Wet and dull July

31 07 2015

July 2015 was cool, dull and wet across the UK according to provisional Met Office statistics for 1-29 July.

The month began with a record-breaking heatwave, with hot, humid air moving in from the continent.  36.7 °C was recorded at Heathrow 1 July, the highest recorded temperature in the UK since August 2003.

However the rest of the month has been characterized by cooler and often more unsettled conditions, particularly in the north, as a result of a westerly Atlantic air flow.  Rainfall has been above average in most areas, particularly across parts of East Anglia, central and eastern Scotland.

MeanTemp JulyJuly Rainfall

 

minimum temperature mean temperature sunshine duration precipitation
Jul 1 – 29 2015 Act (°C)   Diff from avg (°C)   Act (°C) Diff from avg (°C) Act (hrs) % of avg Act (mm) % of avg
UK 10.4 -0.5 14.5 -0.6 151.3 88 104.5 134
England 11.4 -0.3 16.0 -0.3 174.8 90 80.0 128
Wales 11.0 -0.1 14.6 -0.6 159.2 89 110.4 119
Scotland 8.7 -0.9 12.3 -0.9 117.2 83 142.5 143
N Ireland 9.6 -1.1 13.4 -1.3 112.0 80 110.9 137

 

The south-east has seen some drier and more settled weather with temperatures near average, although there has also been some changeable weather here with over 20mm of rain falling on the 24 July and some cooler temperatures and strong winds on 26 and 27 July.

Elsewhere temperatures have been below average, particularly in the west and north, and it has been a rather dull month with sunshine totals being below average across much of the country.

Data from the Met Office’s UK digitised records dating back to 1910. You can explore our climate data on our website. Clearly these are early month figures and the statistics at the end of the month will change somewhat.





Are we set for record July rainfall?

27 07 2015

While July has seen a good deal of dry and bright weather, we’ve also seen a few periods of heavy rainfall.

Whether through intense thundery downpours or prolonged periods of rain such as seen in southern parts of the UK on Friday last week, these events have dramatically pushed up the rainfall totals for the month.

This has led to speculation about whether this July could be on course to be the wettest on record. However, a quick look at the statistics shows that while it has certainly been wet, we’re unlikely to break any national records this month.

Provisional rainfall statistics for July 2015 so far suggest that with 5 days of the month remaining much of the country has already received close to or above average rainfall for the month – but we’re some way off breaking the records for each country.

Table showing rainfall figures so far this month compared to average and the records:

Rainfall 1-26 Jul 2015 Current record July 1981 – 2010 average
UK 93 mm 146 mm (2009) 78 mm
England 70 mm 129 mm (2009) 63 mm
Scotland 128 mm 186 mm (1940) 100 mm
Wales 102 mm 241 mm (1939) 93 mm
Northern Ireland 95 mm 186 mm (1936) 81 mm

The wettest regions compared to average have so far this month been eastern Scotland, East Anglia and the south west of England. If records are going to be broken they will most likely be localised rather than national records.

Even those regional records are far from a sure thing. The weather is generally improving for most parts of the country and high pressure, bringing more settled conditions, is expected to build towards the back end of the week.

This means the last few days of this month are unlikely to add big rainfall numbers to the totals we have so far.

Map showing 1-26 July 2015 rainfall compared to the 1981-2010 average. Most places have received their full-month average (shown in white), while the darker blue areas have seen significantly more than average already.

Map showing 1-26 July 2015 rainfall compared to the 1981-2010 average. Most places have received their full-month average (shown in white), while the darker blue areas have seen significantly more than average already.





Met Office Forecasting Experiment

27 07 2015

Forecasting the weather accurately relies on a combination of cutting edge forecasting models developed by our research scientists and the skill of interpreting these models by expert meteorologists.

We’ve recently completed a “Forecasting Experiment” which brought together our research and operational expertise for two weeks.

The aim of this was to intensively evaluate and develop our current and experimental models, forecasting techniques, new scientific products and the interaction between them. The overall aim was to evaluate our forecasting capability so we can identify ways to continue improving the way we do things.

Experts from a range of backgrounds analyse model output in the 'Forecast Experiment'

Experts from a range of backgrounds analyse model output in the ‘Forecast Experiment’

We have a number of computer models which can represent weather processes which occur on ever smaller scales.

