Mid-April 2003 hottest since 1949


The recent heatwave was a true record-breaker. Too often we hear the weather people on the television telling us that such-and-such a record has been broken, only to discover by examining the small print on the screen that "records began in 1989" at that particular location. Sometimes even that qualification is not there, although it ought to be; "too much information" is the usual excuse.


Not so on Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th. Although no new UK record was established, a large part of the country enjoyed a degree of warmth not experienced in April since systematic temperature recording began a century and a half ago.


The really warm weather began on Monday when the mercury soared into the 20sC locally in western Scotland. The high temperatures became much more extensive on Tuesday when 24C was recorded at places as far apart as London, Cardiff, and the northwest Highlands of Scotland.


For much of England and Wales the hottest day of the spell was Wednesday. The maximum reading of 27.4C obtained at Stratfield Mortimer, located between Reading and Basingstoke, was the highest in April anywhere in the UK since 1949. Indeed, a higher temperature has only been recorded on 16 April 1949 when 29.4C was registered at Camden Square in London, and in April 1893 when Stratfield Turgis, also near Basingstoke, logged 29.0C on the 18th.


By Thursday the hottest weather had transferred to western and northern Britain, thanks to a freshening easterly breeze. Lochcarron in Wester Ross recorded 26.9C, a new Scottish record; Prestatyn reached 27C, the highest in Wales since 1893; Portrush logged 22.8C, the highest in Northern Ireland since 1984; and Belmullet touched 24.4C, the highest in the Irish Republic also since 1984.


There were some truly exceptional readings on some of Scotland's outer islands, for instance, 22.3C on South Uist in the Western Isles, 22.1C at Rackwick in Orkney, and 19.3C at Sella Ness in Shetland; many years pass without reaching these levels even in high summer. North Sea coasts missed out on the heatwave; throughout the week onshore winds held temperatures at 11-12C here.


Philip Eden



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