Overnight storms of July 18th 2014

I’ve decided to cobble together a few lines on last night’s notable thunderstorms which reminded me so much of the stormy nights on the 1980s.

The radar at 3am, produced by the excellent Hone and Dry, revealed that the storm's rainfall was quite widespread. The white areas show the most intense rainfall
The radar at 3am, produced by the excellent Home and Dry, revealed that the storm’s rainfall was quite widespread. The white areas show the most intense rainfall

After writing off the risk of storms for our area last night I was awoken at 3am by loud, rumbling thunder – the kind that seems to resonate all around you. A quick look on the radar revealed quite a widespread thunderstorm, quite different from the smaller, more intense one that woke up most of Wanstead on July 23rd last year.

On viewing the live lightning map at 3.10am it became clear that this was no flash in the pan. Further rumbles and strikes had me leaping out of bed to monitor the station. EssexWeather reported 1809 lightning strikes in two hours for our region.

And on viewing the pressure graph the first storm saw a 6mb fall in pressure in a matter of minutes.

A second storm around 5.30am was less severe though still notable. The 9.4mm that the weather station recorded fell at a rate of 45mm/hr at 3am and 40mm/hr at 5.15am. Though the AWS is often out in heavy rainfall situations on this occasion it was more or less spot on – my 10am reading of my traditional 5″ raingauge revealed the official total to be 9.3mm. The rain took the July  total to 108% of the 1981-2010 mean.

And a squall that blew through just before 4am is well portrayed on this wind graph.

So, all in all, a really lively sticky night where the temperature didn’t fall below 18.2C. I didn’t manage to get any of  my own pictures but this one by @justinstokes on Twitter caught my eye.

According to the CAPE / lifted index further storms seem likely tonight. Indeed the situation across the Channel could be dire. It is probable a few will trundle their way across the sea to give us another sleepless night…
lightning canary wharf

This wind graph shows a gust of 22.8mph at 0336z in my sheltered garden
This wind graph shows a gust of 22.8mph at 0336z in my sheltered garden
Radar at 0519 shows another white blob (very heavy rain) about to cross Wanstead
Radar at 0519 shows another white blob (very heavy rain) about to cross Wanstead

 

This pressure trace shows the fall in pressure of the two thunderstorms that crossed our region
This pressure trace shows the fall in pressure of the two thunderstorms that crossed our region
Live lightning map from http://www.lightningmaps.org/realtime at 3.10am
Live lightning map from http://www.lightningmaps.org/realtime at 3.10am
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A dry or wet St Swithun’s?

St Swithun's reputation as a weather saint is said to have arisen from the translation of his body from a lowly grave to its golden shrine within Winchester cathedral, having been delayed by incessant rain for 40 days
St Swithun’s reputation as a weather saint is said to have arisen from the translation of his body from a lowly grave to its golden shrine within Winchester cathedral, having been delayed by incessant rain for 40 days

Legend has it that the weather on Tuesday will be the same for the next 40 days.

St Swithun’s day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain;
St Swithun’s day, if thou be fair,
For forty days ’twill rain na mair.

St Swithun’s Day is probably among the most well known of weather folklore – but, taken at face value, it is probably the most unreliable.

Since 1961 Wanstead has enjoyed 30 dry St Swithun’s Days (57%). From these the longest dry spell that followed was just 18 days, in 2000. On average, if St Swithun’s is dry, the weather stays fair for five days, with rain arriving on the 20th.

Another interesting observation is that the 40-day period that followed a dry St Swithun’s is on average 13% WETTER than if it rained on July 15th.

So what does this mean for the rest of July and the summer? Looking back at other years that have seen a mostly dry and warm pattern in the run up to St Swithun’s Day we should see a continuation of the mostly dry, warm and sunny conditions, perhaps with frequent thundery breakdowns, the first arriving on Thursday into Friday.

Putting superstition and singularities aside current weather models back this up.

Featured Image -- 1745St Swithun was born around 800AD and died on July 2, 862, at Winchester, Hampshire. According to historians he was fond of building churches in places where there were none. St Swithun, who was bishop of Winchester, was buried in the churchyard of the Old Minster at Winchester, where passers by might tread on his grave and where the rain from the eaves might fall on it.

His reputation as a weather saint is said to have arisen from the translation of his body from this lowly grave to its golden shrine within the cathedral, having been delayed by incessant rain for 40 days.

The basis of the St Swithun’s saying follows the fact that by July 15th summer weather patterns are already well established and tend to persist through the coming weeks.

In meterological terms the position of the frontal zone around the end of June to early July, indicated by the position of the jet stream, determines the general weather patterns (hot, cold, dry, wet) for the rest of the summer. Like a little stream in its bed, the frontal zone tends to ‘dig in’ shortly after the summer solstice.

As the path of our weather systems is controlled by the jet stream, a more southerly location of the frontal zone – as happened last year – is likely to bring unsettled, wet and cool weather. On the other hand, a frontal zone shifted further to the north – as is happening this year – will help the Azores high to build over western Europe, thus bringing dry and pleasant weather to the UK.

Other western European countries also have similar St Swithun’s day sayings – that follow the principle rule. In France they say ‘Quand il pleut a la Saint Gervais Il pleut quarante jours apres’ – If it rains on St. Gervais’ day (July 19th), it will rain for fourty days afterward.
In Germany the Siebenschlaefer or seven sleepers day (July 7th, after the Gregorian calendar) refers to the weather patterns of the following seven weeks.

June 2014: warm and dry

June 2014 continued this year’s theme of being milder than normal; the mean temperature of 17.1C was 1C above average, making it the 22nd warmest June since 1797.

little fluffy clouds
June was marked by some spectacular cloudscapes and sunsets. This was the view across Wanstead Flats from Centre Road looking toward Ilford on the 21st

June, like  March and April, was dryer than average with just 15.2mm of rain, that’s just under 30 per cent of average.

The driest June since 2000 started off unsettled with frequent rain – 6mm falling on the 3rd. The following day was cool with the temperature reaching just 16.2C.

Though there were nine days when over 10 hours of sunshine was recorded the magic 80F was surpassed just once: on the 9th when 27.5C was reached under 6 hours of sunshine. This sunniest day was the 10th when 14 hours of sunshine nudged the thermometer to 24.5C. Overall there were 214.1 hours of sunshine – that’s 120% of average, the sunniest since 2011.

On many days during June, including the 30th shown here, the sky turned dark but just spits and spots of rain were often produced
On many days during June, including the 30th shown here, the sky turned dark but just spits and spots of rain were often produced

Despite plenty of potential no incidents of thunder were recorded – the much-hyped weekend of the 7th / 8th saw less than 2mm of rain – all of the action staying well to our east in the France, Germany and the Low Countries. Further thundery potential on the 13th failed to produce anything in this area though a disturbance over Berkshire saw thunderstorms develop in the Oxford, Reading, Basingstoke and Wokingham region, with up to 38mm of rain falling over a wide area.

It is a typical feature of summer that rainfall can vary a great deal across a small area. The nearest official station to Wanstead, St James’s Park 8.4 miles to our south-west, recorded 33.8mm – more than double what fell here.

Some nights were chilly when the sky cleared but there was no air frost or ground frost.

To view full stats follow this link:http://1drv.ms/1kiTuzv

Yet another occasion of impressive cloud formation during June included this example of late evening cirrus. The formation, seen at ground level, seemed similar to a display of the Aurora
Yet another occasion of impressive cloud formation during June included this example of late evening cirrus. The formation, seen at ground level, seemed similar to a display of the Aurora
Circumhorizontal arc over Aldersbrook
Circumhorizontal arc over Aldersbrook