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Met Office & “Record Breaking Weather”

July 4, 2015

By Paul Homewood




The Met Office have finally got round to issuing some sort of report on Wednesday’s hot spell, though it actually says very little:


As forecast as early as last Thursday, the UK saw a period of record breaking hot weather yesterday (1 July 2015).

The warmest July day since records began and the hottest day since 2003, was recorded at Heathrow, when the temperature reached 36.7 °C at 3.13pm. The previous highest July temperature was 36.5 °C on 19 July 2006 in Wisley, Surrey.


It goes on to report something about thunderstorms, but fails to present any sort of map to show how widespread and intense the heat actually was. 

So desperate are they to convey the “record breaking” theme, that they give a list of nine stations which have set all-time records.


  County Previous max and date 1.7.2015 Max Years of data
Stonyhurst Lancashire 31.5 °C on 29/6/1976 32.6 °C 74
Gringley-on-the-Hill Nottinghamshire 31.1 °C on 17/7/2006 32.1 °C 15
Loftus Cleveland 28.4 °C on 2/8/1999 and 6/8/2003 29.2 °C 15
Ryhill West Yorkshire 31 °C on 9/8/2003 31.7 °C 20
Blencathra Cumbria 28.2 °C on 21/8/1995 28.7 °C 18
Pateley Bridge North Yorkshire 28.8 °C on 18/7/2013 29.2 °C 10
Shap Cumbria 28.4 °C on 18/7/2006 28.8 °C 17
Bainbridge North Yorkshire 30.5 °C on 9/8/2003 30.7 °C 23
Wittering Cambridgeshire 35.2 °C on 3/8/1999 35.3 °C 52


Pathetically, they include seven stations which don’t even go back as far as 1990, when so many records were set across the UK, and are consequently utterly worthless.

The two stations that do go back that far, Stonyhurst and Wittering, pose more questions than they answer:


1) Stonyhurst

Stonyhurst is in Lancashire, just outside Clitheroe, which immediately looks suspicious because the North West did not feel the full effect of the heat this week. For instance, Bolton, which hit 32.1C in 1990 only reached 30.5C this week. 


Using the Gladstone Family database, we can see how temperatures at the three nearest stations near to Stonyhurst did not come close to 32.6C. (All lie within 30 miles).


  Temp C
Manchester Airport 30.0
Bolton 30.6
Bingley 29.9


Manchester is situated to the southwest, Bolton west and Bingley east, so the area is pretty well covered.

Given that Stonyhurst is at a higher altitude than the rest, the temperature of 32.6C looks very incongruous. A possible explanation is that Stonyhurst lies at the bottom of Pendle Hill, which is to the east. With winds from the south east, this may well have led to a Foehn effect.


[The temperatures for Manchester cross check against the WeatherCast website here.)


One further complication is that Stonyhurst is one of the three locations used to calculate the Central England Temperature series. Consequently, an anomalous temperature there would have disproportionate effects on the overall series.



2) Wittering



Wittering RAF Air Base

The temperature station for Wittering is at the RAF airbase there, just south of Stamford in Lincolnshire.

Again using the Gladstone database, we find that the temperature peaked at 15.50 with 93.2F, or 34.0C, well short of the Met Office claim of 35.3C.




We can also check the temperatures at some of the nearby sites:




  Temp C
Cranwell 34.0
Holbeach 31.8
Coningsby 33.0
Cranfield 34.0
Cambridge 33.0
Waddington 33.0


There are subtle differences. For instance, at Cranwell below, the temperature peaked earlier at 12.50.





Holbeach can be discounted because it is close to the coast. However, the high temperature at Wittering does seem to be out of sync with the rest.

These all are, of course, measurements at fixed times, whether hourly or twice hourly, so it is possible that they don’t pick up the peaks, although it is difficult to see how that would make a difference of more than a tenth of a degree or so.







None of the above means that the temperatures recorded at Wittering and Stonyhurst are necessarily wrong. What it does show, though, is that temperature readings at a single site aren’t always a true reflection of what is happening at a district level, never mind a national one.

  1. A C Osborn permalink
    July 4, 2015 3:17 pm

    Paul, as I have pointed out in the past, the modern electronic Temperature gaugesare prone to picking up and reacting to “Transient Peaks” from just a few seconds to a minute or so.
    Whereas the older Mercury Thermometers would not have had time to react to the transient peak before it was gone again. Studies have shown that the new gauges can over-react up to 4.0 degrees C.

  2. July 4, 2015 3:41 pm

    Technical note: Stonyhurst is nearer to Longridge Fell than it is to Pendle Hill ( I have been to both places).

    ‘The village of Hurst Green and the adjoining Stonyhurst College lie on the south side of the fell.’

    Stonyhurst College had a tough cross country course on one side of the fell IIRC – but that was a long time ago 😉

  3. sailor1031 permalink
    July 4, 2015 3:46 pm

    so occasionally, and it is very occasionally, a large stationary high sets over eastern Europe and the CW circulation brings hot air from Africa and the spanish plain over France and Britain. This used to happen – very occasionally – when I was a kid living in England seventy years ago. It would bring temperatures in the 90s(F) otherwise unknown in fairly cool north-western Europe. There is nothing new here and no new record has been set. A 98 at LHR in 2015 does not trump a 100 at the Royal Observatory in August of 1911.

  4. July 5, 2015 12:42 am

    Stoneyhurst is a problem site with walking Stevenson screen.
    I’ve put the blue dot slightly south, not been confirmed as the screen, best always be cautious.

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