Incredible images show potentially catastrophic effects of wildfires near major cities

Harrowing images this week revealed the extent of the damage caused by the West Coast wildfires. Apocalyptic scenes in San Francisco show the skyline glowing orange as shocked residents look on.

It is the latest reminder of the devastating impact we are having on our planet – with the fires raging across the West Coast following the recent heat waves. The vast majority of wildfires in the US are manmade, often caused by car exhaust fumes igniting nearby vegetation.

While these fires are common in the West Coast of America and in Australia, among others, imagine what it might look like if these events occurred in more places around the world.

These images, made using Photoshop, show what could happen to other major cities and landmarks if they suffer this sort of devastation in the future:

London

London city with red sky from wildfire

Paris

Paris city with red sky from wildfire

Rome

Rome city with red sky from wildfire

Barcelona

Barcelona city with red sky from wildfire

New York

New York City with red sky from wildfire

UK’s Best Seaside Resorts Ranked

It’s been a long hard year for everyone so far, but on the bright side – it’s summer. And while there is still a lot of work to do, life is starting to move slowly back towards normality. Summer holidays plans in 2020 have taken a hit so many people will be hoping for a staycation, and if you live in the UK that can only mean one thing – a trip to the seaside.

The question is, where can you find the best seaside in the UK? We set out to find the answer. All of us at The Solar Centre want everybody to stay safe this summer and hope that our guide to Britain’s seaside towns will help you pick out some hidden gems and find the best beaches near you, which might be a bit quieter than some of the big names. Whatever you choose to do this summer, we all must make sure to keep safe, clean up after ourselves and protect each other.

For our list, we’ve ranked each seaside resort on seven different factors that make up the perfect day by the beach. So, whether you are a surfer, sunbather, dog-walker or just want to enjoy a bag of chips by the sea, this list should help you find the daytrip you are looking for. 91 seaside resorts from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were examined and given a score from 0-10 based on the data. The seven scoring categories are:

  • Cloudiness
  • Temperature
  • Water Temperature
  • Quality of Beaches
  • Fish and Chips
  • Price of Beer
  • Parking

Each town was given a final score, by finding the average across all seven ranking factors. We also included national mini leagues, ranking the towns from each individual country to highlight the best of each country. So, wherever you’re from, whether it be England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can find the best seaside resorts your nation has to offer.

View the full interactive here to discover the best beaches in Britain. 

Climate Change Events in 2019 & Their Impact on UK Search Popularity

While climate change is a global problem, public climate interest can vary from nation to nation. Last year, more events fuelled the climate debate. In April 2019, it was reported that 80% of the British public are now “fairly” or “very” concerned about climate change. This is the highest it has ever been.

At The Solar Centre, we wanted to understand what was causing British people to take interest in the climate change debate at different points of the year. Our aim from this research was to find out what type of event (climate protest, celebrity campaigning or climate emergencies etc.) was the most influential in getting the public to take notice of the ecological crisis.

Our Research

We collected data from Google Trends to find the points of the year with the highest search interest for “climate change”. After this, we managed to find the most popular news story that occurred at that specific time by using Google News’ custom date function.

Below we can see which events caused an increase in search at different points across 2019.

Once stories were successfully attributed to a point in time, we worked out each media event’s impact on search popularity by subtracting its total popularity score from the previous period. In occasions where there were multiple stories in a certain time frame, hence multiple stories could be responsible for a surge in interest, we divided the percentage search increase by the total number of events in that time frame.

What were the most influential climate events of 2019?

Conclusion

It is evident that the most crucial event of 2019, in the public climate change debate, was Greta Thunberg’s “Fridays For Future” protest on 20th September. This alone increased search popularity for “climate change” by 68%. While there had been several “Fridays For Future” protests prior to this, the September protest proved to be the largest. Over 4 million people participated worldwide. Amazon employees were so inspired by Greta, that around 1,500 Amazon workers walked out of work to protest Jeff Bezos’ “Shipment Zero”, a pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040, as not strong enough.

