Skip to content

UK heatwave: How do temperatures compare with 1976?

July 24, 2022

By Paul Homewood



Even by BBC standards, this article is disgracefully dishonest and misleading:




People on social media have been comparing the high temperatures in much of the UK with the heatwave of 1976, suggesting that the severity of the current hot weather is being exaggerated.

So, what does the evidence show?

How hot was the summer of 1976?

The peak that year was 35.9C. That has been beaten by the current temperatures, with 40.3C recorded so far.

The heatwave of 1976 started in June and lasted for two months. There was a lack of rainfall and a significant drought, with the government enforcing water rationing.

The heatwave was rare for that decade. The average maximum temperature in July in the 1970s was 18.7C. In the 2010s, it was more than 20C.

Temp chart

The UK has been slowly getting warmer since the 19th Century, and this has sped up. In the past three decades the country has become 0.9C warmer on average, according to the UK State of the Climate report in 2020.

Nine out of ten of the hottest days ever recorded in the UK have been since 1990, according to the Met Office.

1976 ranks 13th in the list of the hottest UK days on record (some of these, not shown in the chart above, have occurred in the same year).

Who’s spreading the misleading comparison?

Suggestions that there is nothing unusual about this heatwave appear to have found a willing audience among climate change sceptics.

Hundreds of people have shared their experiences of the 1976 heatwave on social media, with some making the misleading suggestion that the current heatwave is "no different".

Others have accused the Met Office and the media of spreading "alarmism" and "hysteria". Some have suggested people need to "toughen up", describing those complaining about the heat as "snowflakes".

But even in the 1976 heatwave – which saw lower temperatures – excess deaths in parts of the country were up 30%.

Last week, the UK Health Security Agency issued its highest level four heat alert, warning illness and death could occur "among the fit and healthy".

The comparison with the 1976 heatwave has also proven popular among users sharing conspiracy theories – including unfounded claims that a "climate lockdown" is about to be imposed.

There is only one misleading comparison, and that is this BBC piece. To make it worse, it is presented as a Reality Check, rather than just an opinion.

The whole point about the comparison with 1976 is that this heatwave lasted two days, whereas the 1976 heatwave lasted for weeks, albeit that it did not peak at such a high temperature. And most people would agree that 1976 was a much more intense event because of that.

However to the climate extremists at the BBC, it is heresy to claim that weather was worse in the past! Consequently they do not address this issue at all, and merely concentrate on one day of heat.

They then go on to dismiss anybody who disagrees as ignorant deniers.

So, given that the BBC are afraid to tell its readers the truth, here it is. You can make your own minds up as to which summer was most extreme.

Below are the daily maximum temperatures for the CET, from June 1st to July 21st. For this period, the average temperatures were 23.9C in 1976 and 21.6C this year:


This year, there have been only two days above 30c, compared to eight in 1976. Moreover these eight occurred between 28th June and 7th July, a span of ten days when the temperature did not dip below 29.7C.

Finally let’s debunk once again the lie about heatwave deaths:

“But even in the 1976 heatwave – which saw lower temperatures – excess deaths in parts of the country were up 30%.

Last week, the UK Health Security Agency issued its highest level four heat alert, warning illness and death could occur "among the fit and healthy"”

During the last hot summer we had in 2018, there were less deaths in summer than any other season. And that summer also recorded the second lowest percentage of annual deaths in the decade:




The BBC have shown their contempt for ordinary people, who dare to question the climate dogma. Anybody who disagrees must be re-educated.

  1. Andrew JOHNSON permalink
    July 24, 2022 11:39 am

    The Beeb are absolute strangers to the truth

    • Realist permalink
      July 24, 2022 2:58 pm

      Strangers to the truth is par for the course for climate alarmists (and most European politicians, even national governments in both EU and non-EU countries, not only the EU Commission).
      Strange the scaremongerers always “forget” the 1930s in the USA as well as 1976

      • 186no permalink
        July 24, 2022 6:07 pm

        How did the Grapes Of Wrath ever get written…..

    • Matelot 65 permalink
      July 24, 2022 6:34 pm

      Or 1911?

    • Epping Blogger permalink
      July 25, 2022 12:25 am

      Of course they know the truth. They just don’t like it and refuse to include it in their programmimg. Their agenda is too important to them.

