Shropshire weather: Heatwaves and thunderstorms - the ups and downs of summer
We’ve had flaming June, followed by wash-out July. Now brace yourself for hurricane August.
This summer has been nothing if not unpredictable, with a mixture of scorching hot days, cold nights and torrential rain.
Now, weather forecasters are telling us to prepare for a month of hurricanes and downpours, giving us what will be one of the wettest summers for years.
And that is saying something.
Following the record hot summer of 2006, Britain has experienced a number of wet summers over the past decade, most memorably the torrential downpours of 2007 and the infamous “barbecue summer of 2008”, when the persistent heavy rain spectacularly wrong-footed the weather forecasters.
But for sheer unpredictability, there have been few to rival the strange summer of 2017. According to the Weather Company, huge storms from the North Atlantic are set to ruin what remains of the holiday season, despite previous predictions that we could look forward to weeks of sunshine. About 15 hurricanes are expected there over the coming months, with the possibility that their tails could lash Britain.
Chief meteorologist at the Weather Company Todd Crawford said: “Unusually warm tropical Atlantic waters and higher-than-normal early activity both suggest an active hurricane season lies ahead.”
This is in stark contrast to June, when the mercury reached a sizzling 96.4F (35.8C) in Shrewsbury on June 19, hotter even than Bermuda. But July was the wettest month of the year so far, with two inches (50.8mm) of rainfall. In Oswestry, temperatures reached 73.4F(23C) and 82.4F(28C) on July 17 and 18, well above the average high temperature of 66F(19C) for the time of year.
However, overnight temperatures on these days plummeted to 46.4F(8C) and 48.2F(9C) on these days, much colder than the usual low of 55.4(13C).
However, Oli Claydon of the Met Office said it was too early to be making predictions for the whole of August.
“We’re having unsettled weather at the moment because low pressure coming over from the Atlantic is bringing the jet streams further south than people would like them to be,” he said. Jet streams are ribbons of extremely strong winds about six to 10 miles above the earth’s surface.
They are caused by the differences between air temperatures in the tropical and polar regions.
We get the wet, unsettled weather when the streams are pulled south so they are over the UK.
Mr Claydon said all the signs were that the jet streams would be staying in their current position at the moment, but it was possible that next week higher air pressures might lead to them moving north, and giving warmer, drier weather. “The UK is never going to have wall-to-wall sun in summer for a number of reasons, part of that is being an island, and also its position in relation to the Atlantic.”
He said the amount of sunshine in Shropshire last month was five per cent down on what one would normally expect at this time of year, and the amount of rainfall up nine per cent. The unpredictable weather can be a double-edged sword for Shropshire’s tourist attractions.
The Ludlow Spring Festival, held in the town’s castle grounds, was hit by wet weather, but was still judged to have been a success by those who attended, and the torrential downpours did not seem to put much of a damper on the crowds who turned out to see Rod Stewart at the Shrewsbury Town football ground.
However, it is a fair bet that revellers will be hoping the rain holds off for V Festival on August 19-20, which will see thousands of music fans camp out in the grounds of Weston Park to see top acts including Jay Z, Ellie Goulding, Pete Tong, Pink and The Wailers.
Veterans of such events, of course, are well versed in the need to come prepared, as was demonstrated by the number of people wearing waterproofs at the Let’s Rock festival in Shrewsbury’s Quarry Park on July 27.
Organisers of the Shrewsbury Flower Show, on August 11 and 12, will also be hoping for good weather, similar to the conditions which helped make the May open gardens event at Eccleshall so enjoyable. Michelle Morgans, of the RAF Museum at Cosford, near Albrighton, said the site tended to do well during wet weather, as most of the attractions are indoors.
“Because we’re an all-weather attraction, with most of our displays undercover, we tend to fare quite well when the weather’s bad,” she said.
“We also have outdoor green spaces where people can go when we have a good summer.”
Andrew Bebb, who keeps a dairy farm at Hanwood, near Shrewsbury, is well versed with the unpredictable nature of the British weather. He points out that July is traditionally the wettest month of the year.
“We had been in a drought situation until recently, creating a shortage of grass for the cattle,” he said.
“We are grateful for the rain, because the grass is now green again.”
But he said the downside was it meant it was too wet to harvest the corn. “The corn is fairly ripe, and you need to get the combine moving, otherwise you will lose a lot of it, or it will get damaged.
“The one thing you can say about the British weather is that it is unpredictable, you can have a drought followed by floods.
“We as farmers are totally dependent on the weather, but we are a patient lot, and we usually find a way through.”
He says one of the worst summers he remembers was in 2007, when there were three major floods.
“In Shropshire were are on the confluence of three rivers, so we do get a lot of flooding,” he said.