Climate and Wildlife in BritainCategory: Land + People
Climate. Dry or Wet?. Winds. Changeable Weather. Rainfall
The climate in the UK is generally mild and temperate due to the influence of the Gulf Stream. The southwestern winds carry the warmth and moisture into Britain. The climate in Britain is usually described as cool, temperate and humid.
The weather is so changeable that the English often say that they have no climate but only weather. Therefore it is natural for them to use the comparison “as changeable as the weather” of a person who often changes his mood or opinion about something. The weather is the favourite topic of conversation in the UK. As the weather changes with the wind, and Britain is visited by winds from different parts of the world, the most characteristic feature of Britain’s weather is its variability.
The English also say that they have three variants of weather: when it rains in the morning, when it rains in the afternoon or when it rains all day long. Sometimes it rains so heavily that they say ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’.
Rainfall is more or less even throughout the year. In the mountains there is heavier rainfall than in the plains of the south and east. The driest period is from March to June and the wettest months are from October to January. The average range of temperature (from winter to summer) is from 15 to 23 degrees above zero. During a normal summer the temperature sometimes rises above 30 degrees in the south. Winter temperatures below 10 degrees are rare. It seldom snows heavily in winter, the frost is rare. January and February are usually the coldest months, July and August the warmest. Still the wind may bring winter cold in spring or summer days. Sometimes it brings the whirlwinds or hurricanes. Droughts are rare.
So, we may say that the British climate has three main features: it is mild, humid and changeable. That means that it is never too hot or too cold. Winters are extremely mild. Snow may come but it melts quickly. In winter the cold is humid cold, not the dry one.
This humid and mild climate is good for plants. The trees and flowers begin to blossom early in spring.
In the British homes there has been no central heating up till recently. The fireplaces are often used, but the coal is not used as it’s very expensive. Britain has no good coal now and imports it itself. Many schools and universities have no central heating either, and the floors there are made of stone. The British bedroom is especially cold, sometimes electric blankets or hot-water bottles are used.
Vegetation and Wildlife
Flowers. Trees and Woods. Animals. Birds. Symbols and National Emblems. Threats to Wildlife
The humid and mild climate of Great Britain is good for plants and flowers. Some of them have become symbols in the UK. Probably you know that the poppy is the symbol of peace, the red rose is the national emblem of England, the thistle is the national emblem of Scotland and the Edinburgh International Festival. The daffodils and the leek are the emblems of Wales, the shamrock (a kind of clover) is the emblem of Ireland.
The UK was originally a land of vast forests, mainly oak and beech in the Lowlands and pine and birch in the Highlands, with great stretches of marshland and smaller areas of moors. In the course of time, much forest land was cleared and almost all the Lowlands outside the industrial areas were put under cultivation. Today only about 6 per cent of the total land area remains wooded.
Extensive forests remain in eastern and northern Scotland and in southeastern and western England. Oak, elm, ash, and beech are the commonest trees in England, while Scotland has much pine and birch. The Highlands with thin soil are largely moorland with heather and grasses. In the cultivated areas that make up most of Britain there are many wild flowers, flowering plants and grasses.
The fauna or animal life of the UK is much like that of northwestern Europe, to which it was once joined. Many larger mammals such as bear, wolf have been hunted to extinction, others are now protected by law. About 50 land mammals are still found in the UK. There are many foxes. Otters are common along rivers and streams, and seals live along much of the coast. Hedgehogs, hares, rabbits, rats and mice are numerous. Deer live in some of the forests in the Highlands of Scotland and England. There are several small lizards, two or three kinds of snakes, and several kinds of frogs and toads.
You may think that there are crocodiles in the British Isles if you read that ‘… a traditional jazz band led the three-mile crocodile in a musical protest to 10 Downing Street’. But it is not a real crocodile. It is what the English usually say about pupils of a girls’ school, walking in procession, two by two.
Some 230 kinds of birds live in the UK, and another 200 are regular visitors, many are songbirds. The most numerous are blackbird, sparrow and starling. Robin Redbreast is the national bird of the UK. The number of ducks, geese and other water fowl has diminished during recent years. Partridges, pheasants and other large and rare birds are protected by law. Gulls, geese and other sea birds nest near the coast.
There are many threats to wildlife and ecological balance around the coast. The biggest threat to the coastline is pollution. Even much-loved Blackpool is not officially safe. More than 3,500 million tons of industrial waste is pumped into the North Sea every year. “We cannot continue to use our seas as a dustbin and expect our coastline to survive,” says Greenpeace. Many other ecological problems may be caused by privatization of the coast. The past decade of Tory rule has seen a decline in the quality of rivers. Many of them are “biologically dead”, i. e. unable to support fish and wildlife.