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Wednesday briefing: Why the UK is so chilly this June – and why it won’t get much warmer any time soon

Wednesday briefing: Why the UK is so chilly this June – and why it won’t get much warmer any time soon

Good morning. First of all an apology, yesterday’s newsletter was sent out in error – we apologise for the mistake, and below is today’s First Edition.

Isn’t it an unseasonably chilly one? Yesterday I found myself fishing out a winter wooly hat for the morning dog walk here in London. But is it really that cold for mid-June or do we all just think it’s cold because we’ve got used to recent warmer summers caused by the climate crisis and global heating?

To try and find out, I asked some of the country’s leading meteorologists. The long answer is “it’s complicated”, the shorter answer is “yes, it’s exceptionally unseasonably cold”. But June 2024 is unlikely to challenge the record for the coldest June – that title is firmly held by June 1975 when snow stopped play at several county cricket matches, including an inch settling on the pitch at Buxton cricket club in Derbyshire.

The “million-dollar question” that Prof Liz Bentley, chief executive at the Royal Meteorological Society, has been asked repeatedly this week is “when is summer coming?” She’ll provide the answer, after the headlines. But don’t get your hopes up for a barbecue this weekend.

Five big stories

  1. General election | The Green Party launches its manifesto today with proposals to spend £49bn insulating homes and public buildings and to let councils requisition empty properties.

  2. Child exploitation | Hundreds of unaccompanied child migrants across Europe are being forced to work as soldiers for increasingly powerful drug cartels to meet the continent’s soaring appetite for cocaine, a Guardian investigation has found, with police warning of industrial-scale exploitation of African children in western European cities including Paris and Brussels.

  3. Israel-Gaza | The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said endorsement of the UN security council’s ceasefire resolution by Hamas officials was a “hopeful sign”, but the group’s leadership in Gaza needed to sign off on the deal.

  4. Heath | Tobacco, alcohol, processed foods and fossil fuels kill 2.7 million people a year in Europe, according to the World Health Organization, which has called on governments to impose tougher regulation of health-harming products.

  5. France | Éric Ciotti, the leader of France’s mainstream rightwing Les Republicains party, has said he would back an alliance with Marine Le Pen’s far right National Rally in the snap legislative elections later this month, shocking opponents and party members and throwing French politics into further disarray.

In depth: ‘It’s not only that it feels cold – it is cold’

A walker on a dull, drizzling afternoon, Oxfordshire, 4 June 2024View image in fullscreen

Meteorologically speaking, summer started on 1 June. “But you wouldn’t necessarily know it,” Bentley says. “It has been exceptionally, unseasonably cold and – unfortunately – the forecast suggests it’s going to stay that way.”

Bentley reckons that today temperatures across the UK will range around 11-16 C. “At this time of year, temperatures should range from 17-21C so that’s a good five degrees below normal. It’s not just perception, it is noticeably cooler.”

It has been, Bentley says, consistently cooler than average throughout June, and is likely to stay that way until at least astronomical summer begins with the summer solstice on 20 June.

Today could be the best day for a little while with no rain forecast, before another band of rain sweeps across on Thursday. “The weekend looks showery, and the temperature will be well below normal right into next week,” she says. “Even through to the end of the month looks very unsettled, all eyes are now on July until we might see a taste of summer.”

Why is it colder than normal in the UK?

It’s all to do with the jet stream – defined by the Met Office as “a core of strong winds about five to seven miles above the Earth’s surface, blowing from west to east”.

“At the moment we have northerly flow of air all the way from the Arctic,” Bentley says. “Even in June the Arctic is a lot colder, and if you’re out and about you will notice it’s very cold. The wind can be quite bitingly cold, making you want to wear scarf and gloves. However, if you get out of the wind and in the sun is shining it does feel quite pleasant.”

The jet stream has been “buckled” over the UK, says Nick Lee, a meteorologist at MetDesk, a private company that provides “mission-critical weather information” to weather-dependent businesses.

“It has become quite entrenched and is dragging cold air from the Arctic down across the UK, making it cold here particularly at night,” Lee says. “If we were just the other side of it would be much warmer, as it would bring the warm air from Africa.”