      • Phoenix44 permalink
        July 25, 2022 8:55 am

        Most of the BBC is too dumb too understand what they are doing. They have no ability to think critically and are utterly convinced that the things they’ve been told to believe are true. They have no clue that their “fact checks” are often methodological nonsense and the data they use completely unfit for purpose. But that’s climate science too. I’m sure many proper scientists and data analysts look on with horror. Many statisticians too, but they seem to have given up criticising, probably because the threats to careers and jobs is too high.

  2. Dazed and conservative permalink
    July 24, 2022 11:53 am

    Might we optimistically assume that this sort of hysterical lying reflects mounting panic in the ranks of the Marxist / climate liars ? As the old saying goes , ” the truth doesn’t mind being questioned , a lie doesn’t like to be challenged “

  3. Micky R permalink
    July 24, 2022 12:33 pm

    The BBC should not be trusted by default, see latest chapter of the Martin Bashir saga.

    I’ve attempted to compare the “near-surface” atmospheric energy content of 25th July 2019 in the Cambridge area (temperature recorded at 38.7C) and 19th July 2022 in the Coningsby area (temperature recorded at 40.3’C), but I can’t easily find the data. In my limited knowledge, the energy content is a function of relative humidity and temperature, therefore

    Coningsby 19th July 2022 14% RH at Scampton (approx 20 miles away)
    Cambridge 25th July 2019 perhaps around 35% RH?

    Others here will have a greater understanding, others here may have more accurate data.

    • I don't believe it! permalink
      July 25, 2022 12:22 am

      Coningsby is a large RAF strike base and Scampton was (Red Arrows) but there were talks about shutting it down.
      Loads of Tarmac and presumably weather data.

    • Micky R permalink
      July 25, 2022 5:41 pm

      Using the approximations in my previous post and a pressure of 1009 hPa for both locations (from weatheronline), the back of my envelope suggests that the energy content of the air at Cambridge on 25th July 2019 was approx 40% higher than the energy content of the air at Coningsby on 19th July 2022 i.e. a reduction in energy content can still permit an increase in temperature if humidity is substantially reduced.
      This is a long way from my “skillset”, anyone else care to use their envelope?

  4. Stuart Hamish permalink
    July 24, 2022 12:54 pm

    ‘ Last week the UK Health and Security Agency issued its highest level four heat alert warning illness and death could occur among ” the fit and healthy ” ‘…… Unbelievable ..

    .If you care to visit the Climate Change Dispatch blog Paul there is a poignant report on the results from a 2000 – 2019 research project published in The Lancet revealing that on average 85 Britons die from cold related complications compared to one from heat …..A ratio of 85 : 1

  5. Stuart Hamish permalink
    July 24, 2022 1:18 pm

    ” The comparison with the 1976 heatwave has also proven popular among users
    sharing conspiracy theories – including claims that a climate lockdown is about to be imposed ” .

    Notice the sleazy insinuation that casting doubts on the ‘record’ heat of July 2022 and comparisons with the 1976 heatwave are somehow cognitively associated with ‘climate lockdown’ conspiracy theories . I have not observed anything of the sort . Did Stephen Lewandowsky offer his advisory ‘services ‘ to the BBC

  6. kjbirby permalink
    July 24, 2022 1:22 pm

    A great book about the 1976 drought and heat is “The Great Drought of 1976” by Evelyn Cox, written only two years after that summer. It should be mandatory reading for every journalist (are there any journalists left nowadays?). One short extract from mid-June:

    ‘The weather got hotter and hotter. On June 26 the temperature in London reached 95 degrees . . . our friends described the city as a fetid swamp lying in a haze of pollution. The roads were packed with traffic as people tried to get out of the cities. By 10am the thermometer was often hovering about the 90-degree mark. By lunchtime the sweltering heat was intolerable. There was no breeze, nothing stirred, grass, plants and trees drooped in defeat. We wondered if anything would survive it for long.’

    That account was written by a Herefordshire country-dweller, and it went on for weeks and weeks that summer. I can confirm it, for I had a young family in those days and recall the incessant, never-ending heat well. However, we just got on with life as best we could without whingeing – we just accepted it as part of the natural variety of English weather!

