Cruel summers are here to stay

Why meteorologists expect summertime in the British Isles to be wet for the next 10 years

Despite the recent spell of sunshine, weather experts say that the British Isles face a decade of wet summers, blaming the natural warming of the Atlantic Ocean for pushing the jet stream further south.

Scientists believe that the phenomenon may have begun in 2007. Since then, each summer has been blighted by higher-than-average rainfall. The British Isles experienced a similar series of wet summers in the 1880s, 1950s and early 1960s.

Forecasters met in Exeter last month to discuss the reasons for 2010's icy winter, the coldest on record, and for this spring, the coldest in more than 50 years.

Stephen Belcher, head of the Met Office Hadley Centre, which investigates climate change, said: "The key question is: what is causing the jet stream to shift in this way? There is some research to say that some parts of the natural system load the dice to influence certain states of the jet stream but this loading may be further amplified by climate change."

Ask your students to interview their parents and grandparents about their recollections of holiday activities during very hot summers of their youth, or very wet ones. This will highlight the different holiday activities - and expectations - of children of previous generations. Do your students still want to play outside when it is wet? What would they do instead?

In Britain, the summer of 1976 was the hottest since records began. The average temperature during June, July and August was 17.77C, compared with an average during 2001-08 of 16.3C, according to the Met Office.

Expand the discussion in your classroom to include the weather in Middle Eastern countries and in Australia, where it is sometimes too hot to play outside. Or introduce students to countries that experience light summer nights on which the sun scarcely sets.

Younger students may think that this sounds like great fun, but point out that they may have trouble getting to sleep. And explain to children that, in contrast, the citizens of these countries may see very little daylight in the winter months. Perhaps your students won't then feel so bad about facing a wet summer in Britain.

CLASS QUESTIONS

- Which country has the driest summers and which the wettest?

- Where in the world does the summer sun last almost all night? How would you get to sleep in those conditions?

- What is the best weather for a holiday?

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