JULY started miserably, as June left off, cool, cloudy and wet. The weather slowly improved from the 13th, and summer definitely returned during the last seven days. This was the opposite of the apparent, usual trend at this time of the year, the start of the school holidays - let's hope it keeps going!

From the 13th, temperatures actually averaged above normal, but before then it was distinctly chilly, being more than 3C (6F) below expectations here at Carlton, near Stokesley. The 8th, with a maximum of 12C (54F), was my coldest July day since 1987. Overall, it was a cool month, the first to be significantly below the mean since last October, and the coldest July for four years.

Generally, rainfall was between the norm and 50pc above. It was the second wettest July in my twenty years of data. The total was marginally ahead of the 80mm (3.15ins) I collected in 1998 but well behind the 136mm (5.35ins) in 1988. Apart from the latter, there have been no really wet Julys in recent years. I recorded rain on every day up to and including the 17th, mainly in small quantities - just a nuisance for farmers and gardeners.

Rainfall was however boosted in many parts by some torrential downpours mostly during the first week. A thunderstorm at Carlton at around 11am on the 4th dropped 14mm (0.55ins) of rain in twelve minutes, with 10mm (0.40ins) in just six minutes, i.e. at 100mm (4.0ins)/hour. This is a rate of fall typical of the heaviest rain you might encounter once every few years in Britain.

This deluge brought back vivid memories of the infamous storm of the 10th of August last year, which swept across the region causing widespread chaos. That was a very different beast. Rainfall rates then were up to almost four times greater, producing a UK record-breaking accumulation here at Carlton - a staggering 46mm (1.85ins) in ten minutes. Also, comparing the recent event to last August's, hail was only the size of small peas not marbles, a moderate wind arose briefly, not a strong to gale force one, and it just ambled by, far from hurtling along at an incredible 60km per hour (nearly 40 mph). I have written a paper on that August tempest for Weather, a monthly journal produced by the Royal Meteorological Society. If anyone is interested, please let me know and I will send a copy of it when it is published, hopefully in the autumn.

The changeable regime that became firmly established in June continued almost unabated throughout July. Atlantic frontal systems swung across the country every few days bringing longer spells of rain with showers between. Winds tended to blow from a west to north-westerly point, hence the low temperatures.

This unsettled weather extended across much of Europe, with only the south-east, the Mediterranean and the far north of Scandinavia exempt. This was actually a blessing when we took a break to the French Alps around the second week of July. We were plagued with thunderstorms on the way and the next day when we arrived. Fortunately, they then cleared away and the cool, fresh conditions that followed, together with the accompanying excellent visibility, made it ideal for touring and walking.

Going up and down the mountains provided a good chance to appreciate how the temperature falls off with increasing altitude, by about 1C for every 165 metres (1F for every 300 feet). At low levels, such as in the main towns, during the afternoon, it was around 24C (75F). At a modest height on the hills, say at 2,000m (6,600ft), the mercury was down to about 12C (54F). On the top of Mt Blanc at 4,810m (15,780ft), it would have been well below freezing, close to -5C (23F).

One novelty of our trip was my first experience of snow in July. We were going over one of the higher passes in brilliant sunshine, but with a shower looming to one side. I quickly jumped out of the car to take a photograph of the view before it disappeared. Within seconds, the breeze suddenly got up and we were struck by a near blizzard. Needless to say, having been hot whilst travelling and in my shirt-sleeves, I made a very rapid retreat back to the vehicle before I risked suffering from exposure. This brought home the advice to always take appropriate clothing for the worst of weathers when heading for the hills - though I did have my anorak and boots with me in the back of the car!

Back home, by the third week, a slow improvement became evident with the showers tending to become more isolated. With winds originating from further south in the Atlantic, too, temperatures began to recover.

The final week saw high pressure arrive on the scene at last, crossing the country mid-week, followed by another cell in time for the week-end. Sandwiched between, a trough brought a temporary break-down with widespread thundery rain late on the Thursday and into the Friday. However, the last Saturday was disappointing too, especially towards the coast, with low cloud and mist carried inland on a cool breeze off the North Sea.


Mean Maximum 19.4 C, 67F, (-0.9C, 1.6F). Mean Minimum 10.8C, 51.5F, (-0.6C, 1.1F). Highest Maximum 25.6C, 79F, 29th. Lowest Minimum 7.6C, 45.5F, 13th. Total Rainfall 81mm, 3.2ins, (+34mm, +1.35ins). Wettest Day 24mm, 0.95ins, 4th. No. of Rain Days, with 0.2mm (0.01ins) or more: 19 (+5.5)

Figures in brackets show the difference from the 20-year mean, 1984-2003.