A Lesson from Siberia

Portrait of a old woman in winter

In 1993, two friends and colleagues of mine alighted from an internal flight in the heart of Siberia. The light was failing and the temperature plummeted as they wound their way from the landing strip into an endless forest. They were lost. Eventually, coming upon a wooden settlement, they found shelter with the village teacher, the only English speaker for many, many miles.

Professor Bill Keatinge later confided in me that he had learned two lessons from this incident. One was to learn Russian (which he later did, with some panache). The second was to dress like the Russians. Because Yakutsk, the city which they had come to visit, is the coldest city in the world. During their trip, the temperature fell to a mere -26C. The lowest winter temperatures reach -60.

And what, may we ask, was the attraction of this cold Siberian city? Ironically, the inhospitable, intractable, bone gnawing cold was the motivation for their journey. They were part of the Eurowinter Group, a collection of Europe’s finest scientists, whose mission was to unravel the complicated story of winter deaths in Europe. Until that time, no-one had a convincing explanation (scientists call this a ‘model’) of the pattern of winter deaths in Europe which varied from one country to another. And the prime question was why on earth should the British Isles, with its temperate maritime climate, be the villain of the piece, with many more ‘excess winter deaths’ than its colder European neighbours? Continue reading “A Lesson from Siberia”

Guest Blog – Cold Weather Alerts 2012

This year as part of our Spread the Warmth campaign we are working with the Met Office, as part of the national Cold Weather Plan, to provide targeted information to the older people who are most at risk when a cold snap is imminent. This guest blog from the Met office sets out how the Cold Weather Plan will work:

Although winter weather and snow can be fun, they are also associated with an increase in illnesses and injuries. Severe cold weather can be dangerous for vulnerable groups such as older people and those with serious illnesses. Older people are particularly at risk as they do not feel the cold until their body temperature falls. With this in mind, the Met Office is working in partnership with the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency again this year to provide the Cold Weather Alerts that inform the Cold Weather Plan for England.

Our Cold Weather Alert service operates in England from 1 November to 31
March every year. Met Office Cold Weather Alerts are sent to NHS Trusts in England, and Age UK centres, to ensure that staff and resources are ready for any cold weather periods and those who are more vulnerable to cold weather conditions are informed / made aware and prepared. Cold Weather Alerts are also issued on our website, via weather forecasts on TV and radio and also via our Twitter feed.

Continue reading “Guest Blog – Cold Weather Alerts 2012”