Here in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, Bill Foggitt was something of a legend. An amateur weatherman famed for predicting weather conditions based on, amongst other things, pine cones and frog spawn, Bill had quite a following. He used to delight his followers each Spring by claiming the summer was going to be a heatwave; and when invariably it turned out to be, once again, a typical British summer, people tended to forget the prediction he had made in the first place!
Not so these days. The Met Office may forever be associated with its 'barbeque summer' forecast - which, without the headline, would have in all likelihood passed off with very little fuss, like in the days of Bill Foggitt.
So it was with interest when I saw private forecasting company Positive Weather Solutions featuring heavily in the press last month, with headlines of a long hot summer, with a chance of a new record, beating the current hottest ever temperature, recorded in Faversham, Kent, in 2003, of over 38C.
Interestingly, a look at PWS's website shows a forecast that bears little resemblance to newspaper headlines at the time, although they do suggest record breaking temperatures in August are possible.
So what are the chances of such a scorching summer? I thought it was time I put my money where my mouth was and have a look to see if there are any clues as to what lies ahead.
Firstly, to an argument I have heard many times. Summers following an El Nino are good.
Looking back at the last 3 El Nino summers of 1998, 2003 and 2007 gives a very mixed picture. 2003 was a very warm summer, with a new temperature record established. But although April 2007 was the warmest on record, the summer that followed was poor, with serious flooding during widespread heavy rain which affected much of Yorkshire. Summer temperatures were close to average in 2007; identical in fact to summer temperatures in 1998, according to CET (Central England temperature) data.
So an El Nino does not seem to be a reliable indicator of summer conditions in the UK.
I then looked to see if there were any conclusions to be drawn from our very cold winter. What happened in the past, when winters across the UK were cold? I looked back over the last 70 years.
What I found was very interesting. It turns out that on very few occasions were cold winters followed by warm summers; in fact the vast majority of summers, over 90%, ended up with average or below average temperatures, following a cold winter.
And what about solar considerations?
The poor summers of 2007, 2008 and 2009 have all coincided with the protracted solar minimum that we are only now recovering from. Although activity is now picking up, it remains at a very low level (as measured by the number of sunspots).
Latest research suggests that the position of the jet stream is affected, at least to some extent, by solar activity, and low solar activity this summer could mean the jet stream is again on average further south than normal. This would not bode well for this summer.
This thinking is confirmed by Piers Corbyn, from Weather Action. He accurately predicted our prolonged cold winter, and last summers washout, and bases his forecasts on the way solar activity influences our atmosphere.
I spoke to him last week, and he is confident that this summer, because amongst other things solar activity is likely to be low, will not be a 'barbeque summer'. And there's no chance, he says, of breaking the current UK record for heat. Weather Action will be publishing a more detailed summer forecast in the next few weeks.
I don't pretend to be any expert in long range forecasting. But it would seem that there are enough clues out there to suggest what our summer might be like. It won't please the tabloid headline writers with an eye for a sensational headline, but here is my forecast.
Summer 2010: An average British summer, with some spells of fine warm weather, but with its fair share of cooler unsettled spells too.
And to those hoping for a long hot summer, like in 1976 or 1995, I say this. Don't hold your breath!