Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

The grass is suffering in Gensing Gardens as elsewhere in Hastings after the driest July on record.

Weather records crash in July

July turned out to be a meteorological record-breaker for Hastings, as the town recorded its driest ever month and hottest ever day. Its location by the sea, however, spared it the extreme heat suffered elsewhere. Nick Terdre reports.

Last month Hastings enjoyed rain on only two days – a mere 0.1mm on 19 July and 1.5mm on 26th, making a total of 1.6mm, the council reports. That is a mere 3% of the July average of 53.3mm, and well beneath the previous low of 5.1mm recorded more than 100 years ago in 1921.

The effects of such a drought are clearly visible in the brown colour of the grass and the dustiness of the parched earth in many places.

Last month was also the driest July on record for the region, according to the Met Office. South East and Central South England had an average of 5mm of rain in July, which is 9% of its long-term average, it told HOT.

High pressure dominated the UK for much of the month, deflecting the usual Atlantic influence, the source of much of its rain, especially from southern parts of the country, and also allowing temperatures to rise.

A hosepipe ban is to be introduced across much of the South East, but not yet in Hastings.

Hastings’ hottest ever day also came on 19 July, when daytime temperatures in the shade peaked at 34.7°C, fully half a degree hotter than the town’s previous high of 34.2°C clocked on 25 July 2019, the council said.

At the time the country as a whole was in the grip of a heatwave, and the temperature in Hastings was some way below levels experienced elsewhere, including the top hotspot of 40.3°C at Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

In Hastings the temperature exceeded 30°C on only two days in July and the mean maximum was a relatively modest 23°C. However the town enjoyed 305.3 hours of bright sunshine, 32% above the long-term average, and there were no sunless days.

Seaside cooling

The cooling effect of the sea, allied with sea breezes, saved the town from the burning temperatures recorded elsewhere. “Our temperatures are moderated by our position next to the sea,” Bill Montgomery, lead volunteer in the team which takes meteorological readings on behalf of the council, told HOT.

“This goes for both highs and lows of temperature. It does make us windier than more inland locations, though.”

In the same vein the Met Office told HOT, “Many coastal areas generally don’t see temperatures reach the higher values inland.

“In general, this is down to the influence of a sea breeze in a few cases, as well as the cooling influence of the ocean near the land. Further inland, and especially in built-up cities, temperatures have the opportunity to climb higher as a result of day-time heating and little influence of the ocean.”

The question arises as to whether we are feeling the tangible effects of climate change? Climate models show a trend for hotter, drier summers in the UK, said the Met Office, though adding that it was not possible to put one month’s dryness down to climate change specifically.

Unprecedented temperatures

But according to Met Office chief scientist Professor Stephen Belcher, “The extreme temperatures that we have been experiencing in the UK are unprecedented in recorded history. In a climate unaffected by human influence, climate modelling shows that it is virtually impossible for temperatures in the UK to reach 40°C.

“Climate change, driven predominantly by accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, has warmed the average climate by more than 1°C. So, when we see atmospheric circulation patterns conspiring with the background warming, we experience even hotter conditions.

“Under a very high emissions scenario we could see temperatures exceeding 40° as frequently as every three years by the end of the century in the UK. Reducing carbon emissions will help to reduce the frequency, but we will still continue to see some occurrences of temperatures exceeding 40°C and the UK will need to adapt to these extreme events.”

Volunteers have been responsible for taking Hastings’ meteorological readings since 2017, when the borough meteorologist David Powell died, Montgomery told HOT. The team consists of six main members who take measurements daily at 9am whenever possible. The results are sent to the Met Office and are also posted in the weather kiosk on the sea-front between the pier and Warrior Square.

Temperature, rainfall and other meteorological readings for Hastings are posted daily in the weather kiosk on the sea front.

This article was updated by Nick Terdre on 4 August 2022.

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Posted 16:51 Wednesday, Aug 3, 2022 In: Environment

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