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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Is Cumbria's summer destined to be a washout?

Some blame it on St Swithin, some say it is climate change, others that it is just Cumbria.

Carl Fallowfield photo
Amateur weather enthusiast Carl Fallowfield

Whatever the reason, while huge areas of the country have baked in Mediterranean temperatures over recent weeks and have even suffered from drought restrictions, Cumbrians have had to contend with rain, rain and more rain.

There was a brief few days last week when temperatures rose and the sky was blue – but that was short-lived.

The worst of the weather hit us at the weekend with violent thunderstorms and downpours hitting weekend events and causing flash floods in some areas.

The Cumberland Show was again hit by torrential rain which made parts of it look like a mud-fest rather than a festival of country life.

The poor villagers of Great Corby have suffered more than most on Sunday afternoon.

A flash flood at the weekend caused a bridge to collapse, homes to flood and cut power supplies. The village is expected to be without mains gas for another day or two and the road into the village is closed until further notice.

Spadeadam recorded two inches of rain from noon on Saturday until noon on Sunday.

The unsettled weather seems to back up the legend of St Swithin’s Day, which says if it rains on July 15, it will continue for the next 40 days. Dr Alan Goodman, the Met Office expert for Cumbria and the north west countered: “There has never been any record of anywhere in the UK suffering 40 days of rain.

“It might rain for the next 39 days, but not the next 40!”

The reason for the recent downpours is a slow-moving low pressure system that has parked over north west England, according to the weather expert.

“It is far too deep and far too close for this time of year, normally, these systems would go between Iceland and Scotland,” he explains.

“Worst of all, it decided it liked it over here and decided to stay and we are getting thick bands of rain, just circulating round.”

The good news is that the heavy rain will not last, which will be welcomed by all those going to the CockRock festival this weekend and to see the X-Factor stars at Carlisle Racecourse.

But Dr Goodman says there is bad news on the horizon for youngsters who will break up from school for the long summer holidays at the end of this week. He warned parents that although the heavy rain is set to clear away, we should not expect the weather to improve too much.

“We are likely to get a far more showery set up, but there could still be one or two really sharp showers today and tomorrow,” warns Dr Goodman.

“Hopefully Thursday and Friday will be drier and quieter and the weekend looks better the further west you go, east of the Pennines looks dodgy.”

Amateur weather watcher Carl Fallowfield of Penrith dismisses any St Swithin’s Day fears of more than a month of constant rain.

“That has never come true in the history of the Met Office,” he says.

“But it makes you wonder where the saying came from, maybe it just means there will be a prolonged period of wet weather.”

Mr Fallowfield watched the rainstorms pour into the county over the weekend on his computer screen.

“We have a low pressure system that is drawing clouds off the Atlantic – it is like a conveyor belt effect.

“The temperatures are also quite muggy, which results in thundery weather that is very localised.

“You can have torrential rain in one area and go down the road 15 minutes and it is dry.”

The Met Office’s longer-term forecast predicts the beginning of August will be affected by an area of low pressure, bringing unsettled conditions and limited sunshine.

Temperatures will also be below average, with rainfall likely to be slightly above average.

Mr Fallowfield has learned not to make long-term forecasts.

“We have people predicting that this going to be one of our coldest summers,” he says.

“It looks like it is going to be the coldest summer since I started recording the weather in 2007, but I would not like to make a long-term prediction.

“Different organisations do long range forecasts and they are nearly always wrong.

“You run a computer model on weather systems and you get a different result every time. The Met Office take an average of the results.

“It looks as though it will be cold and unsettled for most of the summer.

“We might get a late summer with decent temperatures, but for the moment it looks as though it will continue like this.”

Dr Goodman adds: “The first weekend of this month was fantastic, but memories are short and people don’t remember the good days.

“People think summer was back in April and I’m afraid there is no sign of any major improvement in the short term.

“I can’t see anything major developing in the next two or three weeks, it is just another typical July.

“We just have to put our hats and coats on and make the most of it.”

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