Climate Change – The Facts by David Attenborough also had a considerable impact with a 59% rise in search popularity when it aired on the 18th of April.

What Type of Event Engages The Public?

Climate protests were the most influential type of event. This was followed by factual evidence. However, without David Attenborough’s Climate Change – The Facts, factual evidence would have considerably less impact. Both protests and factual evidence seem much more influential than any conference, political debate and/or climate summit.  

Worryingly, climate emergencies (including those that happened in Brazil and Australia) had limited impact. Celebrity campaigning had some impact on raising popularity. Notably, the 1975 releasing a song with Greta Thunberg and Coldplay deciding against touring their new album globally. Similarly, the most effective Extinction Rebellion protest was when celebrities joined in. For this particular rally of protests, there were some high-profile arrests, including Jane Fonda.

Which Individuals Are The Most Influential?

On the individual front, the three most influential people were:

  • Greta Thunberg – 116.5% increase in climate change interest (including here indirect involvement in the Youth Strike 4 Climate strikes)
  • David Attenborough – 59% increase in climate change search popularity
  • Donald Trump – 34% increase in climate change search interest

While Trump may have skewed public opinion in an anti-environmentalist direction, this is yet to be determined. However, what is clear is that his anti-environmentalist views were effective in leading people to research the facts themselves.

David Attenborough, on the other hand, is continuing his programming work with his new feature-length documentary “A Life On Our Planet” debuting at the Royal Albert Hall on April 16th. His campaigns are seemingly getting tougher, with an agenda of introducing a “one-child policy” and openly criticising parliament of not prioritising climate change

Last but certainly not least, Greta Thunberg had an incredible year and it looks unlikely to stop in 2020 with the recent news that she is set to trademark her name and the #FridaysForFuture movement to stop people from impersonating her.

Which Christmas Villain has Stolen the Fairy Lights?

1 of these 15 Christmas villains has been up to no good and stolen our fairy lights! We’re asking people to see if they can spot which Christmas villain it is and only 22% of people can spot it in under a minute!

Can you spot which Christmas has stolen the fairy lights? They’ll certainly be on Santa’s naughty list.

Did you spot which villain stole the Christmas lights? You can find out here.

To make keep your home safe from villains this Christmas, check out our range of our solar security lighting.

How to Secure Your Home and Deter Burglars

Are you protecting your home from burglary? Check out what you can do to keep your property safe with our in-depth guide and checklist.

Burglary within the UK is one of the most common crimes committed, with a burglary happening every 108 seconds. They often have serious financial and emotional effects on the victims. According to the ONS Crime report, the average cost of a residential burglary in the UK is £3,030, in the year ending March 2019 the UK witnessed a total cost of almost £900 million from residential burglaries.

The seriousness of protecting your home is not something to take lightly. Luckily, with increased awareness, homeowners are becoming savvier to the necessity of protecting their valuables and loved ones. Analysis from Google trends shows an 11% increase in queries relating to “home security” over the past year within the UK.

Home Security Checklist

Here at The Solar Centre, we’ve devised a home security checklist which is loosely based on hints and tips by former burglars, as no one gives better advice on the subject than those with firsthand experience. This list is designed to be the ultimate guide on keeping your home safe.

Home security basics

  • Lock your doors and close your windows.
  • Ensure doors are sturdily installed.
  • Consider putting screws on your door frames if you are fearful your doors are not secure.
  • Steel is a perfect material and avoids the temptation for burglars to kick down your door.
  • Change your locks when you move in and if you lose your keys then get your locks changed immediately.
  • Don’t leave keys under doormats or pots, instead find a more secure spot.
  • Keep your valuable goods away from windows.

It is important to protect your most valuable possessions, so we’ve collected data on how some of the most commonly stolen items have changed over the years. Are these possessions hidden safely away in your home?

