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Driest Ever July Edges England Towards Drought

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Reading’s driest July in more than a century has capped the driest start to any calendar year since the Second World War – except 1976.

Drought has intensified with just 3.1mm of rain in July, data from the University of Reading’s weather observatory shows, with measurable rain falling on only three days during the month. This was significantly lower than the previous record of 4mm in 1921.

A total of 216mm fell from January to July, making this the third driest such period since the University’s records began in 1908. Only 1976 (159 mm) and 1944 (188 mm) were drier.

Provisional data from the Met Office showed that July 2022 was the driest in England since 1935, and the driest on record for East Anglia, and southern and south east England.

The Environment Agency warned in July that England could face drought in August if the dry weather persists. Some regions already have hosepipe bans in place.

Dr Stephen Burt, Meteorology Research Fellow at the University of Reading, said: “We all noticed the record temperatures and dry weather in July, but this data lays bare just how abnormally dry the weather has been this year, partially driven by a changing climate.

“Local streams are beginning to dry up for the first time in decades, and water restrictions surely can’t be far away.”

Professor Richard Allan, Professor of Climate Science at the University of Reading, said: “Fluctuations in weather patterns determine when and where heat waves and unusually dry spells take place, but the higher temperatures and thirstier atmosphere due to human-caused climate change will have intensified the rate at which soils dry out and hence speed up the development of drought.”

Data from the University’s observatory also shows:

  • Rainfall in Reading during the nine-month period stretching back from November 2021 to July 2022 totalled only 283mm – 59% of the ‘normal’ amount, based on the average for 1991-2020. The only lower values for this period within the last 75 years were in 1989 (277mm) and 1976 (240mm).
  • Reading’s average maximum temperature for July was 25.7°C – 3°C above the 1991-2020 normal and hotter than the daily average for July 1976 (25.6°C). Several recent Julys have had a higher average maximum temperature, including 2018 and 2006, both of which averaged 27.1 °C, and July 1983 with 26.7 °C.
  • The peak temperature for July on 19 July of 37.6°C, was the hottest day on Reading’s record back to 1908 – the previous extreme being 36.4 °C on 10 August 2003. Notably, 35 °C has now been surpassed in three of the last four years; previously, this value was attained in Reading only in 1911, 1990, 2003 and 2006.
  • Night-time temperatures were also very high at times, with the minimum temperature on 19 July (20.1 °C) also a new July record. The night-time temperature remained above 20°C on one other night in July 2022.
  • There were a total of 239.9 hours of sunshine in July – 18% above normal. There have been numerous sunnier Julys, most recently 2018 with 299 hours and 2013 with 298 hours.

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