Dr. Eddy Graham's Hebridean Weather Blog

by Dr. Eddy Graham

'Yes' to Indian Summer Heatwave!

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 12 September 2014, 10:59 AM

The political climate of Scotland is not the only thing that's heating up to fever pitch at the moment... for the fine Indian Summer weather that we've been having recently is set to continue for much of the coming week in the run-up to the historic Scottish Independence Referendum on 18th September. Indeed,  it could even intensify into a possible mini-heatwave...

It's said Emperor Constantine saw a cross in the sky on the eve of a famous battle (which he won) and it was instrumental in his conversion to Christianity... well let's see what I photographed in the sky..

The September air temperature record for Stornoway is +25.0degC. At the moment, this record looks unlikely to be breached but it could well be approached as temperatures exceed 20degC across the NW Highlands and the Isles this weekend and early next week.


Eddie, Stornoway, 12 Sep 2014

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Midge Plague enters Tesco in Stornoway

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 05 September 2014, 9:55 AM

If you haven't noticed the incredible number of midges that has been plaguing the Highlands & Islands for the past month or more... well you can't have been living at all! - This year's midge numbers have been confirmed as record breaking, with as many as 900,000 midges caught in a single trap in on day in Wester Ross last month.

For the past week or more, the wee blighters have even entered Tesco supermarket in Stornoway, and proceeded to devour customers as well as the checkout assistants - I personally had to escape the Fruit n' Veg aisle and head towards the cooler midge-free dairy aisle in order to escape being bitten!

The reason for the vampire invasion: A very mild, wet winter with no hard frosts, followed by a wet, humid and warm summer.

Stop scratching!

Eddie, Stornoway, 5 Sep 2014

Wettest August in over 20 years

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 01 September 2014, 9:55 PM

With a total of 185.1mm (7.31in) of rain, it has been the wettest August in the Stornoway region since 1992, some twenty-two years ago.

But somewhat in compensation,  the final week of sunshine at the end of the month meant that it was no less sunny than normal, and the cold spell of weather mid-month was equally offset by a warm start and finish.

Eddy, Stornoway, 1 Sep 2014.


"Indian Summer" weather for a few days

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 25 August 2014, 9:35 AM

There's at least three days of fine fresh "Indian summer" weather ahead - though it'll be cool overnight with heavy early autumn dews, the days should be gloriously fine with long sunny spells and warm temperatures up into the mid-teens degC.

Interestingly, yesterday (Sunday 24th August) saw glorious skies across most of the Isles and the westside of Lewis - though the sun was spoiled by local cloud and showers over central Harris and east Lewis (including Stornoway) as the satellite image (below) shows. But with the wind shifting into the east from today onwards, this shouldn't happen again - enjoy!.

Eddie, Stornoway, Mon 25/8/2014, 09h30

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August Summer Chill

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 20 August 2014, 10:11 AM

We are not experiencing record low air temperatures for August, but there has certainly been a very autumnal chill in the air over recent days.

The high temp on August 18th in Stornoway was a mere +12.3degC. Although more akin to mid-October than mid-August, this is still some 3degC above the record daytime low for August in Stornoway which is +9.4degC recorded on 26th August 1919. There have been at least 120 occasions in the past 145 years of days in August in Stornoway when the max temp failed to reach above 12.3degC  (equivalent to a chance of about 1 in 34).

Wrap up and stay warm!

Eddie, Stornoway, 20.08.2014


Big Bertha's Post Mortem

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 14 August 2014, 4:29 PM

Tues 12/8/2014, 9pm: Boy, what a storm it was - you'll have seen all the damage on the news  - here are the highest rainfall totals - the Wester Ross and Ullapool area seem to have been badly hit:

Fair Isle: 136.2mm (in 24hrs)

Dundonnell (south of Ullapool): 124.7mm (in 24hrs), with 160mm falling in the Ullapool area in 48hours (that's 6.3 inches!)

Stornoway town: 55.6mm (in 30hrs) - so in comparison we escaped quite lightly!

Some photos of the flooding and debris near Ullapool / Carrbridge (sources: Erica Gearty / BBC / Hebrides News):


An Eye on the Eye of Bertha

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 11 August 2014, 10:43 AM

Ex-hurricane Bertha showed a beautiful eye over the North Sea this morning - with a stormy wrap-around of cloud stretching right across the north of Scotland towards the Hebrides:


As I type, Stornoway is currently being battered by gale force NW winds and torrential rain, with 25.3mm (1.00in) of rain falling by 10h00 this morning (the all-time rainfall record for Stornoway is 69.8mm/2.74in). Worryingly,the high resolution GFS met model is predicting 24-hr totals over Lewis and NW Scotland of 75-80mm today - let's wait and see!

