1911

1911 had a most magnificent summer, described by Juliet Nicolson in her (2006) book "The perfect summer" - magnificent if you like hot and dry. It started in May, peaking in July and August, but slowly faded throughout the autumn, with another peak in early September, well into the middle of October. I remember Bertrand Russell reminiscing about the perfection of the summer in his autobiography. 1911 was a very sunny year too, particularly in the south.


January. Very dry. The month was rainless after the 12th. No rain fell at Dursley, Gloucester, between 12th January and 17th February.

February. Cold and dry until the 16th, and then wet, mild and windy. 60F recorded at Worksop on the 19th. Strong winds at Aberdeen on the 17th and Stockport on the 26th.

March. Unsettled and windy until the 16th, then dry. A dry month overall in the NW, wetter in the SE.

April. The month started with an exceptional cold spell. There were some reecord low maxima - unusually at this time of year due to strong northerly and northeasterly rather than easterly winds, as Arctic air swept the country, giving snow in the east and south. It was -2C at Hampstead midday on the 5th; and a maximum of only +0.5 at Tunbridge Wells (Kent) on the same day. Many places in the SE and Midlands were beneath freezing all day on the 5th - this is the latest date on which a "day of frost" has happened, with maximum temperatures of -2. Even Totland Bay (Isle of Wight) saw maxima of only 1, 3 and 6C on the 5th, 6th, and 7th. It was also a windy month, with severe frost and snow. Windy and dull, too: 63 mph at Gorleston (Norfolk) on the 3rd. 10 cm of snow in the southeast; and 15 cm of snow on Guernsey. The weather then became more settled, with clear skies and sharp frosts (-5 at good old Raunds on the 12th). It became milder and unsettled later in the month: 19C at Westminster on the 14th. Dry in the east, sunny in the SE but dull in the NW.

May. A warm month - the start of a famous summer - and also sunny and dry. There were some severe thunderstorms over England on the 31st, resulting in lightning strikes, wind damage, and local flooding. 17 people were killed around London alone. The most famous of these storms was when 3 people and 4 horses were killed in the "Derby Day Storm" at Epsom; 14 people were injured, and 3 hayricks were set on fire. The storm drifted south throughout the afternoon, hitting Epsom just after the Derby finished. 90 mm of rain fell in 2 hours at Barnstead, with violent lightning, and hailstones 50mm in diameter. In the centre of Epsom 72 mm of rain fell, most of it 50 minutes. The storm was at its worst 5-7 pm; between 5.30 and 5.45 pm, 159 flashes of lightning were counted - that's a flash every five or six seconds or so.

June. Warm and the worst month of the extended summer. Nevertheless there was plenty of fine, dry, warm, and sunny weather around. The first ten days of the month saw a heatwave with 31C reached in London on the 5th; Stonehaven near Aberdeen reached 29.4C on the 8th, one of the highest early temperatures recorded in Scotland. The second was less hot but still warm. The weather was more unsettled with rain from the 16th to the 16th. Most rain fell in the NE on 23-24th, with flooding in parts of Northumberland and Yorkshire. The rest of the month became dry and warm. In spite of the rain, the month was sunnier than average, and parts of east Scotland recorded less than an inch of rain.

July. A magnificent month in a magnificent summer. Hot, dry, and sunny - part of a famous summer. There was a remarkable hot spell, which started on 17 July, although it is quite difficult to be certain about the exact temperatures, because of (a) uncertainty about screening, and (b) temperatures were taken in F rather than C. The reading of 38.1C - 100.5F - claimed at Greenwich on the 22nd is now not accepted, as the screening conditions at Greenwich were nonstandard; it is more likely to have been about 36.1C - still quite a temperature, and the record for July (until 2006). 97F (36.1C) was also recorded at Epsom, favoured because there was shelter from the light southerly breeze. There was a thundery outbreak at the end of the month with some heavy downpours (e.g. 28 mm in 15 minutes at South Kensington, London, on the 28th). Some of the most curious of all injuries caused by the weather happened at St Mellitus Church, Hanwell, west London, at the annual fete, when people sheltered from a thunderstom under a platform, which then gave way, and three people were injured by a falling piano. Of particular interest locally, Perth reached 32.2C (90F) on the 12th, which is one of only 5 times this has happened in Scotland, and is the highest reading for the Tayside region of the century. This month is the only July of the twentieth century that was dry and sunny throughout (but then only in the south). 300 hours of sunshine were widespread across the south and east, with 350 at many coastal southern locations. The highest monthly sunshine total record was set this month: 384 hours at Eastbourne and Hastings. There were 334 hours of sunshine in London. It was probably the sunniest month on record until July 2006. No rain at all was measured at Bath. In many respects one of the best Julys of the century in terms of consistent heat and sunshine.

August. The hot summer, which started on 17 July, continued, to give a very hot month. Both July and August came in at 18.2 C in the CET series, the highest since July 1868. The 9th was one of the hottest days this century (36.7C - recorded as 98F) on the 9th at Raunds (Northants. - Raunds is quite a location for hot spells), and Canterbury (Kent), and broke the previous record high. This record stood until August 1990 (when 37.1C was recorded; this in turn was beaten in 2003). Very high temperatures were widespread: Manchester saw 32.2C, a record there until 1990. The winds were very light S to SEs. 35.6C (96F) was recorded on the 13th at Salisbury. It was a very sunny month, with 384 hours recorded on the south coast at Eastbourne and Hastings, a record for the month. The weather turned more unsettled from the 20th onwards.

September. The wonderful extended summer continues for the first two weeks or so. A heatwave produced 34.6 ºC at Raunds (Northants) on the 8th - the third hottest September day of the century (see 1906 for the other two). The second half of the month was cooler and unsettled. The temperature reached 30 ºC at Kew on the 13th; the next day it was 17ºC. The drought continued for the first hald of the month, leading to restrictions on water supplies in the northwest, and many forest and heat fires. A very warm and sunny month overall, so what a surprise the following year's September must have been.

October. A quiet month. Quite dry and cool. The fine, settled weather of the long summer continued into the middle of the month. An unsettled spell midmonth, with periods of heavy rain. The 13th was a wet day in the SW.

November. Wet and unsettled. There as a severe gale on the night of the 4-5th, with gusts of 70 mph reported from Blackpool. The gale coincided with a high tide, causing flooding in the Clyde. Many trees were blown over in Scotland. More than 50 mm of rain fell in the Western Highlands, and 93 mm at Seathwaite (Cumbria).

December. Unsettled, wet, and mild.