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Posted at 11:14 AM ET, 10/03/2011

United Kingdom sees October record heat; cool down on the way

A man lies in the sun at lunchtime in St James's Park, London September 29, 2011. (SUZANNE PLUNKETT - REUTERS)
Over the last week, parts of the United Kingdom have basked in unseasonable and historic warmth. Amazingly, the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the UK from September 29 to October 2 were surpassed.

The streak of record national high temperatures began on September 29 and 30 when West London soared to 28.8C (83.8F) and Cambridge hit 29.2C (84.5F), respectively.

On October 1, the UK recorded its all-time highest temperature for the month when the mercury soared to 29.9C (85.8F) in Gravesend, southeastern England. According the UK Met Office, this broke the previous October record of 29.4C (84.9F) recorded in the town of March, Cambridgeshire on October 1, 1985. A new October record was also set in Wales, where the temperature reached 28.2C (82.8F) on Saturday.

On Sunday, CapitalClimate reports Cambridge and Santon Downham reached 29.3C (84.7), a new national record the date - completing the stunning four day streak of new nationwide records.

Britain’s summer-like weather began early-to-mid last week. On Wednesday, in northern Britain, highs climbed up to 24.7C (76.4F) in Edinburgh, Scotland. For perspective, consider that Edinburgh’s maximum average high temperature is only about 18.9C (66F) in the middle of July. By Thurday, daytime highs eclipsed 26.7C (80F) in metropolitan London.

Weather map of Europe from Friday shows the United Kingdom on the west (warm) side of a big area of high pressure. ( ECMWF )
What’s behind the unusual autumn warmth? A large area of high pressure centered over Germany late last week helped create a ridge in the jet stream, blocking the typical clouds and rain associated with a westerly flow off the Atlantic. While much of Europe has been enjoying clear skies and unseasonable warmth, southern England has actually had some of the warmest temperatures. Positioned on the western edge of the high-pressure system, the UK has seen southerly winds usher in warm, dry air and clear skies for as long as the jet stream remains parked well to the north.

For the thousands of Britons having barbecues and flocking to the seaside over the weekend, that’s all about to change. One more day of exceptional warmth is on tap for Monday before a cold front bringing showers and gusty winds begins to knock down temperatures. By the end of this week, seasonal daytime highs (15C/59F) will be back in play – a reminder that warmth and sunny skies rarely stick around for long in the British Isles.

Referring to the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia, which may clip the northern UK late this week, and the possibility of snow in the northern highlands, see this somewhat hyperbolic headline from the UK Daily Mail:

After a scorching weekend, get ready for SNOW and a HURRICANE as temperatures drop 18c by Friday

(Jason Samenow contributed to this report)

Related: Photos of Britain’s autumn warm spell

By  |  11:14 AM ET, 10/03/2011

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