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Where has the summer gone?

Richard Chapman Richard Chapman | 15:26 UK time, Tuesday, 14 July 2009

With low pressure remaining the dominant force of our weather this week and the heat-wave of late June now seeming a distant memory, the question many people are asking is where has the summer gone?

Position of the jet stream for settled conditionsThe latest Monthly Outlook from BBC Weather shows increasing confidence that by the end of July and into early August we will see a return to warmer and more settled summer weather.

It is expected that the Azores high will build northwards and become more dominant. This will result in above-average levels of sunshine for the time of year and a rise in temperatures.

There is still a possibility of some further rainfall at times but it should be much drier than of late.

So why have we moved into a spell of unsettled weather with heavy showers, many of which have been thundery and accompanied by gusty, squally winds? The answer is the "jet stream".

The jet stream plays a fundamental role in our weather and its position can cause significant variations in our weather.

Over the last few days the BBC Weather team have been using the jet stream graphic to explain how this is affecting our current weather pattern.

BBC broadcast meteorologist John Hammond says:

"The jet stream graphic introduces a broader meteorological context to the 'poor' weather we are experiencing.
The viewer is given a clear, shorthand explanation of why our summer has 'deserted us'. In essence because the jet is unusually far south its attendant wet and windy low pressure systems are being dragged across the UK.
Normally they should be much further north at this time of year, allowing high pressure to settle the weather down.
Until the jet migrates northwards again, high pressure and warm sunshine will be rare and fleeting."

You can find out more about how jet streams were first identified and what they are here on the BBC Weather site.

Position of the jet stream for unsettled conditionsDuring the last week the jet stream has taken a more southerly track across the Atlantic than is normal for this time of year. As a result, we are seeing a conveyor belt of low pressure systems making their way across the UK. Each of these has brought an intensification of showery activity and windy conditions with sunny spells in between. In the short term this looks likely to continue.

Like many of the additional graphics we use to help tell the weather story, such as the Atlantic pressure chart, the jet stream will not be used every day. However, when it helps tell the weather story and explains why we are experiencing one weather type or another then you are likely to see it used on our television broadcasts.


  • Comment number 1.

    I've been asking for the Jet Stream position to be displayed and its influence explained for a while; so well done you. Can this become permanent?

    Why the Jet Stream? Remember the Gloucester floods of 2007? The jet stream was more southerly than normal and effectively steered wet weather fronts up to England and parked them there. If the Jet Stream is high, croosing over the top of Britain, we get lots more warm sunny weather.

  • Comment number 2.

    The 'heatwave' of June? Most of Britain got a couple of days nudging 80 farenheit, and a few pleasant sunny days.

    Oh, but I forgot, we all live in London, don't we? If it's hot there for a few days, it's a 'national' disaster that we 'all' have to cope with. Just like covering stories about the state of UK retailing by standing on Oxford Street, or national education policy from a school in Fulham.
    A pity there's already an organisation called LBC, or you could just cut out the middleman.

  • Comment number 3.

    Jet streams around GB usually have a wave-like character.They form at the boundary of neighbouring air masses which have significant temperature differences.

    Jupiter's jet streams are said to form the familar multicoloured bands of the planet.

    Mountain ranges can form a low-level barrier jet.

    It is reckoned that only 1% of the potential wind gradient energy of the jet stream would suffice the energy needs of today's world.

    Who said the 1% doesn't really mattter ??

    Please leave the building now........

  • Comment number 4.

    where has the summer gone?.
    the jet stream was hauled over by the british government and ordered to pay massive tax bill so it left and will never return until there is a change in this country.
    or due inpart from hot air comming out of the commons the jet stream has been pushed beyond our reach.
    or due to government taxation summer has been canceled unless we are willing to pay for extra sun levels.

  • Comment number 5.

    sweetsmellofsuccess - You took the words right out of my mouth !!!

    Yet again, the 12% of Londoners whingeing about it being 'too hot' [translation = the Tube doesn't have air conditioning...] has spoiled it for the rest of us.

    When will London-centric nonsense stop ?? I hold no brief for Harriet Harman, but within her barmy scheme for 'positive discrimination for those from Oop North' there is a grain of good old - fashioned common sense !

