We’ve had a lot of rain in the Western Cape this winter. Or so we all thought, but August is only two thirds of the way through and it seems to have stopped falling from the sky. Already, farmers in the Overberg (it’s just along the road from Cape Town) are asking if they might have a little bit more before winter heads off up north, please.

The dam levels are up around the 80% mark, which is far, far better than they have been for the past several (or more) years, and with habits having changed in Cape Town, we’re pretty much safe for the next couple of years, even if it doesn’t rain much more. But that’s not really the situation we want to be in. We want to be swimming (not literally) (wait) (no, actually literally) in the stuff.

And apparently, according the farmers, the rain that has fallen, has fallen at the wrong time and their winter crops are in peril. It does sound a bit like the wrong type of snow excuse from the british railway people back in the 90s.

Is this winter really less rainy (or less rainy at the wrong time) than previous winters? Or are we just a bit more aware, a bit more sensitive, than before, because of the whole drought thing over the past few years (did I ever mention that on here?)?

And then that brings me to another bigger, more important point on the weather. Is climate change being blown out of all proportion, just because it’s the in thing at the moment? OK, I accept that something is happening, sure. But based on all the other nonsense we’re fed by the media, I refuse to believe that everything that they’re reporting on the climate issue is entirely legit. You’d be a fool to think otherwise, although on such an emotive, divisive issue, you’d also have to be pretty brave (or stupid) to publicly question anything that the climate change people are sharing.

They’ll call you nasty names.

Agh. This is for a longer, proper post; one which I have no intention of writing at the moment. But the science that’s being reported just doesn’t add up all the time, and no matter how noble you feel your cause may be, basing your opinions on misreporting and untruths has never worked for me.

The problem is that with all the misinformation and fake news around, you have to take everything with a huge pinch of salt. You have to research everything and you have to research it from reputable sources when you do. Oh, and you have to live your life as well, as if doing that allows time for checking each and every fact you’re constantly bombarded with.


Right. A touch of drought, some local agricultural issues, a moan about just how crap the media is and a slight hint of a blast at mankind generally.
What a mess of a post. And yet I bet no-one is surprised. ūüôā

Spanish fire ignition

I saw this headline on the pisspoor CNN site:

And I was immediately reminded of this meme* (which I have to say is still one of my all time favourites):

And continuing the coprological theme, you can file this “flammable stuff will catch fire when it gets hot enough to catch fire” revelation under the heading “Sherlock, No shit”:

Authorities said the fire likely began when an “improperly managed” pile of manure self-combusted in¬†the heat, causing sparks.
Spontaneous ignitions can occur when flammable materials, such as piles of hay, compost or manure heat up to a temperature high enough to cause combustion, according to the US National Park Service.

Notwithstanding that for shit to catch fire, it really does have to be very hot, prompting all sorts of trendy hashtags like “#climatechangeisreal” and the like. And yes, it is, but I’m so fed up of the way it’s shared with us. So yes, I need to do a proper Climate Change post, but that’s for another day.

Meanwhile, temperatures in Europe continue to rise even beyond the heady heights of this time last year, when we were dying of heat on the Canal du Nivernais. This was the heatmap for France this last week:

I mean the one on the left, obviously. If ever there was a poster pic for the Climate Change media, this would surely be it. Ugh.

The top temperatures being experienced across France and Spain are certainly toasty, but certainly no worse than a warm February day out in Paarl, which does make me wonder why there aren’t more manure fires each summer in our Winelands.

Maybe South Africans are just better at managing their shit?


* The original painting is known as “Portrait Of A Young Man”, painted by Italian artist Alessandro Allori in 1561. The painting is currently exhibited in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.¬†

Hello Svalbard

I recently watched a couple of videos from Svalbard. Things didn’t go according to plan for photographer Thomas Heaton because of the warmer than expected conditions there:


It’s been documented by the Washington Post as well.

The international director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, Kim Holmen, who lives in Longyearbyen, says of climate change here, ‚ÄúThis town is certainly the place where it‚Äôs happening first and fastest and even the most.‚ÄĚ

Holmen notes that Svalbard used to be where students came to observe Arctic conditions. Now it is the place they come to study a climate in transition.

That’s it, Kim. Always look for the positives.

Of course, observing Arctic conditions studying a climate in transition isn’t the only thing to do in Svalbard, as I found out by googling Things to do in Svalbard.

Pyramiden looks like the place to be, not just offering mining and (possibly still?) glacier, but also polar bear and bear.

Ursines. One never can get enough.

And can we just take a moment to acknowledge the names of settlements in Svalbard? Svalbard is great.

The Longyear Town“, “Ice Fjord“, “The Pyramid” and er… “New √Ölesund” (less impressive, let’s be fair) in that foursome above alone.

Many beagle-eyed readers will likely see this post as a thinly veiled attempt to get some readers in from the wonderful island of SVALBARD – one of the few places on earth from which¬†6000 miles… hasn’t been accessed. Maybe it is.

If you’re reading this, Kim Holmen, please give us a shout.


Spooky, glow-in-the-dark clouds continue to spread south…

This is cool. Of course it is, it’s glow in the dark clouds, for goodness’ sake!

The technical name for this phenomenon is noctilucent clouds and they’re not unheard of – they were first described way back in 1885. Because they exist at far higher altitudes than our normal clouds, they can continue to reflect the sun’s light, even after dark:


Previously, they have only been seen at extreme Northern altitudes, but more recently, they have been observed more and more regularly and further and further south (not quite as far down as Cape Town though).
Scientists are a bit confused as to why this is, but they are pointing towards higher methane concentrations in the atmosphere, which is then oxidised into water vapour, which then forms these clouds.

Thus, yes, this beautiful sight is actually – apparently – “a warning signal for climate change”. Ugh.

At least they’re prettier than a Greenpeace demo.

Baltic Belly

Yay! Microbiology makes the headlines again. For all the right reasons. Sort of.

Numerous reports across the media this morning on this paper which appears to indicate that Vibrio spp. gastrointestinal infections are on the rise in the Baltic states due to climate change and the rising temperature of that sea.
Vibrio is the genus that causes cholera and other nasty bowel disturbances. It’s nothing new, even in temperate climes, but it’s generally more associated with warmer areas, especially – as I recall from my days in the Oxford lab – the¬†entirety¬†of South East Asia. Holidaymakers generally brought more than just memories and a ceramic elephant back from Thailand.

Some Vibrio yesterday (they’re not actually this big though)

It seems that for every degree that the Baltic sea temperature increases, the number of Vibrio cases rises by almost 200%. Not much of an issue there to be honest, because we’re starting from a very low baseline, but since the Baltic “represents, to our knowledge, the fastest warming marine ecosystem examined so far anywhere on Earth” and appears to be getting about 6-7 degrees warmer each century, it may serve as a decent model for other infections and geographical locations.

Changing patterns of infection due to the local environment is nothing new. Malaria was once present across Europe and North America, yet we only see imported cases these days. (That said, I once contracted malaria in London, but that was in a lab at Imperial College.) (Don’t try this at home.)

Anyway, even if you are¬†travelling¬†to Poland, Lithuania, Estonia or Latvia, don’t panic too much. The likelihood of you getting cholera is very, very small. Although, if the photo above is anything to go by, you may want to avoid the local sausages just to make sure.