After having so many weeks of dry weather this year, I am enjoying the more turbulent aspect of our atmosphere at the moment. Just last week whilst the temperature remained warm, cooling gales caressed the land for days on end. Warm humid air travelling over the British Isles from the Atlantic brought welcome respite to the suffocating heat of the preceding months. I'm not a fan of lazy hazy days of summer, when the air is still and a stupefied atmosphere comes over me.
Don't get me wrong. I love the long hours of sunlight, being able to sit out of an evening and watch bats in the sunset; but to feel of a breeze on my face as I walk excites me. I long for rain, and that special cooling effect summer rain brings to a parched landscape. And that unique scent of dry earth being rewetted, there's nothing like it.
And so today's changeable weather is exciting for me. This morning looking out over the fields from home, all was calm and summery. Blue skies and white cotton wool Cumulous clouds. But I know, we all know, these are clouds forming because of rising air, rising as the sun heats the land and then cooling with altitude, allowing water vapour contained within the rising air to condense. Given sufficient moisture and energy in the sky Cumulonimbus may form, and that's what happened today.
Cumulonimbus the rain-bearing cloud can be considered as a bigger, better organised version of the cumulus cloud, though one does not always lead to the other. As Cumulonimbus form they feed more and more on the updraft of energy from the land, often growing rapidly, sometimes in less than 30 minutes until in most cases they lead to rain, often torrential but short lived. Or more excitingly, a thunderstorm as we had today.
The above photograph was taken from just outside my office at about 4.30pm this afternoon. I'd gone outside as a mass of herring gulls were circling around a rising column of flying ants. Were the herring gulls feeding on the ants? Or were they just rising with the updraft of warm air the flying ants were trapped in? I'm unsure, but the air felt warm and humid and a breeze picked up while I stood there talking to a friend. Then we felt the first raindrop. Big and wet, a single spat on the ground. In seconds, it was as if the taps of heaven had been opened and lightning flashed about us, followed milli-seconds later by the crash of thunder.
Most apt given it is Thursday, or Thor's day. Since a child and discovering my Scandinavian ancestry, I have been interested in Norse mythology, and Thor in particular, the God of sky, thunder and fertility. Although various incarnations of Thor exist, most refer to Thor as being associated with law and order in Asgard (Norse World in Mythology) and guardian of the gods. He was the son of Odin and Fjorgyn, the earth goddess and husband of Sif. Also known as the "thunder god" and "charioteer". During a thunderstorm, Thor would ride through the heavens on his great chariot, pulled by two magical goats. Whenever he swung Mjolnir (a magical hammer), lightning flashed across the sky. Was Thor up there today? I like to think so, because I find Thunderstorms are absolutely energising.
Thor's Battle Against the Giants (1872) by Mårten Eskil Winge.
And so to finish this blog entry on thunderstorms, a poem by Thomas Hardy. After all this is the WessexReiver blogsite and Mr Hardy was the creator of Wessex as we think of it today
A Thunderstorm in Town by Thomas Hardy
She wore a 'terra-cotta' dress,
She wore a 'terra-cotta' dress,
And we stayed, because of the pelting storm,
Within the hansom's dry recess,
Though the horse had stopped; yea, motionless
We sat on, snug and warm.
Then the downpour ceased, to my sharp sad pain,
And the glass that had screened our forms before
Flew up, and out she sprang to her door:
I should have kissed her if the rain
Had lasted a minute more.