    • Tony Drew permalink
      July 24, 2022 4:17 pm

      In 1976 our family holidayed in Devon. The drought meant we could only flush the loo with a half bucket of water and for washing we had to use a pool on Dartmoor!

  7. Joe Public permalink
    July 24, 2022 3:10 pm

    “Even by BBC standards, this article is disgracefully dishonest and misleading”

    Have you considered requesting that the BBC’s dedicated Climate Disinformation reporters investigate the BBC’s story, Paul?

    They trawl for work. (See bottom of their page)

    • Mark Hodgson permalink
      July 24, 2022 8:13 pm

      Please may I recommend a visit to Cliscep to read Jit’s inspired rant against that article:

      Climate change: How to talk to a denier

      • jimlemaistre permalink
        July 24, 2022 8:59 pm

        A person who does not accept that climate change is happening, or does not accept that it is caused by human activity such as burning fossil fuels:
        The senator said that climate deniers and the fossil fuel industry were going to end up on the wrong side of history.

        In her arguments against protecting the polar bear, she referenced the work of several high-profile climate deniers.

        More examples

        He asks how it is possible for climate deniers to be put in top scientific positions in the government.

        Should climate deniers be banned from expressing their opinions, on the grounds that they’re dangerously misinformed?

        What they refer to as “climate deniers” are the people who believe that the climate has always changed and always will.

        How the Environmentalists are taught to ‘Thwart’ Deniers . . . .

        Sick SH!T my friends . . . Science . . . Only Science rule My World . . .

  8. John189 permalink
    July 24, 2022 3:25 pm

    Yes, a disgraceful BBC article indeed. I also take issue with the assertion that heatwaves were rare in the 70s. There were certainly some very uninspiring summers in 1972 and 1978 but 1975 was glorious. From around 6 June until late September with 3 periods of constant high temperatures, 2 in June and the main one in August.

  9. Harry Passfield permalink
    July 24, 2022 3:31 pm

    I was 31 during the ’76 heatwave. So, first off, the BBC should KNOW that ’76 was a defined heatwave but 2022 was not. Secondly, the way we dealt with the heat was, basically, to welcomei it as part of a great Summer to come: we had not been conditioned to expect Armageddon. Those who would control us have much to answer for – not least, as I am now hearing, that the likes of Gates, probably the owner of the most land in private hands ever, is minting it because of the new scare about nitrogen.
    Summer heatwaves are a fact of life, not if CC.

    • Stuart Hamish permalink
      July 24, 2022 4:24 pm

      I live in Victoria , Australia Harry and I have experienced stiflingly hot temperatures exceeding 42C over a few days such as in 2009 seguing into the Black Saturday conflagration when it felt like a convection oven outside , but not a malingering multi week heatwave like the English summer of 1976 ..Eastern Australia endured heatwaves on that scale in 1939 and 1896

  10. Robert Rees permalink
    July 24, 2022 3:44 pm

    I would be very interested to hear your view on the two world maps placed side by side in the BBC article purporting to show how more of the globe suffered from heat this time round rather than 1976. It was a bit light on scales etc. Any view?

    • July 24, 2022 6:11 pm

      The color scales are deliberately misleading. There has been a tiny bit of warming since the 1970s, but that does not mean half the world is suffering from heat waves

  11. July 24, 2022 4:04 pm

    I’d love to see you take apart the latest disgraceful BBC piece by a green hacktivist masquerading as a journo, Jane McMullen, and her supposed expose of how shadowy groups were involved to play down climate change. Utter and total bollocks when the world and his wife, inc media, politicians, NGOs , big corp, the establishment et al promote it ad nauseam. She writes it like a religious tract, which of course, is their schtick.

  12. July 24, 2022 5:07 pm

    Is that true, or did you hear it from the BBC ?

  13. John Lyon permalink
    July 24, 2022 5:27 pm

    It would be interesting to work out how much bigger the storage heaters that are runways have evolved over the last 50 years. Also is the air clearer, in the ’70s power generation was mostly coal so combustion by products were higher also vehicle engines less efficient so again particulates were different , could any of that explain higher temperatures.

  14. cookers52 permalink
    July 24, 2022 5:59 pm

    I use their own words, the climate emergency of 1976 resulted in Parliament passing The Drought Act 1976.
    Water rationing, no water out of your taps for a large amount of the time. Societal disruption widespread.
    Now that really was a climate emergency.

