Beastly storms unlikely here; lord for lunch

The snow is still piling up in Britain and other parts of Europe. Photo: Reuters
The snow is still piling up in Britain and other parts of Europe. Photo: Reuters
With much of Western Europe and the British Isles now lying under a thickening blanket of snow, I've had several people asking me if we are likely to get a "beast from the east" here this winter.

On the face of it, that might appear a silly question. But there are large-scale patterns and phenomena that take place on the other side of the world which can also have an effect on the weather here. The world is not that large and everything is somehow linked.

I asked an old friend at Victoria University in Wellington, Prof James Renwick, if the Antarctic could also experience a "sudden stratospheric warming", which, simply put, is the phenomenon which caused air from the Arctic to flow south on to Europe.

He says there has only ever been one recorded above the Antarctic, in 2002. The difference for New Zealand is that, even if the usual westerly winds were to be reversed by one of these events into easterlies or even southerlies, we are fortunate not to have a big, cold continent just 100km or so upstream of us.

So, our geography would save us from this kind of outbreak. We might grumble about a two- or three-day southerly once in a while, but it is nigh-on impossible we would have weeks and weeks of snow and ice like our northern counterparts.

More Lord Lichfield

Carol McRobie-Shaw of Ashburton, who lived in Mosgiel until recently, is able to shed more light on the visit to Dunedin by Lord Lichfield.

She says her late husband, Ian McRobie, thought it would be a great honour to have a famous photographer attend and be speaker at the Professional Photographers National Conference in the late '70s.

"He then went about the research that was needed, along with many conversations about protocol, from Lord Lichfield's secretary, Mary, and finally had a confirmation that he would attend the conference in Dunedin. It was organised two years in advance and Ian had many questions to ask and answer.

"We requested if Lord Lichfield would like to come to our home and enjoy a Kiwi luncheon when he was here. Mary thought that would be highly unlikely, but we were amazed to have it sanctioned, along with a list of do's and don'ts. We had to submit who would attend the lunch, exactly what time, what we would be eating and we were not allowed to take photographs.

"Ian was allowed in private to call him Patrick, but when in public it had to be Lord Lichfield. I was never allowed to call him Patrick.

"The sales manager of New Zealand's Agfa Gevaert, John Alexander, his wife Diane and our two children Dean and Jan, sat down and enjoyed a Ploughman's type lunch, which consisted of Otago cheeses, breads, fruits of the region and raw oysters, which Cliff Skeggs had handpicked for us and donated to the lunch. I'll bet there are not many people who have seen oysters so huge.

"Lord Lichfield enjoyed it immensely and said he didn't get to go to private homes, as the Royal protocols normally precluded him from being able to. He left behind three of his books he had written and wrote in each one personal notes to our children.

"He opened our conference, was guest speaker, and was taken from his hotel to the conference in Colin Winters' oldest vintage car."

Thanks Carol. I bet you found it a bit of a nerve-racking experience.

Up in lights

I've had more feedback on the electronic billboard on the railway overbridge at the start of Andersons Bay Rd, following the comments from Traffic Design Group Ltd managing director Brett Harries in Monday's column.

Jon Visser of Waitati says he has dealt with illuminated billboards in a professional capacity in the past, and understands "some can be innocuous and not a problem, whereas others can be a distracting eyesore that need to be removed".

"As with anything new, the crash statistics will be zero until the first one happens. I would avoid making claims about crash statistics based on the police database alone, as most minor accidents are not reported to the police.

"A more robust approach would be to monitor the intersection with a video camera over a period of time - say continuously over a week with the billboard activated and another week with a static billboard in place - and then to compare the number of near misses and crashes. Such an impact study could be included as a criteria for (ongoing) resource consent.

"The advertisers do themselves and their customers no favours with the design of the adverts.

"This billboard is clearly intended for drivers only - it is not a busy pedestrian area - and they admit that the target audience only look at the panel for a brief flash. Therefore, the text on them should be limited to that recommended by the NZTA in their signage guidelines, i.e. one or two lines of text only with a very large font.

"Most of the small writing used on the Andy Bay billboard cannot possibly be read by a passing driver, so their advertising message is essentially lost. A clear and concise message would benefit both driver safety and the advertiser."


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