June 2012 excelled itself and at the time was the wettest on record since 1910, and the equal wettest since 1766!
It was also the coolest June since 1991, giving everyone ample chance to talk about the great British obsession – the weather.
There are many old wives tales about the weather. ‘If there’s a patch of blue big enough to make a pair of sailors trousers it won’t rain’ and all that kind of thing. Some of them are founded in reality, along with many of the old sayings are from long ago.
It was a 16th century rhyme that first declared that it would rain for 40 days if it rained on St Swithin’s, the 15th July, or be dry for 40 days if it was dry on this all important day.
St Swithin’s Day if it do rain, for 40 days it will remain.
St Swithin’s Day if it be fair, for 40 days it will rain no more.
Watch this little video clip of the rain lashing against the window, driven by the wind with nothing to stop the full force of the weather coming off the sea.
This old saying comes from a well observed weather pattern created by the jet stream.
By mid July in most years the jet stream has settled down, and along with it the weather, and this sets the patterns until well into August.
However, at the time of first writing this article in July 2012, according to Met Office Records dating back for the last 55 years, 40 days of similar weather hadn’t once followed St Swithin’s Day.
The jet stream is a narrow ‘river’ of fast moving air that sits about 10 miles high in the sky. It flows from America across the Atlantic to Europe and ultimately to us in Britain. It adds energy to and helps to steer the Atlantic weather.
Sometimes the jet stream flows smoothly for weeks or even months, and with a bit of luck will head off the lows above Scotland, leaving nice weather for the UK.
Some years it drops south to create a disturbed and wet season.
It’s the changes in the path of the jet stream which are often responsible for the errors in forecasts.
Swithin was an Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Winchester who died in 862 and was adopted as the patron saint of the restored church in Winchester a hundred years later. He had originally been buried outdoors at his own request, where he could feel passing feet and rain drops.
In 971 his body was moved to a new indoor shrine, and legend has it that on the day there was a heavy shower which was created by St Swithin to show his displeasure at his remains being moved.
A more probable story is that the legend is a pagan one, where European saints are credited with an almost identical influence on the weather.
Maybe we should call on Indra, the Hindu God of weather, war, creation and the sun.
Riding his four tusked albino elephant he might be more able to create sunshine than us lesser mortals seem able to, so that we could enjoy better summers here on the Fylde Coast!
Let's hope that St Swithin's Day is dry - and brings evenings like this one in July...
Or maybe rain is more likely...
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