    Now if we could just make the Plinth a touring attraction...

  • Comment number 6.

    I actually enjoy the cool weather. As far as I am concerned it can stay :)

  • Comment number 7.

    What happened to the BBC story from May telling us we were all in for a long hot summer?. Seriously, if the BBC's own meteorologists cannot predict that the weather would be so mild, then how can we believe the Climate Change forecasts from the BBC, if they cannot predict the weather two months ahead, then how can they possibly be so certain about Climate Change?.

  • Comment number 8.

    rustigjongens - because climate and weather are two ENTIRELY different concepts. Sadly due to the vapid use of 'climate' for spurious purposes such as 'climate control' in cars, many people don't realise that 'climate' changes can only be observed over generations. Changes in the weather of a period of 10-20 years is NOT the climate changing, but it may well provide strong evidence that the climate, for say the next 100 years, will be different. So we shouldn't ignore changes in the weather, as it may be the best early warning we have that something serious is going to happen to the planet's climate.

    Just because we don't know WHEN an earthquake is going to take place is not a reason for doubting WHETHER it is going to take place.

  • Comment number 9.

    There I was just getting used to an average summer mix of sun, cloud, showers, rain, lightning and thunder, wind, and all else, and you come along to spoil it with this jetstream stuff. Whatever happened to those isobars, low pressures, high pressures, warm fronts and cold fronts (I fell in love with meteorology because of those symbols!) and good old fashioned whether the weather today?

    Personally speaking (and I claim copyright on this) I think that the good old earth is slowing down a little because of all the extra weight us people are putting on it. It is doing a bit of a wobble, like when you put your finger lightly on a spinning gyroscope. Because some eastern monstrosity told all its people to jump at a precise moment, perhaps. Devilishly cunning some of these eastern sages, always have been.

  • Comment number 10.

    Thanks for that.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think its fair to say that nothing stays the same forever and that includes our beautiful planet and its weather patterns Though it does seem that quite a lot of the changes have been eased along somewhat by those at the top of the food chain.

  • Comment number 12.

    It was suggested to me by an Italian that we have a mistaken idea about when our summer is. They consider their holiday of Ferragosto, Aug 15th as the time when their annual long sunny period 'breaks', signalling the end of consistent summer weather. It feels as if we often experience periods of good weather from May through to early July, after which the weather becomes much more unstable until we sometimes have an Indian summer in September/october. So perhaps it's a misguided cultural expectation to expect good weather in the later part of July and August.

  • Comment number 13.

    I don't understand why are so obsessed with the weather here. Personally, I am not a lover of 30c temperature and hot, dry weather - I like a much more comfortable 19-21c, which typical for Britain. If people are so desperate for hot weather, I suggest they emigrate! British summers should be cool and sunny, with occasional showers, not boiling hot like Sicily or Crete.

  • Comment number 14.


    Thanks for the explanation, I stand corrected !.

  • Comment number 15.

    Actually, NASA put it much better than I ever could..

    Understanding this helps strip much of the spin and hype from the debate over global warming and what we can and cannot do about it.

  • Comment number 16.

    For those of us who do physical work indoors with no air conditioning, hot weather is no fun. Bring on the rain and cool breezes.

  • Comment number 17.

    5 or 6 weeks ago when the Met office predicted a scorching hot summer I remember thinking "yer right" I will believe it when I see it. Now what happens, rain, wind and very unsettled.
    This lot couldn't tip coal never mind the weather.

  • Comment number 18.

    Like a few people who've commented I don't really mind the cooler weather(I'm blond haired/fair skinned) so 30c temperatures don't particularly thrill me.
    However, can the weather forecasters keep quiet about future weather predictions? just stick to no more than 5 days ahead. They make themselves sound like fools when they give us way off and way ahead predictions like they did with this summer's weather (and then get it wrong)
    Also I a agree with what someone has written on here ~ bring back the pressure system and isobars ~ they made the weather forecasts more interesting and engaging. Perhaps we could have the jet stream thrown in as well?

  • Comment number 19.

    The question is ... would the BBC be able to tell us with any certainty when summer does eventually reappear.

