London Heatwave Bit Cool By Historic Standards

By Jonn Last edited 66 months ago
London Heatwave Bit Cool By Historic Standards

Somewhere under here, there's a park.

It's been well over a week and the hot weather still shows no signs of letting up. In retrospect, we suspect, a lengthy heatwave became inevitable the moment someone published that "NO SUMMER FOR TEN YEARS!" report.

By historic standards, though, it's positively cool. Our extensive research* suggests that the hottest July day ever recorded in this town came on the 20th of the month, 2006, when thermometers at Heathrow recorded a reading of 35°C (95°F). Just across the M25 in the Surrey village of Wisley, meanwhile, they hit 36.5°C (97.3°F), shattering the previous record, set in 1911 in Epsom, by a whole (drumroll, please) 0.5°C.

The heat that day led schools to close and left the NHS dealing with a wave of heatstroke victims. Zoos were forced to take even more radical steps, spraying their animals with water and dirt to keep them cool. The beasts were fed on "specially made ice blocks containing fruit – or for lions,” the BBC informs us solemnly, “blood”.

The all-time records, though, came in August 2003. On the 11th of that month, the mercury hit 37.9°C (100.2°F) at Heathrow and 38.1°C (100.6°F) across the city limits in Gravesend. The long hot summer of that year is thought to have killed 70,000 people across Europe; the record-breaking day itself saw more than 20 Britons being hit by lightning, including 14 at a single Birmingham football match. The BBC communicated the gravity of the day's events with a picture of a woman in a bikini prancing about in a fountain.

This time round, the temperature has yet to top a relatively chilly 32°C, leaving us some way off those kind of extremes. Remember that, when you're tempted to complain about being too hot to sleep at night.


Image courtesy of Lightheart Pictures, taken from the Londonist Flickr pool

Last Updated 16 July 2013