These models cover different areas of the globe: from the entire world, down to a model which is confined to the UK area and even an experimental model which looks at the weather over an area the size of a large city.

All these models are incredibly complex and have strengths and weaknesses which can be difficult to determine.

By bringing together specialists with considerably different skills and experience in the Forecasting Experiment, it is easier to identify characteristics of the models. This can then inform better interpretation of all the information available to forecasters and can also help with planning improvements in future generations of the models.

The Forecasting Experiment this year was focused on summer weather over the UK. The experiment ran over the end of June and beginning of July.

The first week was characterised by a succession of weather fronts moving eastwards from the North Atlantic over the UK. The second week was dominated by very warm air from Spain moving north across the UK and bringing the hottest July day on record (36.7 °C at Heathrow) with severe thunderstorms to much of the UK, especially the North of England and Scotland.

This mixture of weather types allowed researchers to test models and techniques under a whole range of summer conditions, including high impact weather.

Adrian Semple,who led the experiment, said: “Not only did this experiment promote an exchange of skills, knowledge and experience between the participants, but it also provided a unique environment in which we could critically assess the way in which we produce our forecasts. The experiment will therefore have immediate effects as skills and knowledge are shared and spread throughout the Met Office, but the results can also be used to influence our longer term scientific research and improve future forecasting models.





Has 2015 really been that windy?

24 07 2015

We’ve recently had several questions from the public asking whether this year has been particularly windy compared to others and if there’s any explanation for this. There’s lots of ways at looking at these questions, but the quick answer from our National Climate Information Centre is that – yes, it has been windy this year and a lack of high pressure seems to be to blame. Here Mike Kendon, climate information scientist at the Met Office, takes a detailed look at the questions.

How many calm days?

One way of looking at this is to consider how many days there have been which have not been windy – i.e. calm days – and how this compares with the historical record. The bar chart below counts the number of days each year, for the UK overall, where at least 20 weather stations have recorded a maximum gust speed of 10 Knots (11 mph) or less. This is equivalent to, at most, a gentle breeze, while 20 stations would indicate such conditions fairly widespread for at least 24 hours.

2015 thus far has seen only 8 such days; this being the fewest number of calm days across the UK for at least 20 years – but bearing in mind this covers less than 7 of 12 months of the year so far. However, more notably none of these days have fallen in May, June or July so far.

Chart showing the number of days per year where at least 20 UK weather stations have recorded a maximum gust speed <= 10 Kt (11 mph). 2015 data up to 22 July.

Chart showing the number of days per year where at least 20 UK weather stations have recorded a maximum gust speed <= 10 Kt (11 mph). 2015 data up to 22 July.

Pressure patterns

Calm days are typically associated with areas of high pressure, which normally bring dry, settled conditions during summer and cold, frosty conditions in winter – but common to both seasons often light winds. Areas of high pressure tend to block the prevailing westerly airflow across the UK. However, the variability of our climate means that some years see more days of high pressure, others see fewer such days.

The first map below shows the mean sea level pressure relative to average across the North Atlantic for the period January to June 2015. Over this 6-month period the pressure has been lower than normal to the north of Scotland but higher than normal to the south-west, resulting in a predominant westerly airflow over the UK, meaning that our weather has often been windy. Although during 2015 there have been some periods of high pressure, for example during March and early April, they have been relatively infrequent, particularly from May onwards. The pressure difference shown on the map between Iceland and the Azores is known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index.

Pressure anomaly (difference from 1981-2010 average) in mb for the period January to June 2015 and January to June 2011, based on NCEP / NCAR Reanalysis data. Image provided by the NOAA/ESRL Physical Sciences Division.

Pressure anomaly (difference from 1981-2010 average) in mb for the period January to June 2015 and January to June 2011, based on NCEP / NCAR Reanalysis data. Image provided by the NOAA/ESRL Physical Sciences Division.

Rainfall patterns

A westerly airflow across the UK is generally associated with low-pressure systems from the Atlantic bringing windy conditions and rain-bearing fronts. Since this is the UK’s prevailing wind direction, the north-west is, on average, much wetter than the south-east, being most exposed to this direction. In addition, rainfall here is further increased due to the effect of hills and mountains.