    All too often I can sit watching the 24 hr forecast on Ceefax digital while the weather news being broadcast on channel 1 gives an entirely different forecast for the same locality.

    A short while ago the BBC made a huge fuss of having spent two million pounds on a new, improved forecasting system. I don't know where it went to or even if it ever got off the ground, but I can't say the forecasts have been any more accurate since. And I certainly see little point in allowing two conflicting reports to be issued.

    Interestingly, the ballyhoo which accompanied the new service died out within a day or so.

    I'd like to know who signed the contract, what they expected to get from it and whether there was a get out clause.

  • Comment number 20.

    Showing the jet stream is a good idea,but please please can you go back to showing the weather the way you did last year,why cant you show the temp the cloud and the wind direction on 1 page the new way is damm aweful and takes to long,ive used this site for the forecasts for years but since you deleted the use of wind direction ive had to go to a better site that shows it.........sort it out please

  • Comment number 21.

    What a question, I mean it is not like that Britain is known for the sunny summers is it.

  • Comment number 22.

    I have just got back from Warsaw and can confirm that the summer has nipped over to Poland!.

    Could someone enlighten me to how the jet stream impacts the UK weather?, a work colleague mentioned to me that the jet stream can heavily impact the weather?.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    Is this not the third year in a row when the jet stream has been "unusually further south than in a normal summer". Seems like this IS the new usual.

    Does the Gulf Stream (higher temp waters) affect the position of the jet stream? What's up with the Gulf Stream, there's been no new data released about the flow rate for 3 years. Coincidence?

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    It's 20C in the SE today, that is quite warm.
    If it wasn't for the North Atlantic (Northern Hemisphere) Jet Stream, it would be considerably cooler here during the summer months and by comparison, an ice-age type winter.

    Example: Madrid is on the same line of Latitude as New York (40 degrees North), give or take 10 minutes or so, but London is 51 degrees North, somewhere near to Calgary in Canada, Newcastle 55 degrees North and Aberdeen 57 degrees North, only a few degrees south of Anchorage in Alaska. The JetStream is an extremely important factor in our weather, and that of most of Northern Europe. Flowing west to east, it brings warmer air from the Gulf of Mexico, warmed by the Gulf Stream oceanic current, and maintains the UK temperate climate. We rarely drop below zero but for a few odd days in the winter (in the south of England) to maybe for a few weeks further north. Without the JetStream we would be much colder all the time, more like Northern Canada.

    I think it would provide a much better insight into how the weather works if the MetOffice presenters that do the weather for the BBC would include that on their bulletins. It helps to visualise the mechanics of weather.

    As for long range forecasts, I work with the MetOffice on some projects related to aviation, and a 5 day forecast is about as good as it gets. Anything further ahead than that is based purely on models and projections derived from those models. The MetOffice also hold a huge amount of statistical data which helps drive those models, but the fact remains, that forecasts are accurate only at the time of production, and the further away from the event you are forecasting you are, the less accurate that forecast will be.

    Tomorrows forecast is normally pretty good.
    2 days away and it get's more likely, but not certain
    3, 4 and 5 days away become just possibles

    More than 5 days - pick a straw.

    For the record, the BBC don't produce the weather. There are forces at work much bigger than the BBC - LOL!!!!

  • Comment number 27.

    Yes, but Popshed wrote "Is this not the third year in a row when the jet stream has been "unusually further south than in a normal summer". Seems like this IS the new usual." It's a good question.

    We hear about the Gulf Stream, El Nino and the Jet Stream as possible causes for the 3 'non' summers we have endured. It's difficult to put all the pieces together.

    I can't bear the thought of kicking my heels for another winter only to have more of this misery. If this is the new reality I need to find a new country ...

  • Comment number 28.

