Why is the weather so bad? How August 2021 compares to past years and why the UK summer has felt so bleak

Even by the standards of the UK, the weather this summer has often felt particularly bleak.

We’ve had named storms, freakish flooding in London and endless-seeming rainfall in some areas – although there’s also been a record-breaking heatwave for good measure.

With that in mind, the overall picture of the UK’s summer weather might come as a surprise to many – here’s what the figures say.

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How does this August’s weather compare to past years?

According to the Met Office, which published an analysis of this summer’s weather thus far last week (with full statistics coming in early September), it’s actually been one of the warmest seasons on record.

The mean temperature has been around 1C warmer than the UK’s summer average – but there have been significant regional variations, which might mean some people are left scratching their heads by the news.

Even August, which has felt dull across much of the UK, hasn’t been unusually cool, with the Met Office advising averages temperatures are “actually near to the long-term average at the moment, at 19.1C”.

However, the month hasn’t provided the usual soaring highs that we might expect from late summer, which could have created the sense that it’s been a particularly bad August.

A record-breaking heatwave prompted the Met Office’s first ever extreme heat warning (Photo: PA)

The Met Office says: “So far, the highest temperature recorded this month was at Tyndrum, Scotland with 27.2C.

“Only two times in the last ten years has 30°C not been reached in August in the UK and on every occasion in the last 20 years the highest temperature for August was reported in England.”

It is also worth pointing out that the averages for the season have been lifted by the record-breaking heatwave of July, which prompted the first ever extreme heat warning from the Met Office.

The national weather service previously explained to i how the cooler conditions which followed it in August were due to the jet stream.

Jonathan Vautrey, a Met Office meteorologist, said at the start of August: “When we were experiencing the heat wave the jet stream was very much above us and west and north of UK.

“That meant we were on the warmer side of the jet stream and able to bask in more of the warmer air from the south and east, as pressure built on temperatures day by day.

“However, we have seen the jet stream shift further south, so it is now slightly below the UK and we are now on the colder side of it. It is now bringing in slightly cooler air from the north.”

Why has the summer weather felt so bad then?

The perception of a summer of bad weather will be felt most keenly in London and the south-east, due to the significant increase in rainfall compared to the summer average.

According to the Met Office, London’s rainfall has been 48 per cent above its long-term average for summer, with Hampshire up 49 percent, Surrey 54 per cent and West Sussex 52 per cent.

As a result, these areas have also seen significantly less sunshine than usual, with much of the south-east getting between 25 and 35 per cent fewer hours than average – although average temperatures have still been slightly higher than usual for the majority of areas in the region.

By contrast, Scotland and Northern Ireland have had much less rainfall and more sunshine than in a normal summer, boosting the statistics for the whole of the UK.

Dr Mark McCarthy of the National Climate Information Centre said, “Obviously there’s still time before the month and season is over, but summer so far is certainly looking drier and warmer than average, that’s despite some of the wet, dull conditions we’ve seen in the southeast in particular.

“Some of the flooding seen in London in July has seen some individual stations report almost twice their normal summer rainfall but the north and west of the country has experienced plenty of sunshine through June and July, although most of the country has been duller than average through August.”


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