London. Summer. Find these two words in the same sentence and they're often accompanied by a question mark. For Olympics organizers during the 2012 Games, it was a constant headache, with changeable weather throughout the event.
After 25 consecutive summers in London, I have formed the view that summer is, in fact, a figment of the imagination in this particular corner of the Northern Hemisphere. At best, it's a two-week sunny spell falling inconveniently in May or October, meaning it may have been over before the Summer Olympics even started. Even worse, June was among the rainiest for a century!
This means that if you go to England in the fall, you may or may not have warm, sunny weather. But you may or may not in what is technically summer, too.
Summer came one week in May
The unpredictability of London weather is the only certainty about it. For example, in 2011, both April and October had unseasonably warm days with high temperatures in the mid-80s. Yet in recent years, both of these months have had snowfall as well.
With London recording an unseasonably high 27 degrees C on the Sunday before the main events of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, BBC News reported the day's weather as "a scorcher." After all, that is nearly 81 F. But, it certainly didn't last.
Queen's 2012 Diamond Jubilee on the Thames
Just one week later on June 3, spectators and well-wishers numbering in the hundreds of thousands woke to a low of 44 F, rising to 55 F in a downpour. The afternoon brought buckets of bone-chilling, driving rain, the kind that seems to come in sideways despite one's best efforts with the umbrella.
Soaking wet, the world's press recorded the biggest flotilla for 350 years through misted camera lenses. The London Philharmonic Orchestra played an impromptu "Singin' in the Rain" on dripping wet instruments while the Queen waved, the RAF flyover was canceled, and poor Prince Philip went straight into hospital for the week on the eve of his 91st birthday.
After more than 130 years, Wimbledon's Centre Court got a useful £100 million retractable roof in 2009. While two unusually fair weather Wimbledon fortnights have reigned since the new roof was installed, predictions for 2012 looked seasonably stormy. Wimbledon defined? Pimms, strawberries and rain delays. When Wimbledon week weather holds, it makes headlines. Fortunately for most, the weather cooperated in 2012, with only a few brief spells of rain forcing delayed preliminary matches.
Weather and the Summer Olympics
At least the athletes knew what to pack, since they had uniforms. For anyone else heading to the Olympics, it was their own best guess. Many locals carried both shades and carry brollys (umbrellas), just in case. Average temperatures in London in July and August are in the range of 57°F to 73°F with rainy days averaging twice in every 10 days, and the Olympic's two weeks proved no exception.
These are the sunniest months of the year, so we can be pretty well guaranteed just one thing: no snow!
Moving into autumn
Late summer and early fall can bring some of the best weather in Britain, making this a great time to visit (bonus: fewer tourists!). Statistically, September has about the same number of rainy days as July, with temperatures falling only a few degrees, on average. That gives you plenty of time to see Britain in its sparkling summery glory before the rains — and temperatures — really start to fall.
by Laurie Jo Miller Farr