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How does this year’s hot weather compare with summer 1976?

Staines reservoir in Middlesex during the drought of 1976 (PA) (PA Archive)
Staines reservoir in Middlesex during the drought of 1976 (PA) (PA Archive)

The heatwave that hit the UK in the summer of 1976 was one of the longest in living memory and triggered the most significant drought for at least the last 150 years.

How does this year’s hot spell compare so far?

– In 1976, there were 15 consecutive days when temperatures reached 32C or higher somewhere in the UK, according to the Met Office. So far this year, there have been only three consecutive days when temperatures have hit 32C or higher: July 17, 18 and 19.

The River Thames pictured on August 17 1976 (PA) (PA Wire)
The River Thames pictured on August 17 1976 (PA) (PA Wire)

– This year’s heatwave has seen temperatures climb much higher than in 1976, however. The peaks in 1976 were 35.6C in Southampton on June 28 and 35.9C in Cheltenham on July 3. This year the temperature reached 38.1C in Santon Downham in Suffolk on July 18 and a record-breaking 40.3C in Coningsby in Lincolnshire on July 19.

– South-east England clocked up 24 days of zero average rainfall between June 1 and July 24 this year, Met Office figures show. In the same period in 1976, the region experienced 36 days without rain.

– Central England has seen 23 days of zero rainfall between June 1 and July 24 this year. During the same period in 1976, there were 32 days with no rainfall.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

– By contrast, Scotland clocked up only seven days without rain between June 1 and July 24 in 1976, compared with just one rain-free day in the same period this year. Northern Ireland saw 13 days of no rainfall during this period in 1976 – exactly the same number as in 2022.

– There were 36 days during the summer of 1976 (June 1 to August 31) when there was no recorded rainfall across the whole of England and Wales. So far this summer there have been seven days.

Lord Nugent, chairman of the National Water Council, launches the Save Water campaign on August 31 1976 (PA) (PA Archive)
Lord Nugent, chairman of the National Water Council, launches the Save Water campaign on August 31 1976 (PA) (PA Archive)

– June 1976 was slightly sunnier than June 2022. An average of 207.4 hours of sunshine were recorded across the UK in June 1976, compared with 195.8 hours in June 2022. Both years were beaten by June 2018, when 234.4 hours were recorded. The last time a drought was officially declared in the UK was in 2018.

– June 2018 was also drier than the equivalent months in both 1976 and 2022. Average rainfall across the UK totalled just 34.7mm in June 2018, compared with 38.6mm in June 1976 and 59.0mm in June 2022. Full figures for July 2022 will be published by the Met Office next week.