On holiday in Stirling this week, I can confirm that it was quite hot on Sunday and Monday, with the temperature reaching 25C on both days (there was a time, not so long ago, that would have been regarded as good summer weather, rather than as a heatwave). But that has been about it, with a chilly wind (necessitating the wearing of a warm jacket) while climbing a hill in the Southern Uplands on the way up here from Cumbria on Saturday, and the weather definitely back to “normal” from and including Tuesday (the three 2,000′ hills I climbed on that day were climbed in mist and strong winds and I wore a raincoat which served as a windcheater for most of the walk). Yesterday and today eventually reached a pleasant 20C or so, but it was cooler than that for most of both days before briefly peaking at that temperature. So much for the much-vaunted “UK” heatwave this week.
In fact, while walking the defensive walls of Stirling Castle this morning in a very stiff breeze, with the Munros of Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’Chroin disappearing from view as rain hammered across them, it felt distinctly autumnal.
Speaking of Stirling Castle, I was confronted with a sign this morning which was headed “Climate change and Stirling Castle”. Intrigued, I read that:
As Scotland’s weather becomes more extreme, the castle’s exposed location means high winds are battering its fragile stonework as never before.
There’s just one problem with this statement. It isn’t true. Turning to the (admittedly limited) section of the UK Met Office’s website dealing with climate averages I learn that data is held for 30 year average wind speeds for Scotland at an altitude of 10m, with wind speeds given in knots. It’s not ideal, but it’s enough to allow us to check both the trends and the validity of the claim on the sign. It turns out that the trend in recent decades for mean wind speed in Scotland is in fact a declining one. 1971-2000 saw January as the windiest month on average (13.6 knots) followed by February (12.89 knots) and November (12.68 knots). For 1981-2010 January was still the windiest month on average (but down to 13.01 knots) and February remained the second windiest (but down to 12.85 knots). The third windiest month for this period was March (at 12.47 knots, below November’s average wind speed in the earlier period). Finally 1991-2020 saw February take the crown for the windiest average month (at just 12.76 knots) while January was now in second place (at just 12.57 knots). The third windiest month was again March, but at just 11.97 knots).
Why does the sign at Stirling Castle make the inaccurate claim that it does? Was it funded by a Scottish government “green” grant? Is climate change propaganda now so ubiquitous that facts are no longer relevant, and every official body simply has to do its bit? Do they not know the true facts? Do they not care?
This afternoon I visited the delightful Smith Art Gallery and Museum down the hill from the castle. Among other exhibits were some whale bones. They had been collected further up the Forth Valley from Stirling – the whales had been there at a time (so the sign accompanying the exhibit explains) after the last Ice Age when sea levels were considerably higher than now and whales would have been found up the valley because it would then have been under the sea.
It’s a tricky business, climate change. Especially in Stirling.