Eddie, Stornoway, 10h45, Monday 11th August 2014


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"Big Bertha" to batter and bluster Britain!

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 06 August 2014, 1:18 PM

Make no mistake about it... ex-hurricane "Bertha" is on her way to Britain!

However, before nationwide panic sets in... I hasten to add that hurricanes in the strictest definition do not occur in Britain - instead, the very warm and humid air associated with them sometimes get wrapped into our familiar low-pressure systems, giving them a kind of "turbo boost". That is what will happen over the coming weekend, as a very vigorous low pressure system will sweep in from the south-west, bringing heavy rain and downpours (risk of local flooding), strong winds and generally bad August weather!

Here's the FNMOC NAVGEM plot of Bertha's route across the Atlantic (see small red & blue hurricane symbols) as she hits Britain early next Monday morning:

Image courtesy NASA/MODIS

So please keep posted - follow me on twitter at: https://twitter.com/eddy_weather

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Record hot summer heatwave

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 06 August 2014, 12:27 PM

July 2014 was the 3rd warmest July on record in Stornoway (after 2006 and 1933), and 7th warmest month (of any month) since available meteorological observations began in 1873. On the 24th of the month, a high value of 27.0degC was measured in Stornoway town, which is highest temperature ever recorded in Stornoway. It was also a very sunny month, with 191 hours of total sunshine (140% of average).

The heat culminated during 8-day period from the 18th-26th inclusive, with six consecutive days reaching above 20degC (and 8 out of 9 days also exceeding this value) - a very rare event. The average maximum temperature of these 6 days was 21.6degC, a value that has only been equalled on three previous occasions (July 1897, August 1976 and June 2009).

The historic incidence of a six-day period with air temperatures above 20degC  in Stornoway can be seen in the following graph - on only 7 previous occasions has this occurred since the year 1873 i.e. about a 1 in 20-year event.

Image courtesy NASA/MODIS

Stornoway Airport's value of 25.0degC on the 24th was the highest since July 2003 (when 26.2degC was recorded) - the record remains 26.3degC from August 1999.

Eddie, Stornoway, August 2014 

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High Summer and Phytoplankton

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 10 July 2014, 11:44 PM

Make no mistake... high summer has arrived on the Isles.. what a glorious few days of weather we've been having these past few days !

And together with the magnificent clear skies, the NASA satellite today has picked up what seems to be a beautiful cyan Phytoplankton bloom off the north coast of Scotland (see image below).

Phytoplankton are microscopic sea plants that grow in especially think densities when bright sunshine interacts with nutrients caused by the upwelling of cold waters (which sometimes happens around western coasts of the British Isles during spring and early summer).

Image courtesy NASA/MODIS

Eddie, Stornoway, 10 July 2014.


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"Tour de Hebrides": Sunshine, Thunderstorms and Hail for Audax 2014

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 05 July 2014, 9:04 PM

Experiencing nearly all the elements in one day, the first Audax Hebrides 110km cycle challenge took place today on Lewis and Harris (a kind of Hebridean "Tour de France").

Leaving Stornoway ay 10a.m., fine sunshine soon gave way to showers (spawning repeatedly from the Clisham) on the route down to Kershader - some later groups of cyclists got soaked indeed. However, we were greeted with warm sunshine & dry conditions when arriving at the Ravenspoint Centre, South Lochs for checkpoint #1.

It was then back up on the bikes in the warm sunshine to Leurbost and the left turn for Calanais, only to be hit by a stupendous hailstorm and flashfloods at Achmore (where the spray & wash from passing cars completely drenched us cyclists!.

Arriving at Calanais visitor centre for checkpoint #2, we were rewarded with beautifully warm hot chocolate (with cinnamon) and banana cake. Then onto the serendipitous Blue Pig Studio in Carloway (what a marvellous place!), where Aoife had made yet another glorious cake to eat and share! Whilst, there there was another almighty downpour of rain and hail, & a crack of thunder too!

For the final high-speed leg back to Stornoway across the Pentland Road, the sun shone and I was almost dry on arrival at the Bridge Centre.

You can see the contrasting weather in these photographs I took from Achmore, shortly before the hailstorm hit at 1:30pm. Also, the NASA satellite image for today (following image) shows sunny Point and South Lochs, whilst the thunder clouds were building over the hills.


