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13 November 2014

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You are in: Kent > Weather > Features > A sodden summer

A sodden summer

In the southeast, the summer of 2008 has been one of the dullest and wettest on record. Rainfall totals for England as a whole were well above the average at over 140%.

Kaye Forster

Kaye Forster

In fact, during the month of August alone, the south east received just 68% of the long term average hours of sunshine. On a slightly more positive note, at least this summer was not quite as wet as last year. The summer of 2007 is top of the table for the wettest summer on record, with over 170% of the long term average summer rainfall total.

So why have the last two summers been so dismal?

Well the main reason lies with the positioning of the jet stream. The jet stream is a current of wind, high in the atmosphere (around 30,000ft), that circles the globe in a series of waves, known as Rossby waves. The track of these waves has a huge impact on the weather conditions around the globe as they are responsible for steering and driving Atlantic low pressure systems.

Jetstream typical

During the autumn and winter months the waves of the jet stream are directed towards the UK, bringing bands of wet and windy weather quite typical of these seasons. However, during the summer, the jet stream usually shifts northwards and steers the depressions away from the UK (Figure 1). This northward shift also allows an area of high pressure, known as the Azores high, to nudge northwards, bringing more summery dry, sunny and warm weather to the UK.

jetstream august

Both this year and last year the jet stream stayed to the south (see below) which continued to steer Atlantic depression after Atlantic depression towards the UK. This meant that the summer was plagued by spells of unseasonably wet and windy conditions which were more apt for the autumn and winter months.

There are a vast array of reasons for changes in jet stream patterns – one of which involves the cycle of cool water, known as La Nina, many miles away in the mid-pacific. In such a complex world, it is therefore near impossible to decipher just one reason for changing weather patterns occurring in one location.

So with the memories of a disappointing summer fading as fast as the daylight hours, hopes for some good weather now lie with the chance of an Indian summer – A period of dry, sunny and warm weather during the autumn. However, the start of the autumn has followed closely on the heels of the wet and windy summer. An intense area of low pressure brought heavy rain and strong winds to much of the south east during the first week of September, continuing the unsettled theme. However, the Met Office are forecasting a slightly drier and warmer than average autumn, so perhaps a more settled spell of weather is now long over-due! Watch this space.

last updated: 08/09/2008 at 10:15
created: 08/09/2008

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