August breaks the heat barrier

Summer of '95: Records fall after a scorching month but Met men say there's no more to come
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The Independent Online

On the last day of a scorching summer, the Meteorological Office confirmed yesterday that the past month has indeed been one for the record books.

August has seen a host of previous highs beaten as the sun shone and temperatures rose inexorably. And when the final reckoning is done, a few more records may go too.

But perhaps surprisingly, in the light of the glorious last month, the summer as a whole - June to August - reached no new highs.

With hours still to go to the end of the summer months at midnight last night, the weathermen finally threw their natural caution to the wind and trotted out the list of records.

August was the hottest month since records began in 1659 with an average temperature in central England of 19.6C, beating 18.7C in 1975. The hottest day was on 1 August when 34.3C was recorded at Heathrow Airport.

It was also the sunniest since such data was first kept in 1909 with a mean of 9.1 hours each day, well past the 8.7 hours of the summer of 1947.

Again, surprisingly in view of the drought and water shortages, it was only the fourth driest since rainfall figures were first collected in 1727. With 14.5mm of rain it was surpassed by the summers of 1742, 1747 and 1947.

But, even so, experts said only 25 per cent of the average rainfall for the month fell on England and Wales, and some places had only 10 per cent.

Manchester, Cardiff and Belfast lost out in the dry weather stakes because of thunderstorms over the cities during the month.

Glasgow was not be able to beat its August 1947 record when no rain fell on the city. Scotland and Northern Ireland were also wetter than in 1947.

Similarly, while summer1995 laid siege to the records - the second driest, third hottest and fifth sunniest - it claimed none.

In terms of rainfall, though, a mere one millimetre separated this summer from the historic driest year of 1800 when only 74mm fell.

Equally, only a few decimal points kept it from being the hottest on record. That was in 1976 when the average temperature was 17.8C, compared to 17.5C this year.

Again in terms of sunshine, it was the summer of 1976 which takes pride of place in the record books with an average of 8.4 hours each day, as opposed to 7.8 hours for 1995.

All these carried the health warning that they may be subject to revision by a decimal point this way or that, but all the records were likely to stand.

In addition, as the statisticians refine their numbers in the coming days and weeks, a further few records could go to the summer of 1995.

As Ian McCaskill, the television weather-forecaster, put it while his colleagues tried desperately to fill bulletins saying it was going to be hot, dry and sunny everywhere again: "It's not a bit boring for us, because records are tumbling right and left. This is sheer naked excitement for weathermen."

And now the weather: the latest medium-term Met Office forecast suggests rain will spread east to most parts of the UK during the first half of next week.