What is an ‘Indian summer’?

26 09 2011

After a cooler than average summer, a spell of settled weather is expected later this week, with temperatures up to 27 °C possible in some areas from mid week.

Many media reports are calling this settled spell an ‘Indian summer’, however according to the Met Office’s Meteorological Glossary, it’s a little too early in the year. An Indian summer is defined as a warm, calm spell of weather occurring in autumn, especially in October and November.

William R Deedler, Weather Historian at the United States National Weather Service, describes it as “any spell of warm, quiet, hazy weather that may occur in October or even early November”.

The origins of the term Indian summer are uncertain, but several writers suggest it may be have been based on the warm, hazy conditions in autumn when native American Indians chose to hunt. The earliest record of the use of the term is in America at the end of the 18th century. Although William R Deedler also refers to a reference by a French man, John de Crevecoeur, in 1778:

“Sometimes the rain is followed by an interval of calm and warmth which is called the Indian Summer; its characteristics are a tranquil atmosphere and general smokiness. Up to this epoch the approaches of winter are doubtful; it arrives about the middle of November, although snows and brief freezes often occur long before that date.”

The term was first used in the British Isles at the beginning of the 19th century, but there is no statistical evidence to show that such a warm spell tends to recur each year. The warmest recorded temperatures in the UK in October and November are 29.4°C on 1 October 1985, in Cambridgeshire, and 21.1°C on 2 November 1938, in Essex and Suffolk.

For the latest weather forecast go to www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather


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5 09 2012
Huw Waters (@huwwaters)

In Welsh an Indian Summer is known as “Haf Bach Mihangel” which translates to Michael’s Little Summer, since this phase of warm weather occurs around Michaelmas Day on September 29.

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