Rainfall graph

From one extreme to another

8 November 2012

Despite it being the wettest summer in 100 years, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games gave us something to smile about.

The graph above shows rainfall this summer was often at much higher levels compared to the last three decades.

Wet summer

In June, July and August, 370.7 mm of rain fell across the UK, making it the second wettest summer on record since the 384.4 mm of rain which fell in the summer of 1912. These totals followed a record wet April, and an April to June period that was also the wettest recorded in the UK.

August was the driest and sunniest of the summer months across the UK with 109.5 mm of rain and 154 hours of sunshine. The mean temperature for August was 15.3 °C, in a month that also saw one of the hottest days of the year, as it reached 32.4 °C at Cavendish, Suffolk on the 18th.

Summer 2012 was also one of the dullest summers on record with just 413 hours of sunshine. This makes it the dullest summer since 1987 when the UK saw only 402 hours of sunshine. To complete the disappointing picture, it was also a relatively cool summer with a mean temperature of 13.9 °C, some 0.4 °C below the long term average. Despite this it was a little warmer than the summer of 2011 which saw a mean temperature of only 13.7 °C.

Unsettling experience

During June, July and August, unsettled weather was never far from the UK. Movements in the track of the jet stream, a narrow band of fast flowing westerly winds high in the atmosphere, contributed to the wet weather over the UK. This led to periods of heavy and prolonged rain, as well as short but exceptionally heavy thundery downpours interspersed only with brief warm sunny spells.

It was the second wettest summer on record in England, third wettest in Wales, eighth in Northern Ireland, and the sixth wettest in Scotland. In terms of sunshine it was the fourth dullest summer in England, the fifth dullest in Wales, ninth in Scotland and the 15th in Northern Ireland.

Olympic success

Thankfully, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were held under largely clear skies. Looking back at the successful summer of sport, the opening and closing ceremonies provided impressive and mainly dry events, brightening up the otherwise dull, wet summer weather.

Our forecasts received widespread praise from event organisers and competitors alike.

It was our responsibility to provide forecasts to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games organisers, athletes, coaches, spectators and those responsible for transporting and ensuring the safety of huge numbers of visitors.

Ben Ainslie

Our forecasts received widespread praise from event organisers and competitors alike. Rod Carr, London 2012 Field of Play Manager at Weymouth and Portland, where the Olympic sailing events were held, praised our forecast services, commenting:

"The Met Office team was first class - not only in the technical accuracy of the forecasts, but also the quality of the daily briefings and ability to engage meaningfully with the Race Management Teams. The International Sailing Federation and several National Team Leaders were also very complimentary about the forecast service, with several saying it was the best met service they had ever experienced at a Games."

First-class forecasts

Highly trained and experienced Met Office forecasters with an understanding of the sports they were forecasting for worked alongside Olympic and Paralympic Games organisers not only at Weymouth and Portland, but also at Eton Dorney and London. Our forecasters provided round-the-clock support and advice on weather conditions throughout the Games.

Cora Zillich, Venue Media Manager at the Eton Dorney rowing venue, said: "Here at Eton Dorney we have worked very closely with colleagues at the Met Office to support the race scheduling. The advice we received was absolutely spot on."

Olympic flag waving

During the Olympics we used cutting edge technology in our operational forecasting to help improve the accuracy of forecasting for small-scale weather features like showers. This involved using a much higher resolution version of the Met Office forecast model which is used to simulate what the atmosphere, and weather, will do next.

Now, some of the specific forecasting developments such as the high-resolution forecast models that were used and tested throughout the Olympics will be further refined so that they can be used in the future, leaving a legacy that will benefit the UK well after the Olympic and Paralympic Games are over.

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In brief