Silly-season heatwave

32C in London
by Philip Eden

You know the silly season has arrived when, following two hot days, the tabloid newspapers begin to speculate about the UK breaking its all-time temperature record. The trouble is that, these days, a journalist can always find a publicity-seeking, self-st yled "long-range forecaster" who will say something suitably sensationalistic. The bookies fuel the speculation because it is good for business. We should not be seduced by odds of, say, 8:1 which may seem quite generous at first glance. The fact is that, even with an underlying warming trend in the British climate, the record was broken only twice in the last century - in 1911 and 1990.

Last week saw a strong ridge of high pressure establish itself over the British Isles, bringing a renewed spell of hot and quite sunny weather. The temperature climbed a little higher each day, and in the London area the mercury reached 27C on Wednesday, 29C on Thursday, 30C on Friday, and 32C on both Saturday and Sunday.

This is the third time this summer that the temperature has reached the low-30s; the other hot spells were in late-June and early-July. Such readings are not uncommon. A maximum of 32C or more has occurred somewhere or other in the UK in 51 of the last 10 0 years, as early as May 22 in 1922 and as late as September 19 in 1926. It has reached or exceeded 34C in 20 years, and 36C in just four. The official UK record of 37.1C was made at Cheltenham on August 3 1990, and odds on it will still be the record at the end of this summer.