During 2015, the persistent westerly airflow has resulted in this north-west / south-east contrast in rainfall patterns being exaggerated. For example, Achnagart, a weather station in the West Highlands of Scotland recorded 2082mm of rain in the period from 1st January to 22 July 2015, compared to 237mm for the same period at St James’s Park, Central London – 9 times as much.

The map below shows rainfall totals compared to average from January to June 2015. So, this rainfall pattern is consistent with this westerly weather type, absence of prolonged spells of high pressure, and relatively windy nature of 2015 so far.

Rainfall January to June 2015 as % of 1981-2010 average for that period.

Rainfall January to June 2015 as % of 1981-2010 average for that period.





More warm weather this week – but what’s in store for the summer?

13 04 2015

This week is set to see some unseasonably warm weather for parts of the UK – with temperatures expected to climb to the low to mid-20s Celsius in the south on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Warm air flowing up from the south west will combine with high pressure, bringing settled conditions and sunny spells for many.

Warmest days of the year so far

This week’s above average temperatures follow on from a similar spell last week, which saw temperatures top out at 21.9C at St James’s Park in London on Friday.

This was the ‘warmest day of the year so far’, but It looks like Tuesday and Wednesday will top that – which is to be expected as we head through spring and edge closer to the start of summer.

Unfortunately, the weather we get in April doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about the kind of summer we can expect. We’re still in the midst of spring, so it’s far too early to say what the months of June, July and August may hold.

Summer ‘heatwave’ speculation

That hasn’t stopped speculation about heatwaves, the warmest summer ever and record temperatures in the media. Some stories cite our three month outlook for contingency planners as proof of the impending heatwave, but this is in no way an accurate reflection of what it shows.

The outlook shows probabilities attached to different scenarios for temperature and rainfall over the whole three-month period it covers. This is useful for those who use probabilities to plan ahead on longer-timescales, but not very useful for deciding where and when to go on your UK summer holiday, for example.

What does the longer outlook show?

Our current three month outlook does show that above average temperatures are more likely than below average temperatures for the April-June period. The outlook is essentially the scientific equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race and, just like a horse race, the favourite doesn’t always win.

It’s also important to note that above average temperatures over a three-month period could come about in a variety of ways in terms of actual weather – we can still see warmer than average temperatures when it’s cloudy and wet, for example. Also, even in an above average three-months not all individual months would need to be above average.

This just reinforces the point that the contingency planners outlook doesn’t tell us what specific weather we are going to see at a specific location. For the best information on the weather ahead, people should use the Met Office’s 5-day weather forecast supplemented with our 30-day outlook.

By keeping up to date with the latest forecast, you’ll always have the most up-to-date and accurate view of the weather in store for the UK.





Air quality issues in the UK – what’s really going on?

19 03 2015

There has been some media coverage about air pollution issues in the UK today, so what’s really going on?

It is true to say that since Tuesday this week the UK has seen elevated levels of air pollution. This is mainly due to high pressure dominating over the country, which means a lack of wind and atmospheric circulation which would normally disperse pollution.

This allows pollution from things like cars and industry to build up in the lower atmosphere, affecting our air quality. This means much of the pollution we are seeing is due to home-grown sources, but with some contribution of pollution from the continent.

As you can see from the current air quality forecast on Defra’s air quality pages, whilst most areas of the country are seeing moderate or low levels of pollutants today, some areas are seeing high levels.

The situation is improving, however, with air quality levels expected to return to a normal level over the next couple of days.

Levels we have seen over the past few days and today are by no means unusual – we expect to see conditions similar to this several times a year.

The air pollution is also nowhere near record levels – in fact, we saw higher levels than this during a period of poor air quality at about the same time last year.

It’s also worth noting that the current air quality issues don’t fit any scientific definition of smog – which is a term which describes a mixture of smoke and fog.

There’s no fog around at the moment and smoke would only be a tiny fraction of any contribution to the poorer air quality we’re currently seeing.

The main effects of the current conditions will be felt by individuals with existing heart or respiratory conditions, who may experience increased symptoms. More health advice is available online on Defra’s air quality pages.

