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Heatwave to Washout – What Happened to Scotland’s Summer?

Scotland’s summer of 2023 was a tale of two extremes.

It started on an uncomfortably familiar path – with climate records being smashed.

But July and August became a disappointing affair for Scotland, especially for those seeking summer warmth.

A stuck jet stream pattern deprived us of the sun-kissed afternoons many had hoped for.

The jet stream – a flow of winds high up in the atmosphere – often helps steer weather systems our way.

But it can remain in a static pattern, meaning you are often left with the same type of weather for days or even weeks on end.

It was this scenario that helped numerous heatwaves to develop across the near continent while much of Scotland and the UK was left with the reverse – cool, wet days and some unseasonably windy weather.

Flaming June

Meteorologically speaking, summer runs from 1 June to the end of August.

The first month of summer began in the glare of a warm and dry end to May, helping to fan the flames of a Highland wildfire at Cannich, one of the biggest seen in the UK.

Wildfire at Cannich

Little more than a week later, helicopter water bombing was employed for another wildfire, this time near Daviot, south of Inverness.

As the heat built and tinder dry vegetation burnt, heatwave conditions ensued for large swathes of Scotland.

On 12 June, a temperature of 30.7C was recorded in Threave, Dumfries and Galloway – making it the hottest day of the year so far. caption,

One Daviot resident filmed the wildfire as it reached his garden.

The dog days of summer had well and truly arrived.

Overall, Scotland and the UK recorded their hottest month of June on record, with some parts of Scotland seeing the mean temperature 2.5C higher than average.

10 days of rain in an hour

As the summer solstice approached, our weather started to take a different turn.

Torrential downpours brought a deluge of water to the National Stadium at Hampden Park, as Scotland faced Georgia in a European qualifier on 20 June.

The intense storms brought about 10 days of rain in the space of an hour, with stadium staff resorting to wooden brooms, while trying to sweep the torrents of water swimming on the pitch.

Pitch staff clearing the water

It was perhaps a fitting premonition for the coming month of July, which saw Scotland record 50% more rain than normal as the jet stream lost its way, became stuck and delivered disappointing summer weather here – while other parts of Europe began to bake in unfailing heat.

Temperatures on the continent soared past 40C, with forecasters calling on Greek Mythology to coin one heatwave Cerberus, a three-headed hellhound that guards the gates of the underworld.

A person cools off at the Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy, on 18 July 2023

With the jet stream stuck stubbornly to our south, we remained in the firing line of low pressure.

System after system barrelled through off the Atlantic – keeping things cool and often wet.

At times it was also extreme; severe conditions led to the cancellation of the Tiree Music Festival, as heavy rain and high winds forced hundreds of festival-goers to abandon tents and travel plans, with many given shelter in islanders’ homes and local halls.

Mid-month, heavy rain and thunderstorms brought a traditional muddy festival flavour to Glasgow’s TRNSMT too.


While much of July was unsettled, a window of opportunity rolled in to Shetland as the Tall Ships festival got under way, with sunshine and blue skies.

Despite the wet and cool July, by this stage Summer 2023 was still warmer than normal because June had been so extreme.

Europe baked in a heat dome

August arrived with the audacity of hope that only a British summer can bring, but any longings for a change in weather were continually dashed.

As successive heatwaves in Europe continued, the weather here was anything but sunny.

Mediterranean countries experienced their second heat dome of summer – an extreme weather phenomenon that developed in part due to the stuck weather patterns – allowing heat to build day on day. caption,

A stuck jet stream pattern deprived us of the sun-kissed afternoons many had hoped for.

The flipside was that much of Scotland and the UK remained cool and wet under a cloche of disappointment.

During the last month of summer, our weather here in Scotland was often changeable. Not just day to day, but often hour to hour – as competitors in the UCI World Cycling Championships found early in the month.

Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel succumbed to the soaking wet roads and subsequent slippery conditions with a nasty crash that broke his shoe and ripped his jersey.

He recovered and was ultimately victorious in the Elite Men’s road race.

Mathieu van der Poel cycling in the rain in Glasgow

And after a quiet storm season during autumn and winter, this summer actually brought us two named storms: Antoni and Betty.

Whilst Antoni had more significant impacts elsewhere in the UK, Betty brought Yellow rain warnings to Scotland, along with gales.

And the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) issued nine flood alerts.

It was only the second time since 2015 that the UK has seen two named storms in August.

The unsettled weather continued through August, and we will get the official weather stats for the month – and the whole summer – on Friday.

‘A preview of what is to come’

Summer 2023 has been a fascinating foretaste of a future under a changing climate.

A significant influence on the unseasonable conditions has been the El Niño effect; a warmer sea temperature which sends the thermometers soaring.

While that phenomena is cyclical, its impact this year – combined with the effects of climate change – has demonstrated what a difference is made by a few fractions of a degree.

It’s been a preview of what is to come.

While governments the world over are grappling with how to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, the warming climate is already baked in.

If we were to eliminate emissions tomorrow, the planet would continue warming for at least the next century.

So a dual focus has to also be on preparing for the impact of more severe storms, bigger wildfires and droughts.

Exactly what we’ve been seeing in Scotland this year but worse.

Source : BBC