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St Swithun's Day - rain or shine for 40 days?

Source: Nina-no, Wikicommons

Source: Nina-no, Wikicommons

Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 09:44 GMT -

St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ‘twill rain nae mare

Wednesday, 15th July, is the feast day of St Swithun (or St Swithin). According to the legend of St Swithun, the weather we get today will remain for the following 40 days and 40 nights.

St Swithun was an Anglo-Saxon bishop of Winchester who lived between 800AD and 862AD. Very little is know of his life, but it is what happened after his death that led to the famous weather saying.

St Swithun was originally buried in an outside grave at his own request. However, several years later it was decided that his body would be moved to a shrine within Winchester Cathedral. The legend goes that it poured with rain throughout the day that his body was exhumed as the saint was unhappy at being moved inside. It then continued to rain for a further 40 days and nights.

If the saying is to believed then we are set for 40 days and nights of dry weather as apart from a few early showers across south-east England this morning and few in western Scotland and Northern Ireland later, the weather is fine across much of the UK today.

Despite the variable nature of British Isles climate, there may be a touch of logic to this ancient weather proverb. The jet stream is a major driver of the weather conditions in north-west Europe and it can often get locked into a consistent pattern during mid July.

If the jet stream positions itself to the north of the UK, the country can experience a prolonged spell of hot and dry weather. This occurred during the record-breaking summers of 1976 and 2003. In contrast, if it positions itself directly over the country or just to the south, it can lead to much cooler and wetter weather. This was the reason for the dismally wet summer of 2007, which led to severe flooding in parts of the country.


The weather forecast for this year's St Swithun's day is rather mixed with a lot of cloud across Wales and the southern half of England, as well as eastern Scotland, with showery outbreaks of rain pushing eastwards.

However, it will be brighter across northern England, western Scotland and Northern Ireland with just a few showers.

These brighter conditions should spread across all parts of the UK into the afternoon with most places becoming dry.

Feeling warm in the sunshine by the end of the afternoon in the south with highs of 21-24C. Cooler elsewhere with temperatures in the mid to high teens Celsius.

So, if tomorrow's forecast is anything to go by, the weather for the next 40-days is going to be rather mixed with some cloudy and wet spells, but also periods of dry and warm weather too.

That isn't too far away from the long-range forecast, with the weather over the next few weeks continuing to look fairly changeable here in the UK.

Fairly cool and showery conditions looks like dominating at times as we go through the rest of July and into the start of August, particularly in the north-west of the UK, but bursts of warm or hot weather may push up from Europe at times too.

See how the weather is looking where you are over the next couple of weeks by searching for your location in the orange 'Find Your Forecast' box and the top of the page and then clicking on 14-Day Trend.

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