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April Flatters to Deceive

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The Romans gave this month the Latin name Aprilis. It is thought to come from the verb “aperire”, “to open”. This refers to the time of year trees and flowers begin to bloom.

The normal April maximum temperature in Dublin is about 13 degrees Celsius. August is the month with a similar angle of sunshine. The normal August maximum temperature is 19 degrees. This difference seems surprising, however, this can be explained by different factors. This Irish Sea temperature in April is about 9 degrees and in August it is almost 15 degrees. The sea heats up and cools down much more slowly than the land. The air temperature in April is affected by the cold Irish Sea and also by the cold Atlantic.

Another factor is the approach towards Ireland of cold air which has been building up over the long winter. This comes in the form of anticyclones from Europe, Siberia, Scandinavia and Greenland. This tends to suppress April’s temperature. On the plus side the cold sea and sometimes cold wind leads to good sunshine and also to lower rainfall than at other times of the year. April showers certainly occur but they tend not to amount to a lot of rain. April (mid-spring) is often as sunny as July (mid-summer). July is a lot warmer of course with a maximum temperature close to 20 degrees.

One way that April flatters (promises) to deceive (breaks promises) is when we have a cheerful sunny day. From indoors the weather looks very promising but on stepping outside it feels much colder than it looks. The American poet, Robert Frost, reminds us of this in his poem: “Two Tramps in Mud Time”. He says, “The sun was warm but the wind was chill; You know how it is with an April day”. Brendan McWilliams in his book, “Weather Eye – The Final Year” warms us not to cast clothes off too soon. “Till April is dead, Change not a thread”. Another way that April flatters to deceive is when some warm, sunny days are quickly replaced by much colder unsettled weather. A good example is April 1981 when a sunny, mild and mostly dry period ended on the 24th with the arrival of snow and a temperature of only 5 degrees (about 8 degrees below normal). This ties in with the period called “Scairbhín na gCuac” (“The Cuckoo’s Wind”). It refers to cold weather that can occur at the end of April or beginning of May.

Despite not always living up to peoples expectations April’s afternoon temperature of 13 degrees if combined with good sunshine and light winds is really suitable for outdoor activities. Gardening, building work and hiking are popular and sports can take place easily. A study in Japan from Osaka University seems to back this up. They found respondents were happiest at an outdoor temperature of 14 degrees (late April temperature in Dublin). In Japan walking, jogging and hiking are popular and many Japanese people do routine morning exercises outdoors.

Whatever happens this month, April 2018, let’s hope that “March winds and April showers, bring forth May flowers”.

Denis Torsney