    Now, I am not daft, but I would dearly love to know how the powers that be have got summer forecasts so wrong in 2007 and 2009 (fair enough, 2008 was forecast to be awful). It's INCREDIBLY frustrating in the line of work I am in to have looked forward to this "BBQ summer" only to experience one even worse than the previous two. People like farmers must find this very difficult too. I was also led to believe by many sources that the long, cold winter we experienced this year was partly due to so many easterly and Continental ariflows, and that usually this would herald similar patterns in the summer. What's going on with the jet stream? Does anyone know WHY it's parked so low for the 3rd year in a row? Is this summer from now on? Because I just can't bear it! And one last thing, I heard today from some Breton fisherman that they think that the reason the summers have been so bad has had something to do with there being 13 moons in the year rather than the usual 12. This sounds like superstition but could it perhaps have something to do with currents and tides?

  • Comment number 29.

    I live in West Scotland and get from the BBC each night a Weather forecast that refers mostly to London and south east area.
    I am told my Local stations from Glasgow and Prestwick have participated in the forecast.
    I dont live near Glasgow or Prestwick and I am probably similar to the rest of the UK in that I see the hills around my home having their own weather pattern that prove each day the LBC sorry BBC forecasts are wrong.

    This year has proven to be a great year for my Area weather wise, but each guest I have say they see the BBC weather and if my area it is said to be raining then that effects them coming.

    The BBC has a responsibility on their weather broadcast, and I now hear the met office is to get an even greater centralised Computer system to produce the centralised rubbish they put out.

    My suggestion is they bin the Met Office. and public moneys used to boost UK Local net Weather stations similar to Mobile phone range areas
    that will give real time weather UK wide and give good well based multi local location data for Local real time forecasts.

    The BBC in General must loose the London based Paradigm and thats Weather included as UK wide local business and public area coverage is suffering and Outside London there is now near no cost justification for London central broadcasting.


  • Comment number 30.

    Many times we have been told that one swallow does not make a summer, so we cannot ever blame a particular weather event upon climate change. Fair enough.

    But two dreadfully damp summers (possibly 3) in a row and a very cold winter between, and if memory serves I think the other winter (2007-8) seemed to drag on a bit, it may not have had the snow but I recall thinking it was unseasonably cold until at least May. I can't help thinking there's an underlying larger cause.

    I'm not a meteorologist by any degree and there's a certain amount of tongue in cheek to my own personal conspiracy theory but I'm positing here in a certain amount of desperation for answers since there seem to be none generally available.

    I think a contributor above has confused the Jet Stream with the Gulf Stream, but there is a link between the two isn't there?

    As I understand it the high level winds of the Jet Stream drive the low pressure systems across the atlantic, and more often than not of late, straight into our faces. Now, there's this regular weather phenomenon known as the Azores High, which I think is caused by rising sea temperatures in the mid Atlantic as the sun heats it up during summer. It lies due west of Africa and looking at the graphics on TV recently it is supposed to push the Jet Stream further North above the tip of Scotland, thereby improving our weather prospects.

    If the flow of warm water from the Gulf Stream had slowed considerably or stopped entirely due to a large influx of colder denser water from the North Pole as it melts away during summer then the warming seas might not reach this far north and wouldn't help the Azores High to build in our direction to give us some lovely high pressure.

    That's what it looks like to me. The only data I can find (and believe me I've searched the internet very thoroughly) relating to the status of the Gulf Stream Conveyor is no more recent than a 2006 survey which showed that it had slowed considerably. Projections over a decade ago predicted we would likely get "stuttering" of the conveyor within 30 years (citation needed), and I can't help but think that those projections were wildly optimistic. I think we may be there already.

    If the Gulf Stream Conveyor were to stop completely then Britain would be plunged into a new ice age and our economy would tank in a way that would make the Credit Crunch look like a picnic in the park. I think that's more than enough reason for the information to be suppressed.

  • Comment number 31.

    Could we please have the option of using the old layout for the weather page?

    The new site looks very pretty, but as an at-a-glance 5-day forecast it's a lot less useful: things are no longer lined up in a table, and we are forced to read the labels ("Wind:", "Hum:", "Press:", "Vis:") every time which instantly becomes very tedious. It thus takes two or three times as long to get the 5-day rundown.

    These comments and many like them have been on

    ever since March 2009 when the new format was introduced.

    Would you please take note of all those comments (I'm sure there would be more if that page were easier to find!) and simply give us the option of using the old layout?

    Can Richard Chapman be fired? He is clearly ignoring our feedback.


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