Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hopes Dashed for 'Barbecue Summer'

The first summer we were in England, people actually apologized to us for how crap the weather was. (That's actually appropriate spoken British usage of 'crap.' You can also insert 'rubbish' or ... well, other words for similar effect.) "It's not usually like this," they'd say, as we put on another jumper (British for sweater). Our first summer was marked by floods and cool weather that led us to take a moderately spontaneous trip to Spain because we missed the sensation of being hot.

The next summer, we were prepared: JT had a conference in Florence in late August, so we planned to go together and then spend another week on the beach. That? Brilliant idea. Especially since we had two weeks of summer (80+ degree days) in May, then it was back to business as usual -- temps in the 60s and 70s for most of the summer. Seventeen hours of daylight is only so exciting when you need to spend most of it wearing long sleeves and long trousers.

So, imagine our delight this year when the Met Office (equivalent to the US National Weather Service) came out with a statement that we should expect a 'barbecue summer.' Met Office Chief Meteorologist Ewen McCallum said: "After two disappointingly-wet summers, the signs are much more promising this year. We can expect times when temperatures will be above 30 °C [86°F] , something we hardly saw at all last year."

And, for a while it was pretty darn nice. I got my summer shorts out to actually wear here for the first time, rather than to take to another country. May was lovely, and June was downright hot at times. We spent the hottest week of the entire summer staying in London attending the World Conference of Science Journalists -- in an unairconditioned convention hall. With temperatures of 85 to 90 degrees outside and close quarters--and 900 journalists--inside, well, it was warm.

Then came July.

So far, we've had twice the average rainfall for July and average temp of 15.3 C (about 59 degrees), and if we're lucky, the temperature hits 22 degrees (about 72 F). It was 56 degrees F at 9 this morning -- and it still is a 1:30 in the afternoon. It's been so cool and so rainy that the Met Office has been put on the defensive about their 'barbecue summer' statement, issuing another statement yesterday in which they note: "We acknowledge that the weather we have seen through the last month has been disappointing, especially after the fine weather through June and the heatwave at the end of June and beginning of July."

Well, as we've said all along, no one moves to England for the weather. It's a bit disappointing, though, because on a gorgeous summer day, there's just no better place in the world than Cambridge. I'm very much looking forward to our Labor Day holiday this year, but a tiny part of me wishes we were going to the beach. Where are we going instead? Scotland.

I think I can probably leave the swimming costume (British for swimsuit) at home.

At the Dave Matthews/Bruce Springsteen concert in London on 28 June -- when it hit a lovely 26 degrees C (79 F).

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