Throughout the next couple of days, the Met Office will continue to work closely with Defra, Public Health England and Public Health Wales to ensure they have the most up-to-date and accurate air quality forecasts in order to provide relevant advice to the public.





‘Super tides’, the weather and coastal flood risk

20 02 2015

UPDATED 27/02/2015 – this blog has been updated under the section ‘So what are ‘super tides” with the help of the National Oceanography Centre.

In this joint blog from the Environment Agency and the Met Office, we look at the issue of so-called ‘super tides’.

There has been a lot of media coverage about the potential impact of so-called ‘super tides’ which are due from today (Friday, 20 February) through to Monday.

So what are ‘super tides’?

Tides are governed by the gravitational pull of the moon and, to a lesser extent, the sun. Because the sun and moon go through different alignment, this affects the size of the tides.

When the gravitational pull of the sun and moon combine, we see larger than average tides – known as spring tides. When the gravitational pulls offset each other, we get smaller tides known as neap tides. We see two periods of spring and neap tides roughly every month.

Yet some spring tides are higher than others. This is because tidal forces are stengthened if the moon is closest to Earth in its elliptical orbit (astronomers call this perigee). Tide forces are also enhanced when the sun and the moon are directly over the equater. For ths Sun this happens on or around 21 March or September (the equinoxes). Spring tides are always higher at this time of year. The moon’s orbit also takes it above and below the equator over a period of 27.2 days. Just as with the Sun, the tide generating forces are at their greatest when the moon is directly overhead at the equator.

Very large spring tides occur when these astronomical factors coincide. Approximately every 4.5 years the moon is closest to the Earth, and is also overhead at the equator, at either the March or September equinox.

In some places, these extreme tidal conditions can cause water levels to be 0.5m higher than a normal spring tide, but the weather can have a greater impact than even these largest of tides

What is the role of the weather in sea levels?

It’s important to realise that just because we are expecting big astronomical tides over the next few days, these won’t cause the highest sea levels we’ve seen – even in the last few years. That’s because the weather can have a much bigger impact on sea level than the 18-year tidal cycle.

Strong winds can pile up water on coastlines, and low pressure systems can also cause a localised rise in sea level. Typically the difference in water level caused by the weather can be between 20 and 30cm, but it can be much bigger.

On the 5th December 2013, for example, the weather created a storm surge that increased the water level by up to 2 metres. Although an estimated 2,800 properties flooded, more than 800,000 properties were protected from flooding thanks to more than 2,800 kilometres of flood schemes. The Environment Agency also provided 160,000 warnings to homes and businesses to give people vital time to prepare.

This highlights the importance of the Met Office and the Environment Agency working together to look at the combined impact of astronomical tides, wind, low pressure and waves on flood schemes to assess the potential impacts for communities around our coast.

Will we see coastal flooding this weekend?

Given the height of the tides there may be some localised flooding. Weather isn’t playing a large part in water levels over the next few days, although strong winds on Monday are likely to generate some large waves and push up sea levels slightly. This is nothing unusual for winter. You can see more about what weather to expect with the Met Office’s forecasts and severe weather warnings.

The Environment Agency and the Met Office are working together to closely monitor the situation, and the Environment Agency will issue flood alerts and warnings as required.

In the Humber Estuary, for example, we are expecting total water levels of between 4.20-4.39 metres – well below record levels of 5.22m.

John Curtin, Environment Agency’s Director of Incident Management and Resilience, said:  “We are monitoring the situation closely with the Met Office and will issue flood alerts and warnings as required.

“It’s possible we could see some large waves and spray and urge people to take care near coastal paths and promenades and not to drive through flood water.

“However, we can only get a warning to you if you’ve signed up to our free service. People can also see their flood risk and keep up to date with the latest situation on the GOV.UK website at https://www.gov.uk/check-if-youre-at-risk-of-flooding or follow @EnvAgency and #floodaware on Twitter for the latest flood updates.”

For those in Scotland, you can see flood updates for your area on the SEPA website here.

For those in Wales, you can see flood updates in English and Welsh on the Natural Resources Wales website here.

