What the Commuter Saw : 30th June 2016

A sky of confusion and contrasts today, though with remarkably little rain, which makes a change. The sky above the Colne Valley weir was dominated by cumulus, but there was a hint of a thin, veil of cirrostratus high above that:
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This continued through to the fields west of Witham:
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…but by the time Abellio Greater Anglia had left Chelmsford and was running us unusually slowly past Galleywood and Billericay, the cumulus congestus clouds were evidently building up and potentially heading for full-blown development of cumulonimbus and the inevitable rain:
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By the time we had reached the Lone Oak east of Chelmsford, the sky seemed to be turning somewhat mad, with cumulus piled upon cumulus, although by the Lone Oak itself there was a hint of blue sky:
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Arriving a while later at Galleons Reach DLR Station, the cumulus had developed into long cloud streets running directly between me and Canary Wharf:
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The view from the UEL Docklands Campus down Royal Albert Dock towards Canary Wharf was dominated by spectacular cumulus cloud streets, but above these ribbons of low cloud there was still a suggestion of a high cirrostratus layer:
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Although the great-crested grebes have now gone from the dock, a shellduck flew past and settled in the middle of the dock:
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Walking back to the DLR that evening, I was struck by the fact that the wild carrot (Daucus carrota) is all coming into flower now, with some still forming unopened umbells of pink and white while adjacent plants are in full bloom, with their characteristic spot right in the centre of the umbell:
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Once on the train from Stratford to Colchester, the clouds around the Lone Pine after Shenfield were simple cumulus, but they were increasing in complexity all the time:
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By the time we’d reached the fields west of Witham the sky was looking increasingly threatening as the cumulus began piling together to create a high, dark cumulonimbus cloud (which usually means rain):
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By Witham the ska was completely cloud-covered and it looked as though rain would at any moment start pouring from the dark grey masses of swirling cloud:
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Then, unexpectedly, a patch of blue sky broke through:
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…which was quickly extinguished by the surrounding roiling clouds…and by the time we had reached the Colne Valley weir again things were looking pretty gloomy once more:
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However, when I continued on from the station to collect daughter from the gym, the adjacent meadow was becoming increasingly bathed in sunshine as the thick layers of cloud headed off eastwards, seemingly at a leisurely pace but actually they must have been moving at quite a speed:
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Consequently and unexpectedly, the day ended with blue skies and a sun-dappled, flower-rich meadow:
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Author: Richard Lindsay

Having worked for 20 years in the UK statutory nature conservation agencies as Peatland Specialist in the Chief Scientist Team, I then moved to the University of East London where I ran the nature conservation degrees for several years. Now I mainly undertake research and support peatland conservation activities, including the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, within UEL's Sustainability Research Institute. I also paint.

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