Monthly Review: August 2003


The questions started over a week ago. Is this going to be the hottest August on record? Surely theres never been a month as dry as this? Most meteorologists did the right thing, saying that it was impossible to tell with so many days still to go, and in any case the weather was changing.


One or two, however, fell for the journalistic blandishments, offering such gems as: Cardiff is having its driest August on record as long as theres no more rain, and London will have had its warmest August on record by a mile as long as the second half of the month is a warm as the first half. The Clerk of the Weather knows how to serve up the humble pie: there was lots more rain, and it turned much, much cooler.


With only one day of August still to go, I can jump the gun in the happy knowledge that todays temperature and rainfall will barely change the monthly figures. The Central England Temperature, incorporating both night minima and day maxima, stands at 18.3C which is 2.1 degC above the mean for the standard reference period 1971-2000. It has been the warmest August since 1997, and there have been only four warmer in the last 100 years, namely 1947, 1975, 1995 and 1997. The mean maximum temperature ranged from 15.7C at Fair Isle to 26.5C at Heathrow, and that latter figure compares with 27.0C during August 1995.


We all know that the highest reported temperature was 38.1C at Gravesend on the 10th, a new national record, although this may yet be superseded when all the monthly returns are in. What is not widely known is that the 28th was so cold in the north Midlands that the days high of 11.1C at Buxton was the lowest in August since 1986.


Rainfall, averaged over England and Wales, stands at 20.1mm, just 23 per cent of the long-term average, and the fourth lowest in the last 100 years. Only the Augusts of 1940, 1947 and 1995 were drier. A few spots in west Norfolk, west Suffolk and Cambridgeshire remained completely rainless throughout the month, but most places had significant rain between the 27th and 29th. Earlier, a truly exceptional fall of 49mm in 15 minutes was recorded at Carlton-in-Cleveland, near Middlesbrough on the 10th.


Philip Eden



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