You can also see John explaining the Environment Agency’s flood warnings here:





One year on – A look back to last winter

17 02 2015

This weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the Valentine’s Day storm, which also marked the end of a particularly stormy three-month period. A new review article – ‘From months to minutes – exploring the value of high-resolution rainfall observation and prediction during the UK winter storms of 2013/2014’ – written by 16 Met Office co-authors reviews the accuracy of our forecasting and warning of severe weather during winter 2013-14, and assesses its performance.

The paper concludes that the “prolonged period of high impact weather experienced in the United Kingdom during the winter of 2013/14 was very well forecast by the operational tools available across space and time scales.”

Here Huw Lewis, the paper’s lead author, and Derrick Ryall, Head of the Public Weather Service, look at the extreme weather last year and the role of the Met Office in communicating severe weather through the National Severe Weather Warning Service.

Analysis chart 1200 GMT 26 January 2014

Analysis chart 1200 GMT 26 January 2014

Winter 2013/2014 in the United Kingdom was remarkable. The country was battered by at least 12 major winter storms over a three month period and was officially assessed as the stormiest period that the United Kingdom has experienced for at least 20 years.

The series of storms resulted in the wettest winter in almost 250 years (according to the England and Wales precipitation series from 1766), significantly wetter than the previous wettest winter in 1914/1915.

Snapshot of UK rain radar surface rainfall rate for 2200 GMT on 23 December 2013

Snapshot of UK rain radar surface rainfall rate for 2200 GMT on 23 December 2013

The extreme weather caused widespread flooding throughout Southern England and coastal damage – most notably in the South West and Norfolk coasts. The impact of the severe winter storms on individuals, businesses and the government were substantial, including several fatalities, widespread power cuts and damaged infrastructure.

Recent advances in forecasting, technology and the scientific developments in meteorology have been considerable. These developments and improvements in accuracy mean that a four-day weather forecast is as accurate as a one-day forecast was just thirty years ago. During the course of last winter, the Met Office was able to use these forecasts to warn of any severe weather well in advance. In the case of the St Jude’s Day storm at the end of October 2013 warnings went out to the Government and the public five days before the storm even existed.

rainfall

As the accuracy of weather forecasts has evolved, so has the communication of the potential impacts of severe weather. The National Severe Weather Warning Service enables more ‘weather decisions’ which in turn help to minimise the consequences of severe weather. The Met Office was at the heart of the government response to the storms, providing advice on weather impacts through the National Severe Weather Warning Service and Civil Contingency Advisors. The Met Office also worked very closely with both the national and regional media, who in turn played a key role in ensuring that the public were fully informed about the potential impacts of any up-coming weather.

In addition to the Public Weather Service, commercial partners and customers were also provided with detailed updates throughout the period in order for them to plan effectively for logistical issues. Together, these advanced warnings helped authorities, businesses and individuals to be better prepared to take mitigating actions.

Driving further improvements in accuracy and therefore reducing the lead time and increasing the detail of severe weather warnings is one of the Met Office’s key priorities . The ultimate aim is to improve the potential for users to plan preventative measures for severe weather events much further ahead. Underpinning all of these developments is a continuing programme of scientific research and access to enhanced supercomputing over the next few years.





Very strong winds recorded over northern parts of the UK

9 01 2015

As forecast by the Met Office, a powerful low pressure system passed to the north of the UK in the early hours of this morning bringing exceptionally strong winds in places.

Two low level stations recorded wind speeds of over 100mph, with the gust recorded at Stornoway being the joint strongest recorded at the site (the other gust at that speed was recorded on 12 February 1962).

While the winds have now dropped significantly, it will stay windy through today in many parts and gusts will increase in strength once again tonight as another low pressure system is set to affect northern parts of the country. You can see detail on this on our forecast and warnings pages.

Below are some of the maxiumum gust speeds recorded during the first storm, between 10pm last night and 9am this morning.

Date and time Station Area Speed (mph)
09/01/2015 03:00 STORNOWAY AIRPORT WESTERN ISLES 113
09/01/2015 03:00 LOCH GLASCARNOCH ROSS & CROMARTY 110
09/01/2015 04:00 ALTNAHARRA SUTHERLAND 97
09/01/2015 06:00 WICK AIRPORT CAITHNESS 93
09/01/2015 03:00 ALTBEA ROSS & CROMARTY 90
09/01/2015 01:00 EDINBURGH BLACKFORD HILL MID-LOTHIAN 90
09/01/2015 00:00 SOUTH UIST RANGE WESTERN ISLES 90
09/01/2015 05:00 KINBRACE SUTHERLAND 87
09/01/2015 01:00 SKYE WESTERN ISLES 86
09/01/2015 07:00 KIRKWALL ORKNEY 86

The strongest wind in England was at High Bradfield, in South Yorkshire, which saw a gust of 76 mph at 1am this morning.