Data on how stolen items from residential burglaries have changed from 2008 to 2018 within the UK

Make sure your presence is known (even when you aren’t there)

  • Clear all old newspapers from your porch and letterbox.
  • Make sure you regularly open and close curtains each day and night.
  • Turn your lights on when in the house.
  • Consider a dog or train your current pet to bark at signs of disturbance.
  • Produce signs that highlight you have alarms and don’t leave old alarms that are in poor condition insight.
  • Leave the radio on while you are away, the Nature of Burglary report estimates that 70% of burglaries happen on a weekday while homeowners are at work. If you believe radios are too cliché to fool burglars, investigate streaming some anti-theft home occupancy sounds.
  • Trim any plants back to ensure you are completely viewable to the street.
  • If you are worried about leaving your house alone, ask a neighbour to check in.
  • Avoid posting about any holiday on social media.

Be wary of your social interactions and surroundings

  • Stay vigilant to suspicious lurkers outside your home.
  • Never let anyone into your home without credentials (they may be checking out your valuables and security system to see if it is worth robbing you).
  • Do not let strangers in to use your phone or any other facilities.

Get the right equipment

  • Conceal wiring on your security system (this can be disconnected by intelligent burglars)
  • Avoid spring-latch locks as they can be loided, this is where an expert at breaking and entering slips a plastic card against the latch to unlock the door. Deadbolts are a far better alternative.

Investing in the latest security solutions is the best way to scare burglars. Worryingly the number of victims falling for repeat burglary incidents has risen 16% over the past year. Burglars have no reason not to return if they have been successful once, and considering they already know the best escape routes and types of valuables you have; it saves them time planning.

Spending Money On a Solid Security System

Keeping your home secure doesn’t have to break the bank. Below we outline different home security choices.

