Flaming June? You must be joking

Torrential rain, gale-force winds - and the threat of much worse to come. The British summer has arrived in style
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The Independent Online

June is the month when we hope for sunshine but what we get is torrential rain. The covers go on at Wimbledon. The wellington boots go on at Glastonbury, and lonely cricket supporters sit with flasks of tea amid acres of empty seats. Global warming notwithstanding, this year is proving no different.

The forecasters issued severe weather warnings yesterday, with predictions that a month's worth of rain would pour down in just 36 hours. Later, they issued extended flood warnings across the UK ahead of torrential rain and gale-force winds. More than two inches of rain is predicted from Yorkshire to north-east Wales, with up to four inches in some areas.

Why the six-day period between the start of the Glastonbury Festival and the men's final at Wimbledon seems now to be an uninterrupted tribute to the rain gods is a mystery even to the Met professionals.

However, a team in California which has made a thorough study of the correlation between rising temperatures and rain in the years 1986 to 2005 has suggested that a 1C increase in the Earth's temperatures will add 6.5 per cent to the volume of water vapour in the atmosphere. It does not necessarily follow that all of that will come down as rain, even during Glastonbury, but that may be part of the explanation. "You can't really pin it down to any one cause," Chris Almond, the duty forecaster at the Met Office, said yesterday. "This is unusual. Normally when you get heavy rain, it doesn't last too long."

Glastonbury

After rain throughout Saturday night in Glastonbury, there followed a day of yet more rain. Yet even as the quagmire dissolved into something akin to a brown lake, the festival organiser, Michael Eavis, said he would resist all temptation to move the event to another date.

"We cannot change the date because we are guided by the summer solstice and we have no control over that," he said. But as Eavis's wellingtons sank into the mud outside the festival's hospitality bar, he indicated that he had been sufficiently concerned by the association between Glastonbury and inclement weather conditions that he had checked out the meteorological data. "The weather statistics don't show any difference - there's not one weekend that's better than another."

Worthy Farm, where Glastonbury takes place, is a working agricultural concern but the festival is a key component of the international music calendar. "We have been here for 37 years now and we are the very first in the European festival circuit. The American bands that play here at Glastonbury go round the European festivals and if we moved our date the whole of the European circuit would be in chaos. It's cast in stone really, or should I say cast in the mud."

Eavis said the "wonderful" festival had gone "very, very well - in spite of the rain and in spite of the mud". He said that he had been pleased with his expensive new drainage system, introduced while the festival took a year out.

The sun put in an appearance for a couple hours later in the morning before the rain began again. This did not stop a large number of punters trudging off early to escape the mud. There were 14 reported broken ankles.

Wimbledon

It is almost as certain as death or taxes that the rain will pour down at least once during Wimbledon fortnight leaving spectators huddling under umbrellas. The first Wimbledon tournament at the Church Road site, in 1922, set the standard: it rained every day, and since only the Centre Court was protected by a tarpaulin, the outer courts turned to mud. The tournament was completed on the Wednesday of the third week. Fifty years later, in 1972, all four finals had to be played on Sunday. In 1988, the men's final was delayed until Monday. In 1992, John McEnroe won his last Grand Slam title, in the Men's Doubles, on Monday. In 1996, the tournament again dragged on until Monday - but on one rain-sodden day, spectators were compensated by an impromptu performance by Sir Cliff Richard.

But the rain did not stop die-hard fans from queuing for tickets yesterday, in waterproofs and sheltered by tents. Jackie Mills, from Nuneaton, said: "I have been coming to Wimbledon for 13 years so I am quite used to the rain. My 62-year-old mother and my younger sister are at Glastonbury in the rain and mud ... so I am quite happy to be here with a nice cup of tea."

And in the rest of Britain

About 1,200 people suffered cuts, bruises or sprains in the slippery conditions on Saturday, and 32 needed hospital treatment. In Hampshire, firefighters discovered a man clinging to the roof of his car which had become submerged under 5ft of water beneath a railway bridge near Lymington.

Just over a century ago Frederic Leighton painted a woman in an orange dress curled up asleep in brilliant sunshine. He called it Flaming June. Whatever else you can say about June 2007, it has not been "flaming". A more recent painting by a Lao artist, Thep Thavonsouk, which also features brilliant shades of orange and red, has a title that seems to sum up the times more accurately. It is called June Rain.

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