Unofficial Show Notes For CrowdScience: Why Does It Always Rain On Me? (BBC World Service) June 2017

Podcast Length: 20min 29 seconds

Stream/Download Link:

Presenters Marnie Chesterton & Marijke Peters discuss microclimates and their positive and sometimes negative impact across different parts of the world

What Are Micro Climates?

The show begins at a tea plantation in the south of England that thrives on local weather conditions not found in the rest of the UK. Marnie goes on to describe why some areas experience more rainfall than others explaining it is due to uneven heating of the earth by the sun. Wind, clouds and rain are formed as a result of this uneven heating or ‘hot and cold air mass’

Emma, a forecaster at the UK Met Office chats with CrowdScience. She explains what microclimates are: a distinctive small scale environment very different from their surroundings. Emma further explains that things such as the hills in your local area can affect the distribution of heat, rain etc. It turns out incredibly, that microclimates can be as small as the two sides of a tree!!!

How Microclimates Can Help Gardeners

Marnie visits the Tregothnan estate, Himalayan Valley tea plantation, a mansion in Cornwall where she talks to the local gardener, Jonathan Jones. We learn that it rains a lot in Cornwall and apparently the locals don’t mind it at all!! We also learn how the localised climate helps tea plants grow comparable to those of Darjeeling, India.

From here, we visit a vineyard where the owner tries to manipulate micro climate conditions to best grow grapes.

Why Is Heathrow Airport Hotter Than Places Close By?

Next, the CrowdScience team looks at why Heathrow airport is hotter than places close by. The presenters tell us that Heathrow airport is what’s known as an ‘urban heat island.’ Such microclimates are common in inner city areas and play a role in the weather of their neighbourhoods affecting humidity and rainfall. The four principles of heat islands are deforestation, the built environment, mass energy consumption and large buildings that trap heat.

Heat Exposure: A Matter Of Life And Death

At this point, the real dangers of ‘heat islands’ are discussed. In US cities, more people die yearly from heat exposure than from tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Heat is a ‘silent killer’ to the most vulnerable such as the elderly and those with poor health. The 2003 European heat wave that is estimated to have killed over 70,000 people is used as an example of the magnitude of heat exposure and the threat posed by it. Those most at risk from severe heat are people with cardiovascular issues and diabetics.

Solutions To Microclimates

We are introduced to Greg Bishop, commissioner for the New York ‘CoolRoofs’ program, the act of painting rooftops with reflective white paint. By simply painting the roofs white, a 30% reduction in urban heating has been achieved. Plant life is said to be much more effective than white roofing but combined with it and through efforts to reduce waste heat, strides are being made in tackling the issue of microclimates.


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