August set to be a wickedly hot month

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IT MAY seem premature to start worrying about getting sweaty. But a new index launched by weather forecasters this week will tell Britons exactly how hot and sticky they are.

As Summer makes a belated appearance in most parts of the country, the Met Office has introduced a new "comfort index" to inform the public on the combined effect of high temperatures and humidity.

The system involves meteorological terms which the Met Office hopes will roll off the tongue as easily as "prevailing wind" and "scattered showers".

The four categories are Slightly Uncomfortable, Moderately Uncomfortable, Very Uncomfortable and Extremely Uncomfortable.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Met Office said that it expects the index to be adapted by broadcasters to suit their own needs.

Andy Yeatman, a Met Office spokesman, said yesterday: "The index looks at humidity and temperature and comes up with a way of identifying which days a lot of people are going to find uncomfortable. The public have been asking us for a long time to come up with something for days when it becomes hot and sticky. It's more of a `discomfort index' than a `comfort index'.

"This sort of thing has been used in a lot of countries but obviously isn't going to be used here as much as it is in places like the southern states of America.

"The guidance we are giving is related to terminology. It will be up to individual broadcasting outlets to come up with their own terms. It will have to be something that evolves."

According to the Met Office there are indications that the sunny weather could continue for the rest of the month.

"August should be better than June or July, particularly in the South. Parts of England and Wales should be drier and sunnier than recently," said Mr Yeatman. "I think it is going to get hot in the next few days. By Saturday we will be looking at temperatures in the 80s.

"Unfortunately people in the north are going to get cloud and a bit of rain."

Rob Bunn, forecaster for PA WeatherCentre, said: "It will be the first good spell this summer. It looks as if we will see some higher temperatures and some sunshine as well."

The possibility of a prolonged period of sunshine has given renewed hope to butchers who have been lamenting the adverse effect of the weather on the barbecue season.

Graham Heasman, director of Dewhurst, the butcher's chain, said yesterday: "The summer is still to come to Great Britain and we are confident that August and September will be glorious."

Mr Heasman said his chain had extended its "Summer Sizzlers" campaign. Temperatures rose to 25C (77F) in London yesterday with even hotter conditions expected over the weekend.

According to forecasters it could reach 86F (30C) in the South later in the week.

Motoring organisations have warned that roads to the coast will become congested as people flock to Britain's beaches.

A spokesman for the AA said: "So far many people seem to have stayed away from the beach because of the bad weather but I expect many will want to enjoy the sunshine if it remains over the weekend."

The outlook for northern areas and Scotland is less favourable with cooler temperatures and some showers predicted.

A spokesman for the PA WeatherCentre said: "Weather will be more unsettled in the North, but it will still be considerably better than it has been over recent weeks."

What is a comfort Zone?

The following formula, the Temperature-Humidity Index (THI), is used to calculate the comfort factor.

THI = 0.4 (T+Tw) + 4.8 (in C)

(T=dry bulb temperature, Tw =wet bulb temperature)