25 August 1995

How dry has it really been?

Its been a hot, dry summer. But how does it compare with the past?

Much depends on the last few days of August. So far summer rainfall (June, July, August) has averaged just 71.8mm (2.8in) across England and Wales. The driest summer since records began in 1727 was 1800 when just 74mm (2.9in) fell. Second driest was 1976 with 76mm (3in).

But summer rain isnt all that counts. The 1976 drought was preceded by a very dry summer in 1975 and one of the centurys driest winters. Water reserves were well down from the outset. By contrast many areas were waterlogged earlier this year, providing underground reserves for the months ahead.

In terms of temperature the summer is averaging 17.4C (63.3F). Only two hotter summers have been recorded: 1976 with 17.8C (64F) and 1826 with 17.6C (63.7F).

The next six days will decide whether summer 95 breaks any records. But national data conceals many local variations. Timely thunderstorms have made all the difference between crop stress and vigorous growth.