every winter there was two to three feet of snow on the ground from Christmas to the end of February is nonsense, as is the assertion that every summer had a drought with endless sunshine and temperatures into the 80's and 90's. When people say to me that "We have never had a summer so warm" or "This is the hottest day we've ever had", I simply tell them that in fact, it isn't.

I know someone whose daughter tragically contracted Meningitis when she was six months, and it left her with learning, speech and co-ordination disabilities. A very sad story. She is now a woman in her 40's. Her mother however, claimed to me that the Education Psychologist informed her that her daughter would have been a "High-flier" if she hadn't contracted Meningitis. Unless she meant that her daughter would have been into flying kites or would have been a pilot, I took it that she was inferring her daughter would have been successful academically or career wise. I replied that it was very possible her daughter could have been a high-flier, but it was equally as possible that she could have been an Heroin addict, or homeless, or an alcoholic.

If you give an opinion or present an argument, you should always back it up with facts. You can't just rely on memory or how you think things were. I don't look back on the past with rose-tinted glasses. I remember both the good and bad times that I have had. I think you should also be objective with statistics, and not selective or subjective, as you can make statistics read what you want them to read.


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