  • Anti-theft home occupancy devices
    • Home Occupancy Sounds (Price estimate: free)
      • Some people don’t trust simply using radios anymore. Hence, home occupancy sounds were invented as solutions for when you are going away for a weekend or long holiday. The idea is to play ambient mundane house sounds from a speaker as if to simulate occupancy. These are completely free and you are able to get these sounds on streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer and YouTube  
    • Security Timer Plugs (Price estimate: £10-£20)
      • Another option for when you are away is a security timer plug. These will enable you to create the illusion that the house is occupied by setting a timer on lamps, televisions and radios.
  • Burglar Alarms
    • Smart Home Alarms (Price estimate: £190 – £600)
      • Described as the future of burglar alarms, smart home security has received a vast amount of interest in recent years. They operate as a traditional alarm but allow you to control it completely from your app on a smartphone or tablet.
      • Unsurprisingly, like all smart home devices, their unique functionality comes at a steeper price. However, typically smart home alarms are combined with an entire system (wireless security cameras, sirens, door locks and state of the art motion sensors). Systems can be instructed to record when certain things happen, i.e. a door opens.
      • Low-value devices can cost just £190, but for the whole security package, you would expect to spend up to £600.
    • Wired Alarm Systems vs Wireless Alarm Systems (Price estimate: depends on the size of home)
      • Hardwired alarm systems are renowned to be superior in terms of reliability. Furthermore, if your home is already prewired for a security system, wired systems will be very straightforward to install, hence it may be worth opting for this.
      • Alternatively, if you don’t have a security system pre-installed, a wireless system may be the best option. Installation in this instance will be a lot simpler and there will be no necessary home modifications to make.
      • Another advantage of wireless systems is that they can be used in remote places where wired systems are unable to reach. Furthermore, the fact they’re no visible cables means the system is next to impossible for burglars to tamper with.
  • CCTV
    • Night Vision CCTV (Price estimate: £100 – £250)
      • Considering for both weekend and weekday burglaries, evenings are the preferred time of day for 61% of burglaries, night vision is a worthy investment.
      • Depending on your budget night cameras can show black and white or sometimes coloured images of your home in the pitch black.
    • Mini Cameras (Price estimate: £30 – £99)
      • Typically employed for indoor security, mini cameras can be efficient in identifying burglars due to their inconspicuous nature, but for this reason, they are not recommended as a scare tactic. They can, however, also be a cheap solution for stairwell monitoring for small children and elderly relatives.
  • Door Security
    • The Nature of Burglary report also shows 70% of burglars came through the front door. Looking at greater depth, 29% of the time the lock was forced open, while 14% of the time the door was not locked. It may seem obvious but making sure your door is locked and the lock is bolted could severely reduce your chances of being burgled. A deadlock should be tested to BS 3621.
    • In addition to this, ensure your door frames are solid, estimated door measurements should be 4.4cm thick with 10cm hinges.
    • If you choose to further screw your door, ensure they are compliant to British Standard BS 7950. 
    • Steel doors are preferred as they discourage burglars from kicking down your door. Wooden doors and doors with glass panels should ideally be changed if you feel you live in a high-risk burglary region. (link to burglary region table)
  • Driveway Security Bollards (Price estimate: £100-£500)
    • For some, cars are one of our biggest financial investments and as such can be a prize target to thieves. One popular security method here is to employ a driveway security bollard. These can be raised and lowered automatically on approach using a fob key. Alternatively, at a lower cost, homeowners can purchase a security bollard that requires manual action.
  • Garden Security
    • Sheds and garages are an easy target. Often homeowners sacrifice measures here in order to prioritize their budget with indoor security. Burglars know this and take advantage. Outdoor buildings are particularly vulnerable at night (78% of burglaries in a non-connected building near a dwelling happen in the evening). Hence combining security with night vision is wise. Padlocks on shed and garage doors fitted with battery-powered alarms can be extremely effective and cost just £15.
    • Security lights (Price estimate: £15 – £200)
      • Lights are a fantastic option for garden security. They can either be manually turned on or triggered by movement. Often, they are enough to deter burglars from coming again, as they act as an initial warning sign of your solid security system.
  • Window Security
    • Another important insight from The Nature of Burglary report shows 25% of burglaries in 2018 happened by intruders entering through a window. Apart from keeping windows shut and locked, make sure all windows are fitted to double glazing standards making the windows harder to break. Any new windows must be in line to the British Standard 7950/ PAS 24. It is also important to have alarms viewable or signs near windows to deter burglars.

Are Home Security Systems Worth The Money?

We’ve also taken the average cost of a security alarm (£500) so you can see how much you’d potentially save by investing in one.

We’ve collected data on the cost of burglaries to each region of the UK so you can see the average amount which is lost in your area.

The estimated cost per household of a burglar within different regions of the UK (according to the Office of National Statistics) and how much home owners could save with a standard security alarm (average cost of £500).

BBQ It or Bin It

It looks like it’s going to be a hot one this bank holiday weekend and as things are heating up, so will lots of BBQs. But with so many different types of food to offer it can be difficult to choose what to add to the shopping list. Nobody likes too many leftovers, and even worse, everybody hates going hungry!

That’s why we’ve carried out a survey – BBQ It or Bin It, asking people to rank different types of BBQ foods to find the Nation’s favourite. And the results are in… It turns out the most popular BBQ delicacy is the corn on the cob! Followed closely by the classic side dish of coleslaw and in third place, none other than the staple sausage.

Ending up in the bin is grilled fish and prawns, so no need to visit the fish counter on your shopping trip. Halloumi also didn’t fare well coming second from bottom.

Yorkshire and the Humber are lovers of sausages taking top position in this region, in the South West coleslaw was voted top followed by burgers.

Which Love Islander Should You Couple Up With?

Love Island 2019 is in full force and whilst some islanders heads’ are being turned with each passing day, other couples just don’t seem to be connecting. Therefore, at The Solar Centre we decided to analyse the solar energy of star signs giving islanders the inside information on who to graft. Hopefully this can make its way into the villa before its too late!

