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Sunny intervals

If you are planning to visit Britain, you may need to bring (or buy) an umbrella!

Sunny intervals

If you're working in English at this fairly advanced level, we assume you have covered the basic weather expressions (verbs, nouns and adjectives for 'rain' etc.) and are very possibly familiar, from reading or direct experience, with the British weather and its wonderful vagaries.

You may have listened to broadcast forecasts and wondered how some of the idiomatic expressions, shortened sentences etc. make sense. Here is your chance to grapple with some examples of such language, at your own pace!

1.
A British friend arrives to visit you where you are staying. Among the first things s/he says is the remark:
'Bit parky out there this morning, isn't it?'
What does this mean?
It would be lovely weather for you to go walking through the park while you have a conversation.
Parking the car was addedly tiresome with it raining so hard.
The weather is rather sharper (i.e. chillier, and probably more 'clinging' and humid) than either of you might have wished or preferred.
There is a major storm on the way.
'Parky' is a dialect word suggesting cold, dank, chilly 'put-on-an-extra-layer-and-don't-hang-about-in-it' weather; Chambers' Dictionary gives the word as 'origin unknown', but it has no clear or logical connection to parks (as in open tracts of land) nor the parking of a visitor's vehicle.
2.
It is a warm day in the summer holidays ~ yes, we do have these occasionally! ~ and the forecaster finishes a bulletin by saying:
' ... So don't forget plenty of sunblock, and pollen counts are likely to be high.'
What, if anything, do you learn from this?
There is going to be an eclipse of the sun, so you need warm clothes and special sunglasses.
You should take precautions against sunburn on your skin; and if you suffer with hay fever, make sure you stay indoors or take appropriate precautions.
There will be thick clouds across the sun for much of the day, and the rain from these may cause serious damage to the summer plants in people's gardens.
The plants will give off so much pollen that it will make a haze in the air and block out some of the sunshine.
Sunburn is always a risk for paler-skinned people when the sun blazes hot and strong all day; and in the dry air, flowering plants may give off a lot of pollen ~ which may spoil an otherwise enjoyable day out, for people who have an allergic reaction to that.
3.
On an early spring morning, maybe a week or two before Easter, the forecaster speaks of 'daytime temperatures very possibly edging into the mid-teens' in your region.
By British standards (rather than your own ~ if you, perhaps, come from somewhere rather warmer!), what is this probably supposed to mean?
The spring sun is 'trying hard' and there may even be a bit of warmth in the day; you may be able to dress a bit more lightly than recently.
There are signs of spring in the weather, but it is not yet worth thinking in terms of lighter clothing.
The forecaster would love to be able to tell everyone that spring has arrived at last, but the available data really don't confirm this at all strongly yet.
A wonderful, balmy sunny afternoon is almost certainly on the way.
Answer 4 would probably be a hopeful exaggeration of what the forecaster meant. Answers 1-3 are all possible interpretations, but Answer 1 is probably the most likely.
4.
An evening forecast warns of 'temperatures dropping to single figures overnight, with a likelihood of ground frost on the country lanes and black ice at any higher elevations'.
You have to drive over some hills first thing 'tomorrow' morning. What, if anything, is your response to this information?
All very interesting, but I shall drive much as I usually would.
I would aim to set out a little earlier and take the journey more slowly.
I shall need to allow time to put chains on the wheels before I set out.
I ought to ring the people up and warn them that I probably shan't be able to make it through the snow.
Even by British standards, Answer 2 is quite prudent enough; nobody has mentioned blizzards, snowdrifts or 'white-outs' (at least, not yet!).
5.
A forecaster predicts 'pulses of rain over East Anglia in a chill north-easterly wind'; you are in London. How important would you reckon it might be for you to have a raincoat and/or umbrella with you today?
100% : I definitely would take rainclothes
75% : It sounds as though that might be a wise precaution
50% : I might think about it, but the risk doesn't bother me that much
25% : It doesn't sound like much of a problem for us today
If fairly heavy or sustained rainshowers are moving into East Anglia off the North Sea, that might well mean rain and/or cold in London later, so an extra layer would probably be wise!
6.
The forecaster warns of 'a cold front easing its way across the Midlands during the weekend, with a likelihood of isolated showers'.
You have a choice of making a visit to some friends (and/or, perhaps, a local open-air place of interest such as a National Trust park or property) either on Saturday or Sunday. How will this forecast affect your plans?
We'll just go on whichever day happens to suit us.
We'll try and go on the Saturday, as it's less likely the weather will have turned chilly by then.
We'll go on the Sunday anyhow, and if the weather's not so good, then tough! We'll just take another layer of clothes.
This British weather never seems to let anyone do anything they want; we'll just have to stay at home and turn up the heating.
Answer 2 is the most positive and pragmatic!
7.
The 'early morning patchy hill fog' has all cleared ... and you have been able to undertake a long scenic walk in one of Britain's National Parks, such as the Lake District. You are standing at the viewpoint with magnificent countryside around and beneath you in every direction; and you have broken a bit of a sweat as you climbed the hill in the sunshine. Your British companion opens a water-bottle for a well-earned drink, and says:
'Phew, what a ... ... !'
Can you 'crown the occasion' by joining in with the standard word for such a hot day?
... roaster.
... broiler.
... furnace.
... scorcher!
(As in the phrase 'scorching hot', suggesting a brief burn ~ such as the scorch-marks if you leave a hot iron too long on a piece of fabric). It is a newspaper cliche to say 'Phew, what a scorcher!' as and when (for instance) there is a hot Bank Holiday ~ illustrated with pictures of happy young people sunbathing with ice-creams etc.!
8.
A forecaster describes rain as 'fring(e)ing into the south-west towards sundown'.
Assuming you are in this part of the country: what, practically, is this likely to mean for you and your planned activities?
Showery rain may begin towards the end of the afternoon, and the rain may become heavier and more constant after that.
There is at least as good a chance that none of the showers will happen to fall where you are.
There will be a single 'front' of quite light rain, like a fringe on someone's hair, that will pass over your part of the country fairly briefly; after which, it will be dry again.
The rain will come in after dark, and be both sustained and heavy.
'Fringeing in' suggests that the rain will be light (at least initially) and perhaps have some gaps in the cloud.
9.
The forecaster says: 'Tomorrow is looking generally bright after the autumn storms; but if you're out and about, don't forget the wind chill factor.'
What, practically, does this mean?
It will be nice and sunny; a welcome change from the bad weather of the past few days.
The wind hasn't really gone away yet; it will be blustery, cold and miserable.
Don't be fooled from indoors by the bright sunshine: the moving air will feel colder on your skin than you might have expected.
This is only a short break of clear weather and there is snow on the way.
However clear the sky may be (which is usually pleasant and welcome), the wind moving the air quickly will make it feel cooler than the thermometer may seem to suggest (this is due to the 'Wind Chill Factor', i.e. that air movement will make the apparent temperature colder).
10.
A friend or neighbour comments to you in passing, 'Nice to see the sun again a bit at the weekend, wasn't it?'.
Which of these is probably the most likely summary of the weather circumstances?
The weather has turned sunny during the weekend and remained bright ever since.
It was welcome to have a bit of sunshine, but we seem to be back to grimmer weekday weather now.
There was very little sunshine over the weekend and none since then.
The weekend weather was fine, and next weekend it will be fine again too.
Answer 2 confirms a very traditional British weather pattern!
Author:  Ian Miles

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