Archive for Snow

Snow, Concorde and BAA

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2010 by awickerman

So BAA has apparently refused to let untrained (and un-security checked) people amble about it’s airport cleaning up snow.

Can I suggest that this recent event may have concentrated minds at BAA, Continental getting a large fine (and staff getting a suspended sentence) is a timely reminder that very small bits of debris can bring down a plane. If the hordes of random staff bugger up the cleaning, maybe leaving tools on the ground or missing patches of black ice, and a plane subsequently falls out of the sky (or fails to take off) then it doesn’t take much imagination to see BAA in the dock and facing corporate manslaughter.

If I were BAA, running at 99% capacity most of the time and with a queue of airlines looking for landing slots longer than the runway, I’d not risk prison to get the airport open. It’s not like Lufthansa or any of the other whinging airlines are going to relocate to Luton is it?

Just to make it clear though, they are a bunch of inept idiots who really, really shouldn’t be allowed to run a major airport. But then what do you expect from Spaniards?

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Heating at Heathrow

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Tenuous Link of the Day, Tunnels with tags , , , , , , on December 21, 2010 by awickerman

As is painfully obvious Heathrow Airport doesn’t have heated runways, but then the excuse goes that back in the 1950s when they built them (and the 1970s when they rebuilt them for jets) how could they have known Global Warming Climate Change would cause so much snow?

It’s a good answer, only slightly undermined by the fact that 1968 saw the construction of the Heathrow Cargo Tunnel which, due to a fairly steep slope at one end, has an under road heating system to keep the approach roads ice free. A system they still keep in operation to this day and one which is working perfectly (Though sadly the surrounding roads are still buggered and the airport is frozen, but that’s not the point right now.)

Worth bearing in mind next time BAA put up a spokesman saying ‘It wasn’t worth money investing in equipment when we didn’t get heavy snow and bad winters’, because clearly the tunnellers they employed disagreed. Sadly the runway chaps, as always, just couldn’t match those high standards.

A Gift I Think Will Keep On Giving

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, The Idiocy and Ignorance of Gilligan, The Underground, Tunnels with tags , , , , , , on December 20, 2010 by awickerman

While it’s too early to be sure I think pointing and laughing at Andrew Gilligan is going to be a gold mine of lazy posts. Here is a gem from a couple of days ago;

Another interesting thing, though, is that several of the delays weren’t snow-related, but due to signal failures, train breakdowns and the like.

Without any information either way the options are either the signalling system and trains failed due to the extreme cold and snow OR all suffered unrelated failures at exactly the same time. Honestly which is more likely, not that I’m saying TfL have an excuse for being surprised by snow, but I think we can safely say pretty much all the problems were snow and cold related. But then what can you expect from an idiot who says things like this;

substantial proportion of its network is protected from snow by being underground (including about 95% of the Circle Line, which nonetheless still manages to suffer “severe delays.”)

What could possibly cause that problem? Let’s have a quick quiz, could it be;

  1. That the Circle Line, like all London Underground Lines is run at pretty much peak capacity so delays on the 5% above ground would quickly ripple through the entire system?
  2. That the Circle Line shares track with the Hammersmith & City Line, District Line and Metropolitan Line and so suffers knock on delays whenever they fail?
  3. That the Circle Line uses 1960s vintage ‘C’ stock trains that, barring the Metropolitan and Victoria Line stock that is being replaced at present, is the oldest and least reliable on the network?
  4. That it’s well established LUL procedure that the Circle Line gets knocked out first and suffers the biggest problem as it’s least-critical (i.e. doesn’t go anywhere other lines don’t also service).
  5. All of the above, hence why the Circle Line is historically the least reliable of all
  6. Something else

If you said anything from 1-4, you scored 5 points, well done. If you said 5,  you score 10 point, well done. If you said 7, you were doing a different quiz, well done.

However if you said 6 then I’m afraid you score no points. You’ve managed to stoop down to Gilligan’s level and can probably fake brain activity low enough to write his blog for him. Commiserations.

Prediction: A Mug’s Game

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings with tags , , , , , , on December 1, 2010 by awickerman

So as snow continues to cause traffic chaos/mild inconvenience here is an actually topical reminder on the wisdom (or otherwise) of making predictions. Way back in 2000 a senior research scientist made this bold claim;

within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.

That’s not really worked out well for him has it? But to his credit he was still banging away on it as recently as the start of the year;

‘We’ve had three weeks of relatively cold weather, and that doesn’t change anything. ‘This winter is just a little cooler than average, and I still think that snow will become an increasingly rare event.’

Marvellous consistency and standing up for his beliefs. If only his grasp of the facts was as strong. People aren’t saying he’s wrong because of the last few weeks. They’re saying he’s wrong because of the last decade. Just a quick BBC search reveals heavy snow in 2000, 2004 and 2009. There will be more, I remember there being more. Hell just a few days after that article came out and he said ‘it was just a few cold weeks’ this was published saying Scotland had the coldest winter ever in 2009/2010 and the rest of the country had the coldest and snowiest for decades.

The point here isn’t that snow is getting rarer, it’s that it’s getting more common. The Indie article itself says there hadn’t been any significant snow in London 1991-2000, yet since then it’s been snowy more often than not. It’s not just that the prediction is wrong, it’s that the exact opposite of his prediction has happened and yet he has not adjusted his prediction.

So in summary he’s a ‘scientist’ who refuses to pay attention to what’s going on and instead doggedly sticks to his theory in the face of the data that proves him utterly incorrect. That doesn’t sound very scientific to me I must confess. Oh wait a minute, he works for East Anglia University’s Climatic Research Unit. That explains a great deal…

However to end this post on less controversial ground I think there is one lesson everyone should be able to agree on; making very confident predictions about something you don’t fully understand is at best arrogant, at worst foolish and generally both.

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