Study to test North East people's tolerance to cold

JUDGING by the revellers on the streets of the North East at night, it should be no contest.

JUDGING by the revellers on the streets of the North East at night, it should be no contest.

But an environmental project has set out to find if people in the region have a greater tolerance to the cold than those elsewhere in England – especially the south.

The exercise is part of the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) project, which encourages people to take to the outdoors and explore their local environment.

Newcastle University is one of the partners in the National Lottery-backed venture, which is led by Imperial College in London.

For the last four years the university has run a series of OPAL projects, involving 10,000 people through schools, community groups, families and individuals.

One is a climate project, with 1,000 packs having been distributed in the North East.

Part of the exercise involves participants noting the temperature on any given day or night, their feelings of being cold, warm or comfortable and how many layers of clothing they are wearing.

The results from around the country are currently being analysed.

Newcastle University scientist Dr Anne Borland, who is leading OPAL North East, said: “The aim is to see if there are regional differences to how people respond to temperatures.

“Looking at how people dress in places like Newcastle’s Bigg Market, the North East should win hands down.”

OPAL is on a shortlist of three in the final of the National Lottery Awards as Best Environment Project, with the results to be announced in November.

People can vote for OPAL by calling 0844 836 9694 by September 26 or by going online to

OPAL North East has also been chosen as one of the two showcase regions for the project.

Projects run by the regional OPAL team at the university include:

An air pollution survey involving around 2,000 volunteers in the North East checking on the distribution and condition of lichens, which are very sensitive to air quality.

A soil quality project was undertaken by more than 1,000 volunteers based on the number of worms found in given plots of land.

Ponds across the region were “dipped” to find out what creatures they contained in a water quality exercise.

Hedgerows were examined to discover how much life they support.

The current project is to see how many invertebrates, such as insects, snails and slugs, can be found in 15 minutes. A total of 900 packs have been handed out but more are available (call 0191 246 4807).

Arts projects linked to OPAL have also involved young people visiting the County Durham coast and translating their observations into making artworks, which were displayed at Newcastle University’s Moorbank Botanic Garden.

“The public response in the North East has been fantastically enthusiastic and has shown people the range of life on their doorsteps,” said Dr Borland.

Looking at how people dress in places like the Bigg Market, the North East should win hands down


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