If you can’t stand the heat…don’t worry this August!


(This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 11th August 2017, & the Malton Gazette & Herald on 9th August 2017)

Am I wrong, or has it been that for the past few years, decent summer weather has been limited to a few days of warm weather in May and June, but come the moment when the children break up for their holidays in July, summer vanishes? As I write this, the forecast for the rest of August 2017 isn’t great, and I am pinning my hopes on the perennially-forecasted ‘Indian Summer’. When I’ve been on holiday for a couple of weeks to hot places, the thought of living somewhere where sun is guaranteed has crossed my mind, but then, after two weeks, I am yearning to be back in the lush countryside of my home, come rain or shine.

In my dad’s column from 6th August 1977, he laments yet another disappointing summer, although he was thankful it was no repeat of the incredible and long-lasting heatwave of the year before. The droughts, sunstroke, hosepipe bans, aphid and ladybird infestations were unlikely to be repeated in 1977, and now, 40 years later, unless something miraculous happens, once again the excitably optimistic headlines which appeared in June predicting a bumper hot summer will be proved wrong.

Despite this month looking distinctly unremarkable weatherise, August still holds the record for the highest temperature in the U.K. In 1977, Dad mentioned that a record from August 9th 1911 still remained, when the thermometers in Greenwich broke 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius) for the first time since official measurements began. Since he wrote that, that record has been broken at least twice, with the latest set on August 10th 2003 at Brogdale, near Faversham in Kent. On that date, the mercury reached a scorching 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.5 degrees Celsius) which makes me sweat just thinking about it!

As I was researching this, I came across the phrase ‘since records began’ many times, which made me wonder, when did records begin? With the a little help from an archived BBC article, and the Met Office website, I discovered that the oldest ongoing instrumental record of temperature in the world is the Central England Temperature Record, which began in 1659. However, it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that records began to be taken globally, and after the founding of the Met Office in 1854 and then the International Meteorological Organisation in 1873, measurements of temperature began to be taken in a standardised way. Until 1st January 1961, most countries used the Fahrenheit scale, but then the Met Office began to measure in degrees Celsius, and most countries do the same these days (although Fahrenheit is still commonly used in a few other countries, including the USA). In case you don’t know, water boiling point is, of course, 100 degrees Celsius, which is 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and freezing point is of course 0 degrees Celsius, which equates to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The Celsius scale was also called the centigrade scale, but that term is not commonly used anymore (Fahrenheit and Celsius were the surnames of the scientists who invented the scales).

I did come across some other interesting facts relating to temperature while researching this column. The World Meteorological Office’s definition of a heatwave is when the temperature is 5C above average for five days in a row, and the term ‘heatwave’ was first used in New York in 1892. Also, you might not be surprised to learn that the warmest places in the U.K. are Jersey, Guernsey and the Isles of Scilly, while the highest average monthly temperature for August was 24.3C in 1995, and the lowest was a distinctly chilly 8.9C in 1912 (just one year after the then record-breaking heatwave!).

And for those of you looking for an excuse to take it easy at work this month, according to NASA, when the temperature reaches 35 degrees Celsius (95F), our work output reduces by 45%. So sadly, we will have no excuse to slack off this month then!

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