    • dennisambler permalink
      July 25, 2022 10:07 am

      Also appointed a Minister for Drought, Denis Howells,

      “It was the country’s driest summer in more than 200 years, and things became so bad a Labour MP, Denis Howell, was made Minister for Drought in the August. The Prime Minister gave him the job of persuading the nation to use less water – and he was even ordered by No10 to do a rain dance on behalf of the nation.

      Howell responded by telling reporters he was doing his bit by sharing baths with his wife, Brenda. Within days heavy rainfall caused widespread flooding, and he was made Minister of Floods instead.”

  15. David Tallboys permalink
    July 24, 2022 7:20 pm

    Slightly off topic but an article on climate modelling by a team including NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt seems to show what happens if the obviously exaggerated models are excluded – and the answer looks OK to me. can some of you look at it – particularly the graph with the blue lines at the bottom.

    I posted it on the Times and got howled at.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      July 25, 2022 8:47 am

      Some modelers clearly getting worried that the models are being misused and forecasts are likely to be significantly wrong.

  16. July 24, 2022 10:08 pm

    Paul – this is an excellent article, but do you have an answer to the accusation that temperatures were significantly higher in the 2010s:p. From the top of the article:
    “The heatwave was rare for that decade. The average maximum temperature in July in the 1970s was 18.7C. In the 2010s, it was more than 20C.”

    • July 25, 2022 8:53 am

      Our climate is now slightly warmer on average than the 1970s, but this is a red herring, to draw attention away from the fact that 1976 is still the hottest summer on record.

      The Met Office claim that our summers will keep on getting hotter, but the data does not support this

  17. July 24, 2022 11:38 pm

    Haha, my aching sides!

    UK could see temperatures of nearly 50C if we do not reduce carbon emissions – warning (Express, 24 Jul)

    And according to experts, this is not the last time that Britons will see extreme temperatures, with some warning it could reach nearly 50C by 2030 if we do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Speaking exclusively to, Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Chair of the Grantham Institute, warned that we should be prepared for “temperature extremes” in the UK.

    He said: “If we and other countries reduce our greenhouse gas emissions quickly and hopefully to zero by 2050, the rise in hot temperatures might be limited to 2C above what we have just seen.

    Lurid laughable lunacy.

  18. Phoenix44 permalink
    July 25, 2022 8:43 am

    Focusing entirely on maximums is completely misleading. That doesn’t measure whether it’s “warmer” than 1976. One month where every day is say 25 degrees us clearly warmer than a month where two days are 28 but all the rest are 22 degrees. A better analysis would be the average of hour by hour temperatures over the period. That measures the temperature over the period. Maximums do not.

  19. Phoenix44 permalink
    July 25, 2022 9:04 am

    Just to add, look at the area under the line graph – that measures “warmth”. 1976 was “warmer”.

  20. 3x2 permalink
    July 25, 2022 9:06 am

    Something they carefully avoid with such comparisons is that the 2022 ‘heatwave’ lasted for two days. Heatwave of 1976 lasted two and a half months!

  21. July 25, 2022 9:36 am

    Forget where I read it, but apparently the spatial extent of the recent “heatwave” was unusual, hence proof of impending doom.

    It will very likely emerge soon that the recent heat was due to a rare configuration of meteorological factors, such as the jetstream, but this will not get mentioned on the BBC.

  22. Michael Perry, MSc permalink
    July 25, 2022 10:05 am

    In 1976 I lived in Cropwell Bishop, Nottinghamshire and had a weather centre in my new garden. The village is in the Vale of Belvoir and in a dip so cold or warm air tends to roll down into the small village. In 1976 our weather station recorded a regular 39+ Degrees C. We reported this, as did others in the Vale but the Met Office rejected our readings as they were not ‘official’. They were factually correct though. So I always laugh at claims that 1976 was not that hot. It was locally.

  23. Gerry, England permalink
    July 25, 2022 2:36 pm

    The other point about 1976 is that it lasted through August as well since I recall fighting heath fires during the school holidays which have only just started. It will be interesting to see what happens next month.

  24. Spurwing Plover permalink
    July 29, 2022 6:18 pm

    The BBC has become as bad a s CNN Leftists Propaganda not News No Wonder no one trusts the M.S. Media anymore

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: