World Weather

From June 2022 to June 2023, the LRB has been collaborating with the World Weather Network, a constellation of weather stations set up by 28 arts organisations in oceans, deserts, mountains, farmland, rainforests, lighthouses and cities around the world. Artists and writers have been sharing observations, stories, reflections and images responding to their local weather and the effects of the climate emergency, with a new report from an LRB contributor about one of the WWN locations appearing every other Friday on the LRB blog. Read all the dispatches here.   

The Singing Glaciers of Svalbard

Sam Kinchin-Smith, 30 June 2023

Earlier this year, two ice cores 125 metres long were drilled out of the Holtedahlfonna icefield and flown to the Ice Memory Sanctuary in Antarctica, so that climatic history can still be traced through Svalbard’s glaciers even after they’ve disappeared completely.

The Rivers of Dhaka

Fatema Ahmed, 16 June 2023

Dhaka’s growth is not the result of a population explosion. What drives two thousand people to move to the capital every day is climate change.

The weather in London abdicates

Iain Sinclair, 2 June 2023

I think it was on the day of the Westminster coronation, a sorry stroll through a resolutely unfestive city, that I realised there was no more weather. That reflex topic of British conversation had finally abdicated. Weather had withdrawn the accepted metaphors on which civic and poetic life depend. The ancient bond between king, subjects and sky was dissolved. If our former intimacy with barely perceptible shifts in atmospheric pressure was lost, we were done. Also lost. Divorced from our most ancient sense of self, we had no further business in this alienated metropolitan sprawl. And there could be no functioning ecology under such a dull and unyielding mantle. A clammy and persistent duvet of grey negatives separated us from the revelation of migrating cloud streets.

The Clouds over Amsterdam

Clare Bucknell, 12 May 2023

In marine painting of the Dutch Golden Age, weather isn’t merely a backdrop. Skies are characterful, vehicles for drama and mood. Dark clouds, towering above ships, may be warnings; windless air and slack sails can suggest calm, exhaustion or frustration. But weather is also an opportunity for verisimilitude.

The Fog in Lima

Valeria Costa-Kostritsky, 28 April 2023

The city is nicknamed ‘la gris’ (‘the grey’) because of the fog, caused by the hot coastal air mixing with cool, moist winds from the Pacific. In the warm months, it’s a strangely bright fog. For what it’s worth, I love this weather.

Shades of Grey in Bilbao

Juan Navarro, 14 April 2023

Bilbao is the only city I know where colours compete in the mind and the winners vary depending on who you ask. Older people would go for grey and black, the wide palette of shades cast by the soot and murk from factory chimneys and the ships that used to ply the River Nervión.

Fifty Degrees in the Persian Gulf

Tom Stevenson, 24 March 2023

You can’t escape the heat by dodging between patches of shade. It’s more a case of driving between climate-controlled buildings, and better not to move around at all. Around the Persian Gulf, fifty-degree days are no longer aberrations. In Iraq and Kuwait they have become routine.

Cyclone Gabrielle

Melody Nixon, 10 March 2023

The night Cyclone Gabrielle hit, we were safe in our sixteenth-floor apartment in Pōneke Wellington, far above the waters, in the space between land and sky. But three hours’ drive to the north, a tsunami of rainwater roared down from the hills and mountains.

The Rainmakers of the American Southwest

Meg Bernhard, 24 February 2023

I learned of the cloud seeders in Red Rock Canyon from a friend’s husband. It was late autumn in Beatty, Nevada, a windswept town two hours north of Las Vegas, and we’d just returned from a hike in Death Valley. ‘Have you heard of these people trying to manufacture clouds in Red Rock?’ he asked me. He was sceptical, and slightly horrified.

Winter on the Avalon Peninsula

Geoff Mann, 10 February 2023

On the morning of Friday, 13 January it was -20°C in St John’s, eight inches of snow on the ground. By Saturday noon it was +12°C, raining on and off and blowing hard enough at the top of Signal Hill that it was difficult to keep your eyes open. On Tuesday, it was 13°C and almost sunny all the way from Heart’s Delight through Heart’s Desire and up to Heart’s Content, but 6°C in Harbour Grace, the fog so thick you couldn’t see the end of the wharf.

The New Weather

Anne Carson, 27 January 2023

To Stykkishólmur to report on the weather you go.Have to borrow a big car, special tyres, four-wheel drive. You know how weather in Stykkishólmur can be complex. You lived there once in 2009.Eked-out sunrise. You write this down in your notebook, wondering if eked is a word. Pink as a rinsed dishrag, you add, then cross it out.

Halcyon Days in the Saronic Gulf

A.E. Stallings, 13 January 2023

There’s a term in Greek for a spell of fine weather in the middle of winter, the halcyon days (alkyonides meres), after the kingfisher, which, according to legend, must nest and raise its brood floating on calm waters. These days tend to occur for a week or two from mid-January, but can start any time from the solstice through to 15 February. Perhaps for that reason, the exceptionally mild weather over the twelve days of Christmas did not call forth the same climate anxiety as, for instance, the heat waves of the summer, and the ever worsening and elongating fire season. It’s just the halcyon days, we tell ourselves, and marvel at the blue skies and soft spring-like air.

The Acorn Harvest in Iraqi Kurdistan

Harriet Rix, 9 December 2022

In the village of Sidakan, close to Iraq’s borders with Iran and Turkey, low mist is welcomed as a deterrent to drones; at night, low cloud is welcomed as a deterrent to planes. Commentators watch the patterns of flight cancellation – three flights cancelled on the 7th for Turkish Airlines; flights cancelled between the 12th and the 18th for Austrian Airways – and try to predict which country, Iran or Turkey, will attempt an attack on ‘their’ Kurdish separatist group during that time. The danger zone covers all the villages in the mountains, and maps closely onto the distribution of oaks in Iraq.

The Floods in South-East Australia

Chloe Hooper, 25 November 2022

In the beginning, the rain was welcome. After years of drought and bushfire, the thrumming on the roof brought hope. Our plants resembled parched extras in a desert shoot-out. Rain sounded like the cavalry arriving just in time.

The Drought in Turin

Rees Nicolas, 11 November 2022

I arrived in Turin on a dull February morning to find a city preoccupied with meteorological portents. There’d been no rain or snow since early December: a dry spell that would last 110 days all told. There were unseasonal wildfires on Monte Musinè, which had all but lost its winter coat of white, with the more distant Alps following suit. Hydrographic readings at Lago Maggiore were low for the time of year, and trending sharply downwards. Most worrying, the River Po was unusually lethargic, and there were whispers of a drought ravaging Italy’s northern breadbasket come the summer. The climate movement, however, after two years of pandemic-imposed hiatus, was beginning to revive.

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