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Kevin Myers: Sudden thaw was the great and final miracle of 2010

A truly amazing event occurred on the night of December 27. Ireland went to bed covered in at least a foot of snow and ice, and awoke the next morning with the snow all gone.

Temperatures that had been -15C soared to +10C that afternoon: a 25-degree temperature change in 24 hours: roughly a degree for every hour, the equivalent of leaping two full seasons in a single day.

What happened in that miraculous period was probably one of the greatest energy transferences in Ireland of recent decades. Thousands of billions of tonnes of packed snow and ice were turned to water in just hours. Maybe someone with a very clever computer can work out the calorific exchange that took place; all I know is that when our pipes burst last winter, and I had to melt snow for domestic purposes, it took about 20 minutes on a gas ring to turn a mere saucepan of the stuff just into cold water.

What this should teach us is the most important scientific word of all: modesty. We are nothing before the great forces of the world. This is something most scientists understand -- and meteorologists, in particular. They are the most obvious face of science, whose correct forecasts we take for granted, and whose errors we celebrate with triumph. For weather is probably still the area of greatest scientific voodoo in popular culture: yearly, we hear about the worms in the Po Valley burying deeper than ever before, or the Kiwi shaman whose forecast -- based on the growth of his toenails or the colour of his snot -- are (or so the folklore has it) extraordinarily accurate.

It's not difficult to work out why this is. Meteorology is the one branch of science that we consult daily on this moody meridian; but who would bother attending to the weather-forecasts in Uganda or Thule, where constancy is a seasonal norm? Boredom, thy name is predictability. But in Ireland, we can get a temperature leap that is the equivalent of going from freezing point to a hot summer's afternoon within a 24-hour span. And look at the headlines about such a transformation, caused by an energy release that was probably greater than that from 1,000 nuclear bombs. The headlines? That's the point. There were none.

Weather is one of the most complex events in the world, yet everyone has a theory about it. Yet we do not have popular theories about Google search engines, or Airbus fly-by-wire, which are almost like clothes-pegs in comparison to the Apollo that is meteorology, at whose dark altar worship such minor gods as vulcanology, oceanography, thermography and kitchensinkography. Then throw in eco-politics -- and is it any wonder that we have the worldwide hysteria over "global warming", which also goes by the pseudonym "climate-change" whenever the evidence is a little contradictory?

Because weather people are intelligent -- and I instantly agree that the Met Eireann boffins have brains in their feet and their armpits, as well as the usual locations -- doesn't mean that they're not prone to ideology. Were not a sizeable section of Cambridge undergraduates dedicated Marxists? Consider all those Soviet spies working in Los Alamos. And think of all the brilliant scientists and philosophers of Victorian Britain, monarchists or imperialists almost to a man.

One clear sign of an ideology is the belief in a "solution" to man's problems. Global warmers/climate changers have such a solution to their worldly terrors: wind power. But this is just voodoo. On Sunday afternoon, wind-generated power in Ireland provided just 67 of the 3255 megawatts required: that is 2pc. During the cold spell of December -- the coldest in Britain for 120 years -- wind-power in Ireland was achieving about half that derisory level: yet the official Green scenario for Ireland is that by 2020, up to 40pc of Irish power will come from wind.

How do such idiotic prognostications ever get spoken, never mind believed? It is a simple axiom for the eastern seaboard of the Atlantic: the colder the weather, the less wind there'll be. Yet we are building vast wind-farms to harvest moving air at a time of year when there is almost none; therefore, to maximise the productivity of what little wind there is, we shall have to erect endless windmill ranches with a generative potential that is a huge multiple of what they'll actually be delivering. Paid for, how, please? And how much carbon dioxide will be created in the manufacture of these gigantic but largely motionless axial-sculptures?

Both global warmers and GW sceptics have been using these past two winters in different ways as proof of their theories: happily, their arguments are beyond me. But the night of December 27 should tell us of the humiliating insignificance of man: for nothing that science has ever been able to devise throughout its entire history could match nature's astounding achievement over those few hours. Between dusk and dawn, a frozen island -- from Carrauntoohil to the Antrim Glens -- was completely cleared of an armour-plated coating of snow and ice; and then, before the following sunset, a moth-infested taste of springtime was briefly conjured from out the deep midwinter.

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That, now, was the great and final miracle of 2010.

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