Here is a post on everything you want to know about rain. England is obsessed by the weather, and in particular the rain. We have myths, many of which are not true. If we have ‘rain before 7’, it’s not always fine by 11. And cows don’t lie down when it’s about to rain. The Met Office says there is no proof that cows are sensitive to the moisture in the air. They are just having a nice rest!
England has a lot of rain (we’ll cover how to prevent flooding in another post). But what is rain, how much do you know about it – and why does England get such a lot of it? It’s all to do with the Gulf Stream. This is an ocean current that brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico to our islands, and warm water evaporates faster, causing rain. But because we are also subject to cold air from Scandinavia, that is why our weather changes so much. For instance, the north of England is not far off the same latitude as Moscow. But although we get colder in winter, we don’t have heavy snow like Russia or Scandinavia.
Acid rain is caused when there are acids that fall with the water. It can be from nature (like volcanoes) but is mostly from burning fossil fuels and car pollution.
What is Rain?
Sounds like a silly question, but what exactly is rain? It’s caused when water evaporates from clouds, and in some cases, it does not even reach the ground. Virga clouds evaporate so we don’t feel the raindrops on our heads at all. Raindrops often trap tiny air bubbles when they fall on the earth. This gives rise to ‘petrichor’, which is the lovely smell you get, when you have rain fall on the earth. Raindrops are not the shape of a drop (like a teardrop earring). They are more circular, but air resistance as they fall causes the bottom to go flat, and changes the shape.
Blood rain may sound like a plague. But ‘s just red-rain that contains dust, usually from the Sahara desert. So is pretty rare in England, though sometimes it could have travelled. Phantom rain is when the rain evaporates. This happens in very hot places, and simply dries up before it hits the ground. It rains on other planets. A group of scientists even found rain made from iron.
Rainforests obviously get more rain than us, though the lowest amount falls in Antarctica. The wettest town in the world is surprisingly in India. Mawsynram gets around 10 times more rain than in England. It’s something to do with the monsoons which cause moist winds near the Himalayas (locals weave bamboo shelters to protect themselves).
The Lake District is by far the wettest region in England (along with Snowdonia and the Scottish Highlands in Wales and Scotland). England’s wettest city is Cardiff, followed by Leeds and Manchester. London and Cambridge have less rain than many areas, which is why they suffer from ‘heat island effect’ when the temperatures rise more, in hot weather. This is something to do with the Atlantic Ocean, where weather tends to move west to east (so the western counties get hit with more rain than the southeast). The Lake District also has a lot of mountains, which cause winds to rise and this cools the air, increasing the chance of rain.
Fun Facts About Rain
- There are various myths on how to not get as wet. Do you stay in it, walk slowly or run? Apparently, the answers depend on the size of the raindrops, the wind direction and your own height. However Professor Bocci suggests that ‘in general, the best thing is to run, as fast as you can’.
- If you were in a cloud and dropped a raindrop, how long would it take to reach the ground? Around 2 minutes apparently, though some can take longer.
- If you look up and see a tall cloud that is flat on top, this means rain is usually coming.
- In Botswana (Africa), rain is so precious that they even name their local currency (pula) after the word for rain.
Many waterproof raincoats (for adults and children) are made with toxic coatings, but there’s no need. You can find alternatives (these coats are expensive, but they will last years and there are often online bargains). Maium and On Good Authority both make good rainwear from recycled plastic bottles and Seasalt makes good raincoats using an eco-friendly alternative to oilskin (veggies beware as Sea Folly Jacket and a few others have leather trim).
Frugi is a lovely company that designs fun colourful organic cotton clothes in Cornwall, made Fair Trade in India, where the company supports a local orphanage. All items are sent in biodegradable packaging, made from potatoes! Their Rainwear range for children is made from recycled plastic bottles (PET). These are good quality with fitted hoods and chin guards and reflective prints.
Natural Rubber Wellies
For adults, choose rubber wellingtons. Gumleaf is a good brand from Norfolk. Made in Austria (the cost to turn rubber into wellies in England is prohibitive), these luxury wellies are made with rubber and comfy neoprene or cotton lining, and are so comfy that many hikers walk in them for 20 miles.
Many kids’ wellies are made from toxic PVC. These are made from natural rubber instead. Wash with fresh water and dry naturally. And keep them away from heat sources (like radiators).
- Frugi Puddle Buster Wellington Boots are made from rubber, in fun colours. With soft cotton lining, choose from Rainbow Roads, Polar Play or Rhino Ramble.