The other side of the jet stream is basking in unseasonably warm temperatures. To the west: New York is expecting temperatures of 28C today, and to the south: Greek authorities have issued heatwave warning forecasting temperatures to rise to as much as 42C.

Is it really snowing in June?

While no cricket matches have been snowed-off this summer, the Cairngorm mountains in Scotland were covered in a light dusting of snow last week. The Met Office has recorded temperatures of –2 C at the top of the mountain on 4 June, compared to average June temperatures of 13-16 C. Snow in June is very unusual, but in 2010 more than 100 skiers took advantage of ski tows being open up at a ski resort near Aviemore for the first time in summer.

Lee says night-time temperatures have been much colder than daytime, and the mercury has dipped below zero in rural places across the country. “As far south as Oxfordshire it got as low as 1C recorded at RAF Benson [near Wallingford, in South Oxfordshire] on Sunday.”

He reckons that the UK could have just witnessed its “coldest run of nights in more than a decade”, but he wouldn’t bet on the record holding out for the whole of June.

But haven’t we just had a record-breakingly warm May?

Yes, the UK’s average mean temperature in May 2024 was 13.1C, beating the previous 12.1 C set in 2008 to take the highest May average since records began in 1884, according to the Met Office. But, you might not have noticed, because the averages were brought up by exceptional warm overnight temperatures caused by greater cloud cover.

The northern half of the UK experienced an even hotter May, with Scotland recording a mean temperature of 12.3 C, beating 2018’s previous record by 1.6 C.

Does it just feel colder now, because it has been warmer?

“This time last year it was 30C in the south [of England], well above the 20-21 average for this time of year,” Bentley says. “So comparisons to that definitely make a difference.

“But it is not just perception, it definitely is colder than normal. We are five degrees below where it should be, so it’s not only that it feels cold – it is cold.”

It’s true, she says, that Britons will complain about the weather whatever temperature it is. “I bet you that this time last year people were complaining it was too hot,” she says. “There seems to be a threshold of 27 C: below that it’s pleasant, above that it starts to become too hot and people start to suffer – and let you know.”

Why are temperatures low if we’re in a crisis of global heating?

Temperatures vary throughout history, Bentley says, and a colder than expected June does not mean that overall temperatures aren’t rising. “If you look over the longer period, a decade, or three decades [from which meteorologist take the expected averages] you’ll see that temperatures are increasing steadily.”

It’s not just temperatures that are affected by global heating. “We do focus on temperatures, but climate change is much more about how weather patterns are changing,” she says. “For example, we know that a warmer climate, can hold more moisture, so when it rains it tends to be heavier. We get heavier rainfall in the UK in winter and spring.

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“There’s more extreme weather across the world. There’s extreme heat in India right now, and we’ve seen flooding in Germany and France recently.”

It’s a worrying time to be a meteorologist, says Bentley, who first got interested in the weather when as a child her mother accidentally left her in the back garden of their Huddersfield home when “she thought it was a beautiful summer’s afternoon” but “within half an hour the sky went black and there was hail the size of golf balls”.

“It’s quite scary, when you see these records being broken – it’s quite a stark message: Our climate is changing and changing rapidly.”

Bentley was this week one of 408 climate scientists who wrote an open letter to all the UK party leaders urging them to “pledge ambitious action on climate change”. If she had five minutes with the next PM, Bentley would say: “We know what the problem is – we are burning too many fossil fuels, – and we know what the solution is – stop it. The lack of action is quite frustrating.”