With great thanks to Audax Hebrides and Ian Gilbert - a great day for all

Eddy, Stornoway, 5/7/2014

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Stornoway Weather June 2014 - mildest since 1970 but dull (lack of sun)

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 02 July 2014, 10:00 PM

Stornoway during June 2014: Mild, dull and rather dry

I've just worked out the weather statistics for the month past (June 2014):

 - With an average daily high of 16.1degC and average daily low of 10.7degC, it was the mildest June since 1970 

 - It was also the 3rd mildest June in 141 years of recorded weather observations in Stornoway (after 1970 and 1940)

 - It was disappointingly dull with only 141 hours of total sunshine (80% of average, and about a 1 in 5 chance of occurrence)

Well, I'll finish with this stunner of a satellite image from NASA of the Hebrides yesterday (Tuesday 1st July) - a "cracker" of a day - let's hope the summer has more days like this in store!

Eddy, Stornoway, 2 July 2014

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Rain and fresh winds set to return this week

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 30 June 2014, 9:45 AM

After more than 3 weeks of mostly dry weather across the Isles, rain & fresh winds from the west and south-west are set to return by the middle of this week.

Expect a good spell of steady rain on Wednesday, accompanied by fresh SW winds. Expect showers with lighter winds on Thursday, but heavy rain and the risk of strong winds will arrive on Friday - well hey, summer has arrived on the Isles!

E., 30/6/2014, 10a.m.

Final St. Kilda Swim Weather Forecast

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 27 June 2014, 9:42 AM

Wed 2nd July 2014 final news:

Alas - the swimmers never made it, the northerly swell proved too difficult and dangerous to continue - a brave attempt nonetheless!

Update Monday 30/6/2014: The swimmers are nearly there! (You can track their progress at: http://stkildaswim.weebly.com/follow-us-live.html

Hi folks

Ok, here's your final forecast  - please read carefully as the timeframe of the weather window appears to be closing...


E. 27/6/1014, 09h30



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Provisionally the dullest May-June since 1944

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 23 June 2014, 11:38 AM

STOP PRESS!  (26 June 2014): At long last,  the month of June has redeemed itself somewhat over the past few days with welcome spells of glorious sunshine for most - so let's wait & see what the final sunshine total is at the end of the month before making any  further definitive statements.

As of today (Monday 23rd June) it has been (provisionally) the dullest combined May & June since 1944 in Stornoway. Only 217 hours of sunshine have been recorded at the Airport since 1st May (about the same that we might expect for the whole of May alone).

The following graph shows the sunshine totals for May & June combined since sunshine measurements began in Stornoway in 1929. One can see that there has been less than half the number of sunshine hours this year, when compared to the same period in 1976 (473 hours) or 2009 (452 hours).

One can only hope that the promised sunshine for later this week & coming weekend materialise!

Eddy, Stornoway, 23/6/2014



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Swimming to St. Kilda: Weather to Play Key Role

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 18 June 2014, 2:28 PM

N.B. Latest Eddy-Weather Forecast for the Swimmers at: Weather Forecast

In the true spirit of adventure and in the constant striving for the highest goals in life, this summer has already seen some incredibly brave feats, all in the aid of charity. For example, Niall Iain Macdonald has bravely attempted to row single-handedly across the Atlantic; soon there will be further endeavour by a group of 9 swimmers  to swim relay-style from the Isle of Harris to St. Kilda in the Outer Hebrides (The St. Kilda Swim 2014), a distance of 56 nautical miles across the roughest and most treacherous stretch of water in northwestern Europe.

Not since Tim Severin sailed The Brendan across in Atlantic in 1976 have we seen a summer like it!

This stretch of water is notoriously harsh and unpredictable. Huge swells travelling from thousands of miles away (such as from the Caribbean) are a frequent occurrence.

Current weather predictions show a possible window of high pressure (and therefore reduced swell and smaller waves) from the present through to next week (last week of June) when the swimmers hope to begin their undertaking.

You can follow the latest news from the St. Kilda Swim team on twitter at: https://twitter.com/TheStKildaSwim2 and donate online to excellent causes at: http://www.stkildaswim.co.uk/

Eddy, Stornoway, 18th June 2014


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It's Noctilucent Cloud Season

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 17 June 2014, 2:32 PM

Noctilucent, or “night-shining” clouds are the highest type of cloud, forming at a height of 80km in the Earth’s atmosphere. Here, the air is so thin that the atmospheric pressure is three hundred times lower than that at the top of Mount Everest, and air temperatures are an incredible minus 130°C.

Noctilucent clouds can be spotted on clear nights close to the north or north-western horizon during the months of June and July - so the time is now ripe for spotting them!

