Warm and dry summer ahead…? A few weeks ago the Met Office published their summer forecast: ‘summer temperatures across the UK are likely to be warmer than average and rainfall near or below average for the three months of summer.’ Many newspapers seized the opportunity to capitalise on the Met Office’s predictions, claiming we were in for a ‘barbeque summer’ with temperatures well above 30C on many days. The weather certainly turned warm and summery at the end of May and the beginning of June – right on cue. Temperatures reached around 25-26C quite widely, with 27.2C recorded in the Solent (Hampshire) on 1st June. It then turned much cooler and wetter - quite a shock to the system! But what can we really expect over the coming weeks? Will we still need our shades, sunhats and sunblock? Any long term forecast should be read with caution. A seasonal forecast is very different from a day-to-day one and should never be taken too literally. Whilst a daily weather prediction centres on specific weather - sunny spells, scattered showers, weather fronts and wind direction – a seasonal one can only give a much more general outline. A summer that has above average temperatures and below average rainfall, as predicted, does not mean there wouldn’t be wetter, cooler interludes. All of the hottest summers we have experienced in the past had cool, cloudy and wet days too! The weather in the UK is notoriously difficult to predict on a day-to-day basis, let alone a seasonal one. Although forecasts up to 5 days ahead are far more accurate now that they’ve ever been, longer range predictions are much trickier to get right. They take into account other factors, such as sea surface temperatures in other parts of the globe, which may give good indications for the coming months. This year has seen higher sea temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, and this pattern is thought to increase the chances of high pressure forming over the Europe and the UK. High pressure generally dry and settled conditions, therefore more warm sunshine is likely – something we have not had much of in the last couple of years The hot summers of 1976, 1983, 1989, 1990, 1995, 2003 and 2006 were all characterised by long stretches of high pressure. These systems can literally block the normal west to east pattern of weather that is usual for our shores. Most summers have periods of high pressure alternating with low pressure, bringing spells of rain for the gardens. The summers of 2007 and 2008 were both dominated, predominantly, by low pressure systems – hence the excessive amount of rain that was recorded. Whether or not the Met Office get it right, statistically speaking the summer ahead ought to be warmer and drier than the last two. However, the weather will always throw up plenty of surprises – no forecast is certain, however far ahead it is. Our atmosphere is chaotic and last minute changes keep the forecasters on their toes! One thing is certain though: the summer ahead is bound to make the headlines at some point….whether it is for heat or torrential downpours remains to be seen.