October’s warmest day was in March.

  • Two-year-old Alyssa Golding wrestling with an ice cream in Folkestone, Kent, last Saturday. MeteoGroup is forecasting temperatures to rise even higher this week. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire.

    Forecast maximum temperatures for Friday 30th September - a few locations might even see the mercury rise a little higher.

    "St Martin's Summer" (1878, oil on canvas) by John Everett Millais.

  • October’s warmest day was in March.
    27.09.2011 12:46


    If the title of this article sounds enigmatic then it is easy to explain.

    The warmest October day on record for the United Kingdom was 1st October 1985 – at the market town of March in Cambridgeshire, where the temperature rose to an astonishing high of 29.4 deg C.

    Remarkably this was the highest temperature of the year, indicative of what a poor summer there was in 1985.

    The weather situation then was very similar to that which we have now, with high pressure centred over the Poland/Germany area and low pressure over the Atlantic making little progress eastwards, setting up a very  warm flow of south-easterly winds across the UK. Moreover, this also follows a rather cool and changeable summer.

    However, now as then those weather systems will nudge just far enough eastwards to bring stiff winds and rain periodically to Scotland (most of it in the north and west), Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, with temperatures in these areas suppressed as a result. Western parts of Wales and southwest England will be cloudier at times with a little drizzle possible.

    More than a century ago there was a very similar warm period: 1908 had an almost identical pattern at the end of September and start of October, giving several days of very warm weather as south-easterly winds developed. It was not quite as hot in 1985 but not far off with the temperature reaching 28.9 C at Whitby, North Yorkshire.

    And in 1921 the pattern came round again; on both 5th and 6th of October sunshine and warm south-easterly winds pushed temperatures up to 28.9 C in London.

    September 2006 also saw a similar set up, albeit a little earlier - on 21st September Sutton Bonnington in Nottinghamshire warmed to 29.0 C.

    It is unlikely that we will quite breach those figures this week but it shows that such late warmth is not all that uncommon, and it is possible that some locations will record 27 or 28 deg C during the last two days of September.

    This has been touted as an “Indian Summer”, which is not strictly true. Temperatures above 21 deg C fit the bill but the phrase should really be reserved for a warm period later in the autumn, well into October or November, that has followed the first killing frost.

    Until “Indian Summer” was imported from the USA and popularised in the twentieth century, a late warm period was called “Saint Martin’s Summer”, which is how it is still known in France.

    This commemorates the feast day of Saint Martin on 11th November, when the warmth was supposed to climax.

    Whatever we choose to call it, and it can be argued either way, this will obviously be the last chance to take advantage of such extreme warmth this year; but it does not preclude the possibility of another fine spell during October. And if we saw it around 18th October then we’d be celebrating yet another period on the calendar – St Luke’s Summer.

    By: Stephen Davenport