Whatever happened to English summers?


A typical English summer sky

It’s early Sunday morning and I see the weather forecast has improved. Instead of 50mph+ wind it’s showing 20mph and the possibility of some sunshine.

It’s the middle of August here in the Disunited Kingdom and I haven’t been to the beach for ten days. I decide to give it a chance and head out on the first bus.

I have to sit upstairs (and it’s open top) thanks to all the tourists becaause it’s ‘that time of year’. People want to visit Swanage though I have no idea why; there’s nothing there.

But I can already feel the lack of warmth and the wind and know what it will be like on a beach where you struggle for ages to put up a windbreak. And I’ve done it too many times. Where is the enjoyment in being blown to bits and when the sun does manage to appear it disappears just as quickly?

I reach Poole bus station and decide that’s enough and I will change buses and head back to ‘civilisation’.

As I get off a friend, Chris, is boarding. “Fuck this, I’m heading back” I say. And when you’re journeying back and seeing the thick black clouds with their five percent of blue sky you’re left feeling smug that you’ve made one of the best decisions ever. But deflated all the same that it will be another consecutive day spent indoors.

So I decide to write about all of this when I get in. What exactly has happened to our summer weather – what’s gone wrong? I will ask Google over coffee. Maybe it wil have some pictorial evidence from the seventies when in childhood summers you never saw a cloud during school holidays from June to September. If a cloud was spotted it was reported and dealt with by the local authorities.


Brighton – 1970’s


Swanage – 1970’s

The main problems are two-fold. Cloud, which is all you see day in, day out now and the wind factor. Your ideal beach weather would be 25 degrees with a gentle or almost unnoticable 5mph breeze. Average winds in recent years are 15-20mph and 30mph gusts,

In 2016 I remember going to the beach sixteen days consecutively during a heatwave, it was fantastic, a nod back to pre-milennium summers. Then there was 2010, a very good summer and 2006 where it got to 32 degrees and was so hot one day I had to pack up and leave the beach before 2pm.

1976 is on record still as THE summer of all summers with the drought and the hosepipe bans and I can remember 1985, 1986, 1996 and 1996 as memorable hot summers. But they are far and few between as so many of our summers these days are disappointing washouts.


British optimism at its finest

Forget the forecasters. They haven’t got a clue and will change it every hour unless of course there is a period of settled high pressure. Sometimes you can be forgiven for thinking that there is a conspiracy among forecasters who print delusional forecasts of warm sunsgine when the reality os so obviously different.

The Daily Express are serial offenders in publishing their sensationally incorrect weather predictions. Here is one of their latest, printed back in July this year.

UK weather forecast: Scorching heatwave to hit Britain as forecast chart turns black

The prediction was shown in a dramatic chart released by Met Desk, which showed southern parts of the UK turn dark red and black. The rest of the country is covered in dark reds and oranges to signify the sharp rise in temperatures next week. According to the Met Office temperatures will begin to increase by the weekend and continues to rise throughout the week.

Britons could suffer more travel chaos as thunderstorms pave the way for a 29C heatwave set for this weekend, which will bathe all of the UK in balmy weather, officially kicking off a delayed great British summertime.

France will see the brunt of the heatwave as the entire country will feel the intense shift in temperature.

Didn’t happen. Although it was pretty sultry in France if you were lucky enough to be there.

Ten days later, the Daily Express told us this:

UK weather forecast: Britain set for hottest summer in 40 years as Saharan plume sweeps in

Thermometers will rocket around 10C through the next few days as sweltering, humid air from Europe and Africa engulfs the nation. The UK will cook in the highest temperatures of summer so far and possibly the hottest spell for more than 40 years, forecasters warn. The mercury is expected to hit 34C (93.2F) in parts of the country by Saturday beating last year’s June maximum of 33C (91.4F) recorded at Porthmadog, Gwynedd, Wales. The Met Office has warned the pollen count is set to soar today.

Since then on the south coast, temperatures have struggled to reach 20 degrees and as we head towards August Bank Holiday Monday, traditionally a wet affair in any case, the temperatures are predicted to FALL to 17 or 18 degrees. And you can knock two or three degrees off that on an exposed shoreline anyway so the feels-like temperature is more akin to late September.

Now I really like this sanguine and veracious article from The Guardian. Okay, meteorologically and scientifically speaking it doesn’t give us answers as to ‘weather’ these poor summers are down to global warming or climate change but it parodies the whole summer synopsis succinctly:


Name: Summer.

Age: Its lease, famously, hath all too short a date.

Appearance: Warm, sunny, brief – blink and you’ll miss it.

When? Too late.

Wait – what just happened? Since 2016 is a leap year, summer was meant to officially commence on 20 June, but as you can see from your nearest window, it was over before it started.

Are there any implications of summer’s early demise? There are picnics and garden parties to be cancelled. Wimbledon and Glastonbury are facing the possibility of washouts, although it’s less problematic for the former since they put that roof over Centre Court.

Why don’t they put a roof over Glastonbury? Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury if your tent wasn’t swept away in a tide of toxic mud.

Whatever became of those glorious early summers of days gone by? They never were. At this time of year, our weather is subject to something known as the European monsoon.

You mean this is an actual monsoon, like in India? No. It’s just a fanciful name given to a fairly common shift of winds, “the return of the westerlies”, which often leads to increased precipitation.

What about flaming June? Flaming June is a painting title, not a recognised climatic phenomenon. Average UK rainfall in June is 62mm, higher than in March or April.

But isn’t this already, like, the worst June ever? In the first fortnight, there was 36mm of rain on average across England, but the south-east only got 17mm. So it depends where you are.

I’m standing up to my waist in my flooded basement. Bad luck. Try to bear in mind that, so far, it’s not a patch on June 2012, when England and Wales had 157mm of rainfall and Scotland 164mm.

Remind me again why I live here. Because you’re timid and can’t be bothered to learn a foreign language.

Oh yeah. I also really love complaining. This is your month, my friend.

Exactly: long walks on rainy beaches, bracing swims in ice-cold lidos, dining alfresco while cafe tables blow away. When was the last time you went outside?

Last Thursday. I was out of teabags. Don’t worry – autumn’s almost here.

Do say: “I might put the heating on. Just for an hour.”

Don’t say: “You know what? I think it might brighten up later.”


So today is a huge V-sign to the weather and while I might be getting pissed within four walls, my warmth will come from Editors, Maximo Park, Interpol and other friends. And at least I’ll be warm which can’t be said for anyone crazy enough to visit the beaches in British summertime. Heard the latest?

UK weather: Britain set for summer misery with rain forecast for rest of week and commuters warned of disruption

Britain is set for more wet weather this week, with thunderstorms rolling onto the south coast causing commuting havoc and temperatures forecast in the single figures.

The Met Office said August’s unusually wet weather is caused by the jet stream getting “stuck” over the UK, opening Britain up to rain and wind from the Atlantic Ocean.

This morning will see thunderstorms hit south east England from the Channel, with rain and lightning in Sussex and Kent.

Showers will dominate the weather for the next week, with showers forecast for Wednesday, Friday and the weekend.

Sophie Yeomans, a Met Office meteorologist, said that while heavy rain in August was “not unheard of”, the UK was experiencing an unusually wet summer.

“There have been other summers where it’s been wet. Basically the jet stream just gets stuck and that brings all these weather systems across from the Atlantic,” she added.

“As we head towards the weekend, it does look as if there will be another spell of wet and windy weather coming through.

“There is a line of showers and thunderstorms just heading towards the south east coast now.

“If anyone is up for the morning commute, there could be a fair amount of rain around in the south east.”