- Alioli Kids also make stylish wellie books for children, with ribbed soles to prevent slipping. They feature a cheeky crab motif on the side of each boot, and are made in Spain.
- Muddy Puddles offers rain-ready children’s wellies, for kids of all ages. Great for stomping in puddles, and exploring the great outdoors. They are also extra-tall, to keep rain.
- JoJo Mama Bébé offers popular children’s wellies made from natural rubber. The soles are gently ridges and grippy, and lightweight. They also have anti-sweat lining, to make them comfortable for all-day wear.
A Greener Umbrella
The word ‘umbrella’ is Latin for umbra, which means ‘shade’ in Latin. Apparently there are millions of broken and discarded umbrellas floating in our storm drains, and taking up space in landfills. Most are made from nylon (plastic) with metal. Most are made in the Far East. If you buy a good quality raincoat, you likely don’t need one, as good quality raincoats and hoods are pretty waterproof.
Have you heard that you should never use an umbrella, when there’s lightning? It’s obviously very serious to get struck by lightning, but the main preventive methods to keep safe are to go inside, don’t go near water (this includes avoiding hand-washing or laundry) and avoid using landline phones. Rubber shoes don’t give that much protection. The ‘don’t use an umbrella’ theory is that lightning finds the highest source, and an umbrella could make you the tallest ‘thing’ in the area. It’s interesting that pets instinctively travel to ‘the lowest place’ (like under a table) if there is thunder. Maybe they know more than us.
Ecovent Umbrella make corporate promotional umbrellas from PET (recycled plastic bottles) with rubber handles. London Umbrellas offer classic and telescopic umbrellas made from recycled materials. Their site has some good tips to make your umbrella last longer:
- Umbrellas protect from rain but not high winds. So avoid use if gusts are high.
- Don’t use brolly as a walking stick, as you will collapse the frame. Nor swing telescopic umbrellas by the handle.
- Leave wet brollies open to dry naturally, after use. This will stop mildew and metal rusting. Don’t dry near heat like radiators. The superstition to ‘not leave umbrellas in the house’ likely comes from common sense: the spokes could injure pets, children or yourself.
Got an old umbrella? Most umbrellas are difficult to recycle (so bin securely, don’t just leave them to create litter). Some ideas for reuse include:
- Use the waterproof fabric to hang upside, as a drying rack.
- Use them to catch dust, when cleaning chandeliers!
- Use the fabric as a cover for young seedlings or frost
- Keep an old umbrella, to cover picnic food from flies
- If you have sewing skills, turn the material into a reusable bag or waterproof wallet. Or sew a few together to make a car frost shield. One woman even makes waterproof dog coats!
Make Good Use Of The Rain
- EvenGreener make quality water butts from recycled plastic, with safety locks. The Original Water Butt Co also make safe water butts for small spaces, both enable you to water your plants, from recycled rain.
- Microhydro is a book to show how to create small green systems to create renewable energy, which covers both AC and DC systems (Canadian book).
- The Water-Wise Home has heaps of ideas on how to save water, including rainwater harvesting (where you collect the rain to use elsewhere: water butts are the simplest methods, but you can also create sophisticated advanced methods that can be used for many things, including flushing the toilet).
Rainy Day Reads (on rain!)
- Rain: Four Walks in English Weather is a wonderful meditation on the local landscape in wet weather, by novelist and nature writer Melissa Harrison. Whenever rain falls, our countryside changes. Fields, farms, hills and hedgerows appear altered, the wildlife behaves differently and the terrain itself over time is transformed. Melissa explains our relationship with the weather, as she follows the course of four rain seasons in four seasons: across Wicken Fen, Shropshire, the Darent Valley and Dartmoor. She reveals how rain is not just an essential element of the world, but a key part of our identity.
- What Does Rain Smell Like? is a book by two of our top meteorologists, who answer 100 questions to things you wanted to know about the weather. In this book, you’ll learn why rain doesn’t fall all at once, why the sky is blue, what UV light and ozone layers mean, what the weather is like on other planets and how rainbows are formed.
- When It Rains is a lovely story about Kira, who always feels gloomy when it rains. She can’t read outside, can’t play in the park and has to wear her thickest clothes. But one day her friends ask her to join them on an adventure outside during another downpour. Then she discovers the joy of all the things that happen outside when it rains – from the new friends she makes, to the umbrellas on the streets, to the warmth found at the end of each rainfall. Rassi Narika spins a story of hope and discover, to brighten even the rainiest of days.