As I write this the sun is setting on what has been a truly beautiful day. We awoke to the first deep and widespread frost of the year. The BBC weather report claimed an overnight low of 0 degrees C for Durham: the white fields and frozen puddles this morning make me suspect it was much colder! I took a walk (well run – it was far too cold for walking) around my local fields at 8.00am. The journey took me past brambles, rose, rowan and blackthorn that have now given up their autumn harvest. The hawthorn and apple trees still look like they have more fruit to yield. The brambles have long finished, the rowan now fit only for the birds, while there are still a very few sloes left within human reach. These and the hawthorn were covered in a thick frosted coating. When I got home my trainers were still covered in ice they’d picked up from the frozen grass.
We have had cirrus clouds and an almost-clear sky all day. As the sun rose the sky was streaked with salmon pink wisps of cloud. These built and collapsed throughout the day: cirrus clouds are the harbingers of change and never stay still. Usually cirrus thickens, drops, and transforms into rain-bearing stratus. Or it does the reverse: rain clouds disperse, rise, and turn into cirrus: there is a saying that when you see cirrus, it is either about to rain or has just finished raining. (I’m sure I read this in The Cloudspotter’s Guide, but I can’t find my copy to check). Today they have been stuck as cirrus, glimmering with iridescence where they shaded the sun.
Cirrus clouds can make some amazing patterns – mare’s tails and mackerel skies are classic cirrus shapes. This afternoon the cirrus lay in two diagonal layers. The thinner lower layer made it look like an artist had painted a pastel skyscape and then run their fingers through the painting.
It is now almost dark. I can see that the sky is clear and it remains very cold, but that is all about to change as the mild wet weather is predicted to return tomorrow: maybe our cirrus was correctly predicting the rain after all!