What else we’ve been reading

Avocados in an orchard in Uruapan.View image in fullscreen
  • ICYMI: This week’s long read tells the story of the humble avocado, a brunch staple that has become the source of greed, violence and water shortages across Mexico. Alexander Sammon visited a municipality where residents fought back against the avocado hegemony. Nimo

  • I think it’s fair to say Jonathan Jones doesn’t love this year’s Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. “A few decent works crop up as if by accident,” but his overall verdict is: “It is a gasping death-rattle of mediocrity, a miserable garden party of vapid good taste.” I think I’ll still go, though. Rupert

  • After Azeem Rafiq told a parliamentary hearing of his harrowing experience of institutional racism at Yorkshire county cricket club, his life changed. Emma John spoke with him about his memoir and the abuse that he has endured since. Nimo

  • If you’d asked me to guess which European city had the most cocaine – as judged by residue found in wastewater – I wouldn’t have guessed Antwerp. But it is, by some distance. This explainer by Annie Kelly on Europe’s cocaine problem is fascinating. Rupert

  • The latest season of Comfort Eating with Grace Dent is out in the world, and she is joined by the comedian Katherine Ryan – it is, as always, a delight. Nimo


Britain’s Romell Glave and Richard Kilty after finishing last in the men’s 4x100m relay heats.View image in fullscreen

Athletics | Britain’s 4×100 relay teams had contrasting fortunes at the European athletics championships, with the men (pictured above) crashing out after a terrible final changeover saw them finish last in their heat. The women on the other hand posted the fastest time of the heats, helped by Dina Asher-Smith on the third leg.

Football |Manchester United are confident they will have a successful transfer window despite the lack of clarity regarding the future of their manager, Erik ten Hag. The season review led by Sir Jim Ratcliffe that will settle Ten Hag’s employment has entered a third week but the club believe they have a solid structure to allow them to operate in the transfer market regardless of the question marks over their manager.

Euro 2024 | Everything you need to know (and more) about every squad member in Germany, with a profile and match ratings of all 622 players going to the tournament. And sign up here for Football Daily, for all the latest from the Euros.

The front pages

Guardian front page, Wednesday 12 June 2024View image in fullscreen

“Tories’ ‘implausible’ £17bn tax giveaway condemned” says the Guardian while the Telegraph has “Sunak promises £17bn in tax cuts”. The Financial Times’ assessment is “Sunak’s £17bn tax cuts promise fails to satisfy Tory appetite for ‘boldness’”. The Daily Express seeks to add a bit of what’s lacking there with “Tory ambition to deport 100,000 illegal migrants”. “Rish: I didn’t have a dish” – the PM’s “idea of hardship”, says the Daily Mirror, after Rishi Sunak said he didn’t have Sky TV in the house as a child. The Times is next on the rotation for this old campaign chestnut: “PM: A vote for Reform puts Labour into No 10”. “Rishi: Don’t give Labour a blank cheque” – says the man waving around a £17bn one, in the Daily Mail. Top story in the i is “Labour promises £12 an hour to care workers”. “Pop Paedo’s £500k to victim” – the Metro reports on a court judgment against Gary Glitter.

Today in Focus

Young couple with smartphones at modern home officeView image in fullscreen

Election 2024’s battleground: your family WhatsApp group

How are Labour and the Conservatives approaching their online campaign strategies? Jim Waterson reports.

Cartoon of the day | Martin Rowson

Martin Rowson on the plight of Rishi Sunak’s special advisers – cartoonView image in fullscreen

The Upside

A bit of good news to remind you that the world’s not all bad

King Lear premiered in Ukraine at the height of the conflict and will now be performed in the UKView image in fullscreen

When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in 2022 Vyacheslav Yehorov was working at a film school creating art therapy for children. Millions of people were displaced because of the war – many took refuge in the small western town of Uzhhorod, which borders four EU countries. In the midst of all of this chaos and uncertainty, Yehorov decided it was time to make his long-held dream of directing King Lear a reality. Sixty displaced people sheltering in the town, who had little to no experience of theatre or performance, signed up to join the production.

After premiering in Ukraine at the height of the conflict, the play is now moving to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon on 14-15 June. Yehorov says the play has been therapeutic the participants: “I wouldn’t say it’s escape but in a way it’s a substitute to have a better life, they are living in such a stress due to the news of the war and it’s very difficult for people to leave [Ukraine],” he said. “It’s nice to give the people something good in life.”

Sign up here for a weekly roundup of The Upside, sent to you every Sunday

Bored at work?

And finally, the Guardian’s puzzles are here to keep you entertained throughout the day. Until tomorrow.

  • Quick crossword

  • Cryptic crossword

  • Wordiply

Source: theguardian.com