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The worst day of summer for rain

Brace yourself for St Swithin’s Day today — whatever the heavens decide will be a fixture for the next 40 days, according to the old saying.

That’s likely to be bad news for Northern Ireland, which is already missing out on the scorching weather that has bathed the rest of the UK in early summer.

While everywhere else faces the threat of hosepipe bans, we emerged from an early few weeks of promising weather to the reality of a low pressure system that swept us with torrential rain, gale force winds and even hailstones — along with the odd, humid glimpse of blazing sunshine.

The extreme weather we’ve been experiencing has ripped down trees across the province and drenched revellers at the Oxegen music festival.

It’s all down to the Atlantic system that delivers our summer weather, according to Meteogroup forecaster Paul Knightley.

“There has been a large area of high pressure centred over parts of central and eastern Europe and that has been good for south east England. The closer you are to those areas of high pressure the better. However, the low pressure system from the Atlantic has been passing close to Northern Ireland, bringing wind and rain.

“Northern Ireland has been in the firing line for the bad weather. Over a long-term average it’s what you’d expect, but it’s not nice that it keeps happening over and over again.

“It’s been off and on for the last few weeks and over the next week it still looks pretty unsettled, with more wind and rain.

“The weather may get better as we go into August — but they are just hints. If you do get a fine day, make the most of it.”

The St Swithin’s Day saying is just a myth, but you can find that by this time of year the summer weather has settled into a pattern, Paul said.

Legend says that as St Swithin, an Anglo Saxon Bishop of Winchester, lay on his deathbed he asked to be buried in a churchyard “where the rain would fall on him and the feet of ordinary men could pass over him”.

His wishes were followed for nine years, but then it was decided to move his remains to a shrine in Winchester Cathedral on July 15, 971. According to the myth, there was a massive storm and it rained for 40 days.

The Met Office has tested the St Swithin’s Day prediction on 55 occasions and each time 40 days of similar weather did not follow.

Belfast Telegraph