TOMASZ SCHAFERNAKER: Summer has been a washout but there is hope

The British summer has been a washout… but I can offer you a sunny ray of hope, writes the nation’s favourite weatherman TOMASZ SCHAFERNAKER

Viewers of my BBC weather forecasts may not be aware that I have a second job — as an artist. Not surprisingly, I enjoy painting the weather, and stormy skies are my favourite subject.

Our rain-soaked July was a gift and I’ve painted plenty of brooding grey clouds.

But you can have too much of a good thing and, like everyone else, after five weeks of drizzle and damp, I’m desperate for the sunshine to return for a while.

When it’s sunny and I have a weekday off, I head to one of the lovely parks near my West London home, lie down on a blanket and relax in the sun, perhaps with Pimm’s and a picnic.

Last summer I did this a lot, thanks to July 2022’s heatwave and record temperatures that topped 40c (104f).

This year? Not once.

BBC meteorologist Tomasz Schafernaker enjoys painting the weather, and stormy skies are his favourite subject

My blanket has remained unfurled, as last month turned out to be the UK’s sixth wettest July on record, with an average of 140.1mm of rain, according to provisional data.

As a meteorologist, I sometimes feel as if people hold me personally responsible for bad weather, or at least owe them an explanation for it. And, while I can’t make any promises about what is to come, I can explain why the past few weeks have been so miserable.

This has been a tricky year for weather so far. It started off with a grim and chilly winter. In March there was heavy snow in some places and relentless rain elsewhere — twice the normal level in England and Wales — and half the normal hours of sunlight. April was dull, too, while May felt disappointingly cool, although actually it was only 0.1 degrees lower than average.

Then, out of the blue, came the hottest June on record.

It seems like a long time ago now, but temperatures regularly reached the mid-20s (68f) in the North and the high 20s in the South, where it felt like the Mediterranean.

Everyone got out the sun loungers, donned their swimwear and treated their back gardens like the beach. The UK Health Security Agency issued a yellow heat-health alert midway through the month, which warned of adverse consequences for ‘those who are particularly vulnerable’.

Summer was here to stay, or so we thought. Indeed, the seasonal forecast from the Met Office indicated a strong likelihood that temperatures would be above average over the UK in July, with the possibility of heatwaves. But by the end of June, it had all gone south. Literally.

Met Office indicated a strong likelihood that temperatures would be above average over the UK in July, but by the end of June, it had all gone south

While parts of Europe sizzle, summer here has been put on hold and it feels like autumn already. Some parts of the country, including Merseyside and Wales, had double the usual amount of rain last month.

So, what happened? Why are we pulling on cagoules and galoshes, while in southern Europe, China and the southern U.S., people are struggling to cope in sauna-like conditions?

Well, it’s complicated. Despite overall global warming, you can have spells of unsettled, relatively cool weather, thanks to different currents in the atmosphere. Notably, our old friend — or foe — the jet stream, a core of wind currents that blow five to seven miles above Earth’s surface from west to east.

Normally, by this time of year the jet stream stays over the north Atlantic, close to Iceland and occasionally clipping Northern Ireland and Scotland.

But right now it is much farther south than is normal for summer: in fact, it’s pointing right at us. This means we get one low pressure system after another.

The jet stream, the ‘rain and wind superhighway’, is more powerful than normal, blowing at 150mph, spinning areas of low pressure around at 30,000 ft and dumping them on us

I call the jet stream the ‘rain and wind superhighway’ because that is what it delivers. Today, it will be very close to us. It is also more powerful than normal, blowing at 150mph, spinning areas of low pressure around at 30,000 ft and dumping them on us.

This will bring gales, downpours and thunderstorms, particularly along the South Coast, and probably flash flooding. So today will be a very wet Wednesday. Abysmal.

I’ve noticed over the past ten to 20 years that, with the climate warming up, the jet stream and prevailing large-scale weather patterns — often the size of continents — stick around longer in one place, whereas they used to be more fluid and changeable.

This is because warm and cold air on our planet don’t mix — like oil and water. So one weather pattern digs in and stays put.

As long as high temperatures elsewhere keep the jet stream pointing at us, we will be stuck with the same cool, wet weather coming north from the Atlantic. Meanwhile, anything south of the jet stream — the Med — will be stuck with the hot air wafting up from the Sahara.

Schafernaker says our rain-soaked July was a gift and he’spainted plenty of brooding grey clouds

Yet for all my complaining and July’s dull, wet weather, temperatures have been only a fraction — 0.5 degrees — below average and it has often been muggy. In fact, it’s not much different from what used to be an average summer 30 or so years ago.

And while it hasn’t been great for suntans or barbecues, the silver lining of persistent cloud is that it has been wonderful for our gardens. My own has seldom been greener.

Banana trees that were foot-high stumps two months ago have gone, well, bananas! They are now 10ft tall, sprouting great, tropical leaves and big bunches of bananas, although sadly they will never ripen enough to be eaten.

Remember the cracked earth and yellowing grass last summer? The frantic watering and fretful farmers? Well, this year the fields and parks are lush and verdant. Plant life and wildlife are the happy beneficiaries.

There are plenty of positives to damp and drizzle.

And if that doesn’t cheer you, then I may be able to offer some hope. While the next ten days still look unsettled — that is, more of the same — there are hints in computer models that from the middle of August, or perhaps sooner, the jet stream will start to weaken and begin wafting farther north.

July’s dull, wet weather, temperatures have been only a fraction — 0.5 degrees — below average and it has often been muggy

In its place we could start to see more settled, stable weather as high pressure moves in from the south. This presses down, inhibiting cloud from building up, so temperatures could climb back up to the mid or high 20s (or high 70s and mid 80s in old money).

Of course, it’s only a computer model which, as we know from those predictions of heatwaves in July, could change within a few days. But at the weather centre, we are certainly hoping its predictions are right.

Mother Nature is unpredictable, but it’s rare to have a whole season a write-off. Our temperate climate means that while it’s common to have a month or two of dreary weather, it generally changes after that.

So it’s too soon to despair that summer has gone for good. There’s a good chance the sun will put its hat back on in a few weeks.

And although it’s risky to forecast a month or even two months ahead, there is hope for a sunny September, and even a warm October. It’s not that unusual to have temperatures in the 20s in October.

So don’t hurl away your sun-cream and parasol in disgust. You may need them yet. But keep your mackintosh and wellies at the ready for the time being.

See Tomasz’s paintings at

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