Relationship between climate and human activity in upland moors and valleys

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Last updated: April 7, 2019

The reasons why human activity has developed in these upland moors and valleys are due to a variety of physical factors. The moorland and valley areas are generally high ranging from 200 to 300 metres in height. The relief is relatively flat and can be undulating as found in the Peak District, Dartmoor, Brecon Beacons and in the Southern Uplands of Scotland. The soils are generally poor, thin and weak in granular composition and are usually vegetated with wild plants and grasses. Agricultural activities such as hill sheep farming in Exmoor have developed. Only the hardy sheep are able to tolerate the weather conditions found in these areas.

Also tourist visitor numbers have increased in recent years, due to greater a greater interest in outdoor exhibitions of organised groups, professional and amateur hikers as well as the general public, therefore encouraging the need for tourist facilities. Roads and motorways have been built to provide access through these terrains, for examples the A684 motorway that passes through the Pennines to Yorkshire from Lancastershire. Furthermore organisations such as the Forestry Commission have converted many upland areas into forests as found in the Flow Country in Scotland and on many of the flanks of the Pennines.Climate affects human activity in a variety of ways in these areas.

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Man is better equipped to tolerate high temperatures than cold temperatures. Tourists who take to the moors must be therefore prepared for the unexpected climate fluctuations that can occur there, for example what seems like a calm morning may develop into a heavy shower of rain in the afternoon. The preparation before going to upland areas would be ultimately taking the appropriate clothing. Factors such as rain, limited light and wind chill (dry air) can exaggerate coldness producing what feels like to the human bodily functions as harsh weather.Agricultural activities are limited to only select farming types that can endure the atmospheric conditions. Arable farming is reliant on climate and is consequently unsuitable in these areas due to the short growing seasons, which inevitably lowers the yield. However in the northeast of Scotland, crops such as oats can be grown in these conditions with great difficulty. A great capital investment is required to make the soils fertile using fertilisers and machinery.

Although frequent rain and strong westerly winds remove the top soils that cause soil erosion.Farming is also limited due to the aspect of the slopes and the time of day. Southern and easterly facing slopes receive more hours of sunlight and higher temperatures, whereas northern and westerly facing slopes receive the opposite conditions. For instance in the United Kingdom, the sun rises in the east, therefore the east facing slopes receive more solar radiation earlier in the day, where as the west facing slopes receive the light later.

Also hill sheep farming is affected by climate. Only hardy animals are able to withstand and tolerate the conditions due to their bodily adaptations.Climate can also determine the time at which the sheep must be brought in as in some occasions when the conditions are worsened the sheep would be brought in earlier in the year.

Climate can have adverse reactions to man made constructions such as roads. The cold winters produce frost, which break up the road surfaces, as the materials used as are non-resistant. Roads influence the incidence of fog, ground frost and rain. Fog is more likely to occur as low and patches of clouds, whereas frost develops into frost hollows. As a result these factors create difficult driving conditions, which may become hazardous at greater intensities.

Human activity affects climate in a variety of ways in these areas. Ways in which man’s activities are affecting the climate is by the increasing amounts of hydroscopic dust contents of the surrounding area, through pollution from wind blown soil from agricultural land, local settlements and noxious fumes from the combustion of fuels. We are actively building up a sunshield, which acts as a localised blanket blocking out some of the heat from the Sun and causing the area below to warm up. The artificially warmed air is much damper and moister.The greater concentrations of suspended pollution particles increase atmospheric turbidity by acting as condensation nuclei increasing the incidence of fog and rain. Fog persists longer when there is a temperature inversion.

This is common in high-pressure conditions in valleys. Cold air, being denser, is unable to rise thus fog persists. However wall constructions can artificially create shelter for neighbouring vegetation. For instance a typical two metre high wall can provide shelter for up to ten metres away producing a microclimate within their spread.

Walls block out sunlight and cool the land surrounding, which can discourage and prevent the growth of plants. In many upland moors and valleys man has used the land for artificial water storage in the form of reservoirs. They are particularly suited to these areas as the air is much cooler, so there is less evapo-transpiration i. e. less water loss.

The valley sides also aid in water collection as they trap water, which gradually collects in the valleys below. Moreover precipitation levels are highest in western areas and over the upland moor and valley areas.This is because most of the rain bearing winds originates in the west, for instance the polar maritime air mass, combined with the effects of relief on condensation and precipitation. Rainfall varies from between 1000 to 2000 millimetres in the uplands on the west coasts of the British Isles. Forests have a notable influence on climate.

Upland areas naturally lack in tree numbers therefore the absorption of the extra carbon dioxide is limited. Though the plantation of trees by the Forestry Commission on many of the south westerly facing slopes in moors and valleys areas can absorb most carbon dioxide.The leafy crowns of a high, dense forest form an almost unbroken surface. During the daytime most of the solar radiation is absorbed at crown-level, resulting in the highest temperatures of the forest occurring at the top of the canopy.

Due to the shading effect of the trees, temperature decreases downwards and the forest floors are generally cooler and at night forests are generally warmer than the surrounding country. Humidities are generally higher inside forests, where the airflow is greatly reduced.Wind speeds are reduced by the canopy and become very light near the ground. The effect on rainfall is less definite as it is difficult to measure. However, when forests are cleared and when land is left barren, the rainfall can no longer be contained so effectively within the region. The increased run-off results in flash floods, which cause soil erosion and damage to the landscape. Also there are greater temperature variations as brown earths insulate the solar radiation, and heats up the earth.

We can make the environment to fit are own use whatever the conditions.By adapting the type and amount of clothing we wear; by varying the design of dwelling places and the materials of which they are built; by varying the amount and type of food we eat according to our body’s needs and by adapting our patterns of activity in harmony with existing environmental conditions. Furthermore, our ability to control the environment now extends far beyond the limits of our bodies. We can significantly alter local climatic conditions through drainage schemes and forest clearances however such schemes can be unfortunate, as we do not appreciate their long-term impacts on the local environments and ourselves.

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