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Santon Downham–Records Built On Sand

June 22, 2022

By Paul Homewood

h/t Ray Sanders




If you wondered why Santon Downham should be even hotter than next to the tarmac at Heathrow, read on!



I’ve camped out in the Sahara, and it was a big shock to find how quickly the sand turned from burning hot to freezing cold!

In other words, Santon Downham is no more representative English temperatures than Heathrow and the other urban sites that consistently appear at the top of the lists every time we have a spell of hot weather.

  1. David V permalink
    June 22, 2022 5:36 pm

    One problem is the view that is formed by the phrase “urban heat island” – more correctly it should be seen as oceans of cool green. Plants transpire (which acts the same as the mantra from my school days “evaporation causes cooling”) resulting in a significant cooling effect. Rocks, dry soil and sand all have much the same temperature effect as concrete and bricks.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      June 22, 2022 5:56 pm

      There’s lots of published papers describing what takes UHI above and beyond. E.g.
      “Three main causative factors are identified: anthropogenic heat, impervious surfaces, and three-dimensional (3D) urban geometry. Furthermore, the 3D urban geometry factor is subdivided into three subfactors: additional heat stored in vertical walls, radiation trapping, and wind speed reduction. “

      • that man permalink
        June 23, 2022 10:34 am

        Indeed —and I understand that the hottest place in England is the doormat of a hairdressers opposite the ‘walkie-talkie’ office building in London, the curved fenestration of which focuses reflected sunlight at a certain time of day…

      • Gerry, England permalink
        June 23, 2022 10:59 am

        Was…the ‘walkie scorchie’ was fixed soon after things in the street below started melting. It is noticeably windier around that building.

  2. MrGrimNasty permalink
    June 22, 2022 5:40 pm

    The problem with all these weather records is that they are only good for pub talk, useless for indicating climate change. Only measurements taken on the same instrument, regularly calibrated, by the same method, in ‘normal’ unchanged environs etc. have any scientific value. Even the CET falls short, although it is the best we have.
    The vast majority of the front running stations listed as hottest on netweather each day are in London and/or airbases/ports – how representative is that?

    • David V permalink
      June 23, 2022 9:50 am

      Even fully compliant environments never remain unchanged – plants grow…

  3. June 22, 2022 6:16 pm

    “Sand is a pretty good conductor …”

    Actually that is BS, the grains of sand make it a poor conductor, as heat in the surface layer of grains can only conduct away into the sub-surface via small areas of contact. Couple that with a low specific heat, and relative dryness, and surface grains of sand quickly get very hot, and stay that way for a long time.

    • June 22, 2022 6:40 pm

      Yes, it’s the opposite really:

      ” Sand is a solid and a poor conductor of heat. That means that when sunlight hits sand, all the energy of the sunlight is absorbed in the first millimeter or so of the sand, the heat stays there or spreads only a few millimeters down.

      That’s why the air above it warms so much,.

  4. June 22, 2022 6:50 pm

    ‘Would have struggled to sleep in the 24C conditions’

    Maybe, but it’s not Arizona.

    • Andrew Babington permalink
      June 22, 2022 8:04 pm


    • June 22, 2022 9:06 pm

      We have just had a week of about 40C and not lower than 30C at night in Tarn, SW France.
      A fan in the bedroom was quite sufficient for a good night’s sleep. People talk the most utter rubbish.

    • John Hultquist permalink
      June 23, 2022 4:16 am

      At 24C I still want a sheet or thin blanket.
      You can be sure the person that wrote that has never been to AZ in June.

  5. Ray Sanders permalink
    June 22, 2022 8:24 pm

    These endless Met Office “record” claims rather annoy me as they are nearly always completely bogus in one way or another.
    As an example, in the late 1990s the National Fruit Farm collection was relocated from Reading to Faversham (Kent) by the University of Reading. The chosen site (Brogdale Farm) was redeveloped as an out of town Arts and Crafts centre with retail units, business units, a miniature railway, cafe etc and as a local tourist attraction.
    Now look at the photo to the above website and notice all the block paving setts. These were delivered on pallets and wheeled round site for laying in the summer of 2003 – I was working in one of the office units at the time but it was nothing to do with me! It became apparent to some of the builders how noticeably warmer than the surrounding area the vicinity of these pallets became in strong sunlight. So it was “rumoured” that they were parked around the nearby Stevenson’s Screen one certain August day as a little bit of “rascality” to see what might happen and then they were later removed.
    When the readings from said screen were checked a day or so later the temperature was hailed a new national record (despite being unusually high relative to nearby sites and later in the day) and thus the site was literally put on the map. The perpetrators couldn’t own up to their mischief and who would have believed them anyway? A record is record after all.
    The real professionals, however, were not so easily duped and the Royal Meteorological Society itself felt the need to investigate this and many other dubious claims of that day. Philip Eden and Stephen Burt duly investigated (they found the Kew Garden’s screen too close to the ground – can you believe it?) and concluded the Faversham reading was dubious contending they could not rule out interventions by “persons unknown”. Their full report is now paywalled but you can start here. The used pallets, some setts and various building materials were still visible in the photography taken in September.
    The saga still comes up in certain Faversham hostelries to this day.
    This UK “record” stood until 2019 when an almost equally compromised site (delisted from the CET in 1931 for UHI anomalies) set the current “record” and I certainly would not put it past the odd student having played silly buggers with that site either.

    • roger permalink
      June 22, 2022 10:49 pm

      Philip Eden was a ferocious defender of the CET record over many years and it is he we have to thank for it’s protection from egregious tampering up until he died.
      Since then there has been much suspicious manipulation

  6. LeedsChris permalink
    June 22, 2022 9:39 pm

    Santon Downham is well known for temperature extremes because of being in the sandy Breckland, so the area has its own microclimate. Its most outstanding feature is very cold nights in summer and it has recorded frosts in all 12 months of the year.

  7. catweazle666 permalink
    June 22, 2022 11:47 pm

    “I’ve camped out in the Sahara, and it was a big shock to find how quickly the sand turned from burning hot to freezing cold!”

    And yet if you had been camping in a rain forest at a similar latitude, the diurnal temperature swing would be unlikely to have exceeded a couple of degrees, despite the atmospheric CO2 concentration being effectively identical.

    The atmospheric water vapour would however been approaching 100%

    I gave never yet found an AGW true believer who can explain that discrepancy.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      June 22, 2022 11:53 pm

      In Florida they water the stones in Orange Groves so the water evaporates and keeps the frosts off at night. Handy stuff this water vapour!

    • dennisambler permalink
      June 23, 2022 10:31 am

      “During the day, sand’s radiation of the sun’s energy superheats the air and causes temperatures to soar. But, at night most of the heat in the sand quickly radiates into the air and there is no sunlight to reheat it, leaving the sand and its surroundings colder than before.

      However, this phenomenon alone doesn’t account for such a drastic drop in temperature. After all, when the sun goes down on a tropical beach, you don’t need to don a winter coat.

      The main reason for the stark temperature change is that desert air is extremely dry. In arid deserts like the Sahara and the Atacama Desert in Chile, the humidity — the amount of water vapor in the air — is practically zero, and unlike sand, water has a huge capacity to store heat.”

      Which sort of destroys the CO2 theory.

      • catweazle666 permalink
        June 23, 2022 3:36 pm

        My point exactly!

  8. Phoenix44 permalink
    June 23, 2022 7:58 am

    “A month’s rainfall fell in just 12 hours…”

    These journalists simply don’t understand the data. The “month’s rainfall” is the average. But in June in the UK in the east it will be highly variable.

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