29 Sep 2011

UK basks in ‘wacky’ hot weather

The heat is on across the UK as temperatures reach record-breaking levels. But it isn’t necessarily climate change – just the “wacky British weather”, a Met Office spokeswoman tells Channel 4 News.

It’s been sunny skies as far as the eyes can see for many parts of the country, with temperatures more than 10C (18F) hotter than the average for the end of September.

Temperatures on Thursday made it the hottest 29 September ever. Finningley in Lincolnshire reached 29C (84F), smashing the previous record set in 1895 in York, when the mercury hit 27.8C (82F).

The unseasonable mini heatwave is expected to last until Sunday, with temperatures reaching 28C (82.4F) in London and 27C (80.6F) in central and eastern England. Most of the country will stay warm, apart from parts of Scotland.

A Met Office spokeswoman told Channel 4 News the baking weather was not down to climate change.

“It’s just normal variability… the normal wacky British weather,” she said.

Read more: 150 years of weather forecasts
Record-breaking temperatures and sunshine set for UK (Getty)

Is it an Indian summer?

But experts said it was not technically an Indian summer.

According to the Met Office’s meteorological glossary, it is too early in the year – it suggests an Indian summer “is defined as a warm, calm spell of weather occurring in autumn, especially in October and November.”

The origins of the term are uncertain, but some have suggested that it is based on the warm conditions in autumn in the United States when native American Indians chose to hunt.

It might seem a little strange to be handing out grit when we’re enjoying an Indian summer. Councillor Simon Wales

The earliest recorded use of the term is in America at the end of the 18th century, and in Britain at the beginning of the 19th.

The warmest temperatures ever recorded in the UK in October and November are 29.4C (84.9F) on 1 October in 1985, in Cambridgeshire, and 21.1C (69.8F) on 2 November in 1938, in Essex and Suffolk.

Watch the Met Office video below on what is causing the heatwave.

Preparations for winter

The hot weather has not stopped councils getting ready for the winter ahead. Plymouth City Council said its gritting lorries will be on standby for snow from Saturday.

The council said it is getting prepared in order to avoid the damage and disruption caused by the last two harsh winters. In Sutton, the council is preparing to hand out free grit to residents. Councillor Simon Wales from Sutton Council defended the decision.

“It might seem a little strange to be handing out the free grit already, particularly when we’re enjoying an Indian summer, but we have to be prepared.

“The snow last year came down in November so we want to ensure we’re as ready as we possibly can be so we can keep the borough moving when winter comes,” he said.

And the operator of Heathrow, BAA, has announced its winter preparations. It will have more staff and equipment to deal with bad weather following the chaos after a heavy snowfall led to a near shutdown of the airport before Christmas.