Here's a pic of one I took from Sabhal Mor Ostaig on the Isle of Skye in summer 2012:

Why are Noctiulcent clouds blue in colour?

Their magnificent blue colour is caused by the absorption of light by ozone. Occasionally they may also appear a bright pearly white as well, as the clouds are made up of billions of tiny ice crystals which brilliantly reflect light. Often, they have a tenous and wavy appearance, with spectacular ripples moving through the clouds at times, like breaking waves.

Why can see them only in June and July?
Due to their great height, the clouds may remain sunlit for several hours after sunset on the Earth’s surface, as the sun itself is not far below the horizon during the northern summer (and indeed remains above the horizon within the Arctic Circle). 

Are they becoming more frequent?
Noctilucent clouds have become more frequent during the 20th century, and there are no known observations of them before the late 19th century. The co-incidence of increased sightings with progression of the industrial age has led many scientists to believe that they are linked to global warming and climate change. Indeed, 2013 saw one of earliest and most widespread displays of noctilucent clouds ever recorded.

How is water vapour getting up so high in the atmosphere?
At a height of 80km, noctilucent clouds are far above the main clouds that produce our weather and thus the water vapour that forms noctilucent clouds cannot have been advected so high into the atmosphere by normal weather systems alone. 

Recently, NASA satellites have shown that that the formation of these clouds is controlled by the amount of debris and ash produced by the burning up of meteors (coming from space) in the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

So have a look out over the coming weeks and keep your eyes peeled for these clouds, which can usually be spotted close to the north-western horizon from midnight onwards; please report all sightings to edward.graham@uhi.ac.uk (twitter: @eddy_weather)

More info on noctilucent clouds can be found at:

Eddy, Stornoway, 17th June 2014

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Thunderstorms, Tornadoes and Beaver's Tails...

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 11 June 2014, 12:17 PM

Two tornadoes formed near Pabbay in the Sound of Harris, yesterday (Tuesday 10th June) during a violent thunderstorm with hail. There were also severe thunderstorms in the Minch and over N Lewis later (see YouTube link below).

Photos kindly provided by Raymond Campbell:

See https://www.facebook.com/groups/isleofharris/permalink/10152251742722946/ for more.

I also captured a time-lapse sequence of a "beaver's tail" (incipient funnel cloud) over the War Memorial, Stornoway during the late afternoon: See http://youtu.be/oIqw-Bx0Y-o

Eddy, 11/6/2014

Latest weather news by Eddy on: https://twitter.com/eddy_weather

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Weekend Weather Cracker

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 08 June 2014, 8:50 PM

What a cracker of a weekend of weather! (And in some places, there literally were some ending cracks... of thunder!)

Here's what the NASA satellite saw when passing over us earlier Sunday afternoon (note the lovely streamer of cumulus cloud set off northwards by Beinn Mhor and Hekla in South Uist) - also big thunder showers were developing at the same time over Caithness and Sutherland).

(Bha Beinn Mhor & Hecla a' deanamh loinne de sgothan breagha an 'diugh ann an Uibhist a Dheas)..

Highest temps as follows: (Generally Sat was slightly warmer, but 19-20C was reached widely on both days)

Stornoway town: 19.7C (Sat)

Stornoway Airport: 19.9C (Sat)

Skye: 21.5C (Sat)

Orkney: 18.4C (Sun) - wow!

Aultbea: 21.8C (Sat)

Inverness: 21.9C (Sat)

Eddy, Sunday 8/6/2014, 9pm

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Sunshine, Heat and Fairy Whirlwinds

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 06 June 2014, 5:00 PM

Writing in Béaloideas in 2007, Daniel Giraudon gives a description of  the various superstitions associated with "fairy whirlwinds" in the Celtic culture of Brittany (Breton) of north-west France. Similar legends permeate deeply in Irish culture - on two separate occasions in the past (both whilst in the "magical" land of  Connemara), I have witnessed fairy-whirlwinds, and experienced their mistifying but destructive presence. It was on one of these occasions in August 1986, on the summit of Maol Reidh (Mweelrea, 2688ft), Mayo, Ireland) where I first encountered one; rather coincidentally Michael Viney (1979) also describes an encounter with a fairy whirlwindat the same spot in late 1970s.

And so it was whilst peatcutting on a fine evening recently with my family just off the Pentland Road (near Stornoway), that we were visited by a Fairy Whirlwind!

I heard it coming (for they make a very distinctive "football clacking" sound) - it blew over my bicycle as it whipped across the moor, its centre passing just 20-30 feet from ourselves. My wee balach, Brendan (4), became frightened and scared -  but really there was nothing much to fear on this occasion, apart from its invisible presence which was ghostily impressed upon the swirling heather and grasses.

What are Fairy Whirlwinds? 

(Photo Laura Smith http://www.photogalaxy.com/photo/smithyla/1/)

I won't slay a beautiful mystery with a hard and cold fact here - but suffice to say that fairy whirlwinds are possibly close cousins of the desert dust-devil. But since most "dust" on the moor is very wet peatbog - we get the devil but not the dust!

Oiche mhath agaibh, a cairdean!

Eddie, Stornoway, Friday 6/6/2014

Highest temps on Sat 7th June as follows: Stornoway town: 19.7C, Airport 19.9C, Skye: 21.5C, Aultbea (Wester Ross) 21.8C. Follow me on twitter for all latest weather news: https://twitter.com/eddy_weather


Giraudon, D. (2007). Supernatural Whirlwinds in the Folklore of Celtic Countries.Béaloideas 75, 1-23.

Viney, M (1979). Another Life. Dublin: The Irish Times.

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Dullest May for over 30 years

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 02 June 2014, 4:48 PM

May is normally the sunniest month of the year in the Hebrides with an average of over 200 hours of sunshine for the month as a whole - but this year’s total fell far short of that, with a disappointing total of only 124 hours recorded in Stornoway. This makes it the dullest May since 1986, and 4th dullest May within the last 84 years.
On the plus side, it was another warmer month than normal, with no more than an average amount of rainfall.

Average daily high: 12.6°C (Highest: 17.7°C on 27th)
Average daily low: 7.4°C (Lowest: 1.4°C on 14th)
Deviation of temperature from normal: +0.7°C
Total rainfall: 74.6mm (2.93in) – about normal
Wettest day: 18.8mm (0.74in) on 21st
Days with rain (>1mm): 16
Max wind gust: 49mph on 16th
Total Sunshine: 124.3 hours (only 61% of normal)

Ne'er cast a clout til May be oot!

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 23 May 2014, 9:10 AM

What a disappointment May has been weatherwise! Normally the sunniest month of the year in the Hebrides with an average of over 200 hours of sunshine, this year we are struggling to even surpass the sunshine total for April... and it's COLD! (a daytime high of only 8.2degC on Wednesday last, which is about the average for early March).

The 24 hours to 8a.m. on Thursday 22nd May recorded 18.8mm (0.74in) of rain - a nice jolly total (as if any of us needed reminding). Bha e gu-math fluich!

Eddy, 23/5/2014, 9:10a.m.


Classic cirrus hydraulic jump over Great Glen

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 16 May 2014, 9:22 AM

A NASA satellite image of Highland Scotland yesterday (16 May 2014) shows a classic hydraulic jump of cirrus being generated after a stable downslope flow into the Great Glen (marked roughly by the line of clear skies running down the centre of image). When this happens, the upper flow suddenly reaches the super-critical point for laminar flow and "jumps" up in the atmosphere (a hydraulic jump), generating a sheath of cirrus - the ice of which appears orange in this enhanced image.

Image courtesy MODIS-NASA.


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Much rain for weekend (17th May)

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 16 May 2014, 9:10 AM

Tomorrow Saturday 17th May is the national holiday of Norway... and in true Bergenese fjordic (west Norway) style... we're gonna get rather wet this weekend.

Expect 2-3 hours of steady rain this afternoon (Friday) accompanied by continuing gusty and strong SW winds, clearing by late evening - but more rain's on the way tomorrow (Saturday). Hopefully it will stay off until the afternoon and end of the Women's 10k run in the Lews Castle Grounds, Stornoway. But expect persistent and possibly heavy rain later in the afternoon and evening however, though winds will fall much lighter,

More rain Sunday, but then turning warm and bright for a few days from late Monday/Tuesday, as winds back south-easterly.

Eddy, 16.5.2014, 9:10am


Fine till Wed - Milder but damper thereafter

Posted by Dr. Eddy Graham on 12 May 2014, 8:26 AM

Weather Forecast for Week Beginning Monday 12th May 2014:

Fine and dry for today (Monday) and tomorrow (Tues), but feeling cool along east-facing coasts with a fresh NW breeze blowing down the Minch.

Milder and warmer from later Tuesday/Wednesday, but increasing cloud by Wednesday bringing periods of mist, drizzle, cloud and mostly light rain (getting heavier by the close of the week) - and freshening SW winds too, perhaps becoming strong SW on W coasts by the end of the week - oh dear!

Eddy, Stornoway, 12/5/2014, 8:30am




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