In Wales, the strongest gust was at Aberdaron, Gwynedd, with 76mph at 11pm last night.

For Northern Ireland, the strongest was 70mph at Killowen, County Down, at 10pm last night.

Winds are almost always stronger at our high level weather stations (those that are sited at 500 metres of altitude or higher), which are also often very exposed.  For this reason the winds from those sites are unlikely to reflect what the vast majority of people are experiencing. Bearing that in mind, the strongest gusts from the high level sites are quoted below for reference:

Date and time Station Area Height (metres) Speed (mph)
09/01/2015 04:00 CAIRNGORM SUMMIT INVERNESS-SHIRE 1237 140
09/01/2015 00:00 AONACH MOR INVERNESS-SHIRE 1130 129
09/01/2015 04:00 BEALACH NA BA ROSS & CROMARTY 773 124
09/01/2015 05:00 GREAT DUN FELL CUMBRIA 847 107
09/01/2015 05:00 GLEN OGLE PERTHSHIRE 564 102




Extreme global weather

5 01 2015

The UK may be experiencing what looks likely to be a milder than average winter but other parts of the globe are struggling against some extreme weather conditions.

Middle East

Heavy snow is expected to affect large parts of Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and SW Russia early this week. As the cold conditions spread east later in the week, strong to gale force winds and heavy snow are expected across more eastern parts of the Mediterranean.

This will lead to the Middle East seeing temperatures 10 or 15C below normal for the time of year. For example, overnight temperatures could fall to -10C in Syria by mid week, with daytime temperatures struggling to rise above freezing.

This is likely to have a significant impact on refugees and the humanitarian aid agencies in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, with problems enhanced by the threat of frozen water supplies. Although overnight temperatures of -5 to -10C are expected, these values may well fall much lower if there is snow cover.

North America and Canada

Large areas of the USA and Canada are experiencing very cold conditions, with the threat of heavy snowfall across some parts over the coming days.

The eastward movement of a cold front over the weekend has dragged very cold air down from the arctic. Temperatures across parts of Canada have fallen to -30C, and widely across North America, daytime temperatures have ranged between 0 and -6C, with the bitterly cold conditions enhanced by strong winds.

As well as the low temperatures, some parts have seen heavy snowfall, such as the Pacific Northwest and areas to the east of the Great Lakes.

Further heavy snowfall is expected this week, particularly down-wind of the Great Lakes due to “lake effect” snow. This is caused when cold flows across relatively warm bodies of water such as the Great Lakes. The air rises in strong convective currents which creates clouds and heavy precipitation. In these very cold conditions, the moisture in the clouds will fall as snow.

Lake Superior (top left) and Michigan (centre) can be seen generating 'lake effect' snow. Provided by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE

Lake Superior (top left) and Michigan (centre) can be seen generating ‘lake effect’ snow. Provided by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE

The significance of this is highlighted by snowfall projections over the coming days. Lake Ontario, the easternmost of the Great Lakes with a surface area of 18,960 km2, is expected to bring narrow bands of heavy snow to areas east of the lake. These narrow bands could generate 2-3 feet of fresh snow over the next 24-36 hours causing significant disruption.

Whilst the freezing temperatures are expected to last throughout the week, temperatures may recover slightly through the weekend.

Will the US weather affect the UK?

The cold conditions will have the effect of strengthening the jet stream, which will move close to the UK over the coming days. This will bring unsettled conditions through this week, with spells of wet and windy weather, particularly across northwestern parts of the country. However, it will be mild, particularly towards the end of the working week when daytime temperatures could reach around 14C.

There is the potential for the remnants of this cold air to move eastwards across the Atlantic to affect the UK over the weekend. However, the airmass will become heavily modified by the Gulf Stream, and there is little risk of the extreme temperatures over North America affecting the UK.








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