A Dreich* Week

The second week of September marked the beginning of the annual undergraduate trip to the Isle of Arran in Scotland. For those of you that don’t know, part 3 and 4 students have the opportunity to partake in a week-long field trip, working as a group with other students from the University of Leeds, to complete outdoor practicals and daily weather forecasts.

We boarded ship on a calm but cold crossing away from civilisation not knowing what the weather had in-store for us. The first day was spent indoors with quintessentially Scottish weather and it was about to get worse with the news that the remnants of Hurricane Katia were on their way. However, un-phased by this, we embarked on a meteorological measurement march up the 874m Goatfell, armed with anemometers, barometers and whirling hygrometers to record an atmospheric profile.  As we left the shelter of the trees and valley, wind speeds increased, temperatures fell and our dewpoint temperature measurements inferred that we were approaching cloud base. Hiding behind a rock; our soggy sandwiches provided us with the motivation to continue up through the grim weather until enough was enough and the warm tea rooms beckoned.

Pic 1

The lead group at 600m, where extremely windy, cold and wet conditions forced them to turn back.

Although there was no sight of Mr. Blue Sky, we didn’t let rainy days and Mondays get us down as Katia approached and we hit the lowest point of the week, 978.6hPa! As it transpired the ex-hurricane followed a more northerly track than was forecast, brushing just over the northern coast of Scotland (figure 2). This played havoc with the accuracy of our forecasts and the lecturers’ low pressure sweepstake. Even so, strong winds were experienced as they were channelled through the narrow valleys of Arran. The slow moving occluded front the following day gave us more of the same but things were soon to change.

Pic 2

The week’s surface pressure charts left us feeling somewhat affronted (Thank Janet for that one!)

As high pressure built, so did the workload. The sun was a welcome sight and presented us with perfect conditions in which to conduct our radiation and balloon profiling experiments. Clearer skies were also appreciated as we walked to the local drinking establishment under starry skies and then home again, dancing in the moonlight.

With more low pressure systems approaching, it was all change again on Friday as we prepared to go home. With all the work handed in, there was just enough time to visit the distillery down the road and sample some of the local produce. We even saw a stag do on the golf course on the way…

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We had a great week and made new friends from Leeds and would thoroughly recommend the course.


*According to the Urban Dictionary, Dreich (Old Scots Origin) – A combination of dull, overcast, drizzly, cold, misty and miserable weather. At least 4 of these adjectives must apply before the weather is truly dreich.

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