I hope you are all well and resting to prepare for a new year. Although that might be difficult for some as the world seems to experience more extreme weather. Some places are hotter than ever and come are colder than ever, the UK is wetter than ever, so lets use this as our English lessons topic.
The English, obsess over weather, partly because we seem to have so much rain, we like to talk about the possibility of doing something when it stops raining. I know Oscar Wilde once said conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative; I hope he wasn't referring to the whole of the Britain!
Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
⭐ Oscar Wilde
With as much rain as we, in the UK, are getting at the moment, it pales into insignificance compared to the weather problems being suffered around the world from extreme heat to extreme cold, and all the problems that brings with it. I wish all of you affected by weather extremes a better 2020.
Bushfires Snowfall Wildfires
Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. It’s creeping towards New Year and 2020 – but I hope you’re enjoying some well deserved time off, if you’re taking holiday over Christmas and New Year. And if you’re not, then good wishes to you nonetheless. We are Adept English and we offer you English lessons, free English lessons online and the opportunity through listening to improve your spoken English through our ‘listen and learn’ method.
So what about the weather recently? Two extremes of weather have been making the news from around the world. When we say ‘making the news’, we mean they’ve been remarkable enough, unusual enough to be featured on the news. The first is the snow storms in Iceland and the second is the bush fires in Australia. You’ve probably heard about both of these, but let me give you some opportunity to practise your English here with some news stories that you are perhaps already aware of.
Before I talk about that, just a reminder that if you like the podcasts, all English lessons, but you would like just a little bit more structure to your learning English lessons, then you can buy our course, Course One, Activate Your Listening, to help you improve your English still further. It’s available, as ever, on our website at adeptenglish.com and this course gives you vocabulary breakdown, repetition so you’re more likely to remember, and learn English grammar automatically through listening and there are English speaking lessons as well. So have a look at our courses page on our website.
So in Iceland what’s been happening? Well, it’s perfectly normal for Iceland to get snow in the winter – it’s in the very name of the country – ICEland. But what’s unusual this winter, is the volume and the depth of the snowfall. The ‘volume’ of something, V-O-L-U-M-E is the same meaning as the word ‘mass’, M-A-S-S. Both ‘volume’ and ‘mass’ are nouns and they mean ‘how much space something takes up’ - so the volume of snowfall. And the depth, D-E-P-T-H, depth comes from the word ‘deep’, D-E-E-P and depth is a noun meaning ‘how deep something is’. So the snowfall has been extraordinary, in its volume and its depth even for a country like Iceland. So it’s difficult to give actual measurements because the snow gauges – that’s gauges G-A-U-G-E-S, the instruments which catch the snow to measure the depth of the snowfall- well they caught very little snow, because it was so windy.
90 mph winds were widespread across Iceland, which meant that the snow didn’t fall into the gauges and which also meant that there were substantial drifts. Substantial means ‘big’ - and a drift, in the context of snow – D-R-I-F-T, drift, means that the snow is deeper in some places because of the effect of the wind. So in some places, this meant that there was 30 feet of snow – that’s about 9 metres, if you’re using the metric system! Enough to come up to the roof of a two storey building. Can you imagine? You open your door or you look out of your window, and there is nothing to see but a wall of snow?
A photograph of a snow scene showing a wood and small village covered in snow to help describe the snow extremes Iceland is suffering in Dec 2019.
There is concern also in Iceland for the fate of a number of horses. So horses, H-O-R-S-E-S – they’re animals which go clip-clop and which you might ride on. Apparently, despite the cold conditions, the horses routinely stay outside in the winter time. They must have very furry coats. However, the snow is so deep that the horses are missing, believed to be underneath the snow. I’m sure lots of other animals have died too – that makes me sad. Also mobile phone coverage was affected, electricity power lines were down – and the whole situation not helped I’m sure by the fact that it’s dark much of the time in Iceland in December. But Icelanders are used to dealing with difficult and cold conditions, so I’m sure that they’re prepared to deal with such harsh weather, but perhaps not quite so harsh as this.
At the other end of the scale – and at the other end of the earth, you’ve probably seen the wildfires in Australia being reported on the news. Over Christmas, apparent 70 bushfires continued to burn across the territory known as New South Wales. And this was despite 8cm of rainfall in some areas over the Christmas period. Even the rainfall brought problems – one statistic from the news was that in Queensland, there were 620,000 bolts of lightning as storms hit the southeastern corner of the state. So a bolt of lightning is when there’s a storm, thunder and lightning and the lightning hits the ground.
So the thunder is the bit that makes the noise and lightning is the bit that lights up, where electricity runs through to the earth. So even the rainfall there is not gentle. And back to the wildfires - one of the areas which received less rain was in the Blue Mountains, where a 500,000 hectare fire continues to burn near Gospers Mountain. 500,000 hectares – that’s a lot of land. About 1,400 fire fighters were continuing to battle the fires on Boxing Day – that’s 26th December. And in Balmoral, one area of New South Wales, over 1,000 homes have been destroyed by the fire. The death toll – so how many people have died - that stands at 9 so far. There is also a devastating impact on wildlife – animals catch out, just as the animals in Iceland do from the extreme cold. And it won’t be until after the event, that the impact on wildlife, or on human life, in terms of casualities, damage to property and businesses etc. can be fully assessed. Of course, bushfires happen every year in Australia, because it’s a hot dry country in December for instance. But it’s the scale of the fires that’s unusual – so far 3.41 million hectares is estimated to have burnt.
And there are other impacts from the fires in Australia, ones perhaps that we don’t immediately think about. There’s a direct impact on the economy – on businesses. It’s understandable when properties are destroyed because this impacts businesses directly, but actually when large numbers of people are involved in fighting the fires – other things ‘grind to a halt’ - there’s an idiom. ‘Grind to a halt’ means ‘large things just stop’ or ‘stop happening’. So it’s not good for productivity – business doesn’t just carry on. And the other damaging effect is that people are necessarily breathing in the smoke. When bushfires are so widespread, there’s an effect on people’s health and more people need hospital treatment for breathing difficulties.
So is climate change responsible? Is it responsible for the extreme cold in the north and responsible for such unusually dry conditions in the south, that these huge bushfires result? The answer is that we cannot be sure – it certainly seems as though the weather is changing. Is this because of CO2 emissions? Again, it’s not 100% certain, but it’s difficult perhaps not to conclude that this may have something to do with it.
So there we are – English lessons with Adept English on topical subjects so you can learn English online. English lessons for English speaking. Anyway, enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.