Our Love Island Star Sign compatibility matrix tells us if there is an energy to send pulses racing or whether a re-coupling is necessary. Find out which Love Islander you should couple up with below…

Devasting photos show the effects of climate change in the years to come

Climate change is a constant topic of conversation and as one of the UK’s leading eco brands, we wanted to show the impact climate change could have on popular tourists landmarks in years to come.

Many people are choosing to go on holiday at this time of year and we picked out some of the tourist destinations both in the UK and abroad that are most at risk of climate change.

Using Photoshop we can show what each place will look like in years to come and these changes are based on real research and studies of climate change – so what is shown in each picture is extremely likely to happen!

Lake District

The Lake District – a popular holiday destination in the North West England famous for the mountain views and lakes. Research has shown that the Lake District is at threat from climate change with many changes likely to occur.

Species are likely to decline including the mountain butterfly, with this there will be an increase in pygmyweeds and Japanese knotweeds – not the type of plants you want in your back garden.

Heavy rainfall will cause erosion to the ground, footbridges and footpaths. As a result, this will increasedirt in the lakes.

In the summer months, lake levels will also fall drastically- causing picturesque views to diminish.

Research source: Lake District National Park

Big Ben

London is one of the most popular destinations for tourists visiting the UK and one of the most iconic buildings is Big Ben. But climate change could threaten this 160-year-old clock.

Research has suggested climate change will cause flooding from the North Sea and river flooding from The Thames. This would result in mass flooding to London City and create an abundance of surface water – heavy rainfall will no doubt add to this problem and even walking across Westminster bridge may be problematic.

Research source: C40 Cities, Engineering and Technology

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the worlds largest coral reef system located off the coast of Australia. A home to snorkelers, divers but most importantly – fish and other marine life. Climate change is already having a huge impact on the Great Barrier Reef with reports suggesting as much of half the great barrier reef is dead.

Rising sea temperatures are the main reason behind this, causing coral bleaching and ultimately killing the coral. And this is likely to increase and soon there could be zero marine life living in one of Australia’s world heritage sites.

Resarch source: National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler

Venice

Venice – known as the floating city but soon this could be the sinking city. The city is at constant threat from flooding due to it’s low lying foundations. Anytime there is heavy rain, seawater is pushed into the city. A vulnerable city which could soon lay partially underwater.

Research source: Conde Nast Traveler

The UK’s Greenest Cities

April is here and British Summer Time is well and truly underway, and April isn’t just the month where we tend to spend more time outdoors, it’s also the month of Earth Day. Celebrated for almost 50 years, Earth Day is an international event to help raise awareness and show support for the environmental protection of our planet Earth.

Here at The Solar Centre, we wanted to get involved and help raise awareness of Earth Day and inspire people to be more environmentally friendly. We recognised that sometimes it can be difficult to understand the impact we have on our environment – especially when there are over 7 billion people in the world. So, we wanted to make sure we focused on the environment in the UK and areas which would matter to you.

We’ve taken 10 different factors which are affecting our environment and collected data for each factor in 52 different cities across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and scored each city between 0 – 10 based on the data. Some of these environmental factors include:

  • CO2 emissions
  • Fly-tipping
  • Traffic congestion

We then averaged the rankings across all the factors to crown the greenest city in the UK. We hope this will inspire you to make a difference in your local area, whether you live in a city or not. You can view our Greenest Cities interactive which shows all the rankings here and find out which city was crowned the greenest.

Can you spot the hidden Rudolph?

We’ve created another Christmas brainteaser for you to solve. We’re asking if you can spot the Rudolph with the bright red nose hiding in the Christmas trees

Only 1 in 5 people at The Solar Centre can spot him within a minute! So how quickly can you find him? 

Christmas puzzle

 Did you find him? You can see where Rudolph is hiding here.

We have even more Christmas puzzles for you solve here.