Weather at the 1948 London Olympic Games

5 08 2012

2012 is the third time that the capital of the UK is hosting the Olympic Games.  In this short feature Dan Suri, Deputy Chief Forecaster at the Met Office reflects on the weather in 1948 and the similarities with 2012.

The London 2012 Olympic Games might not be the first London Olympics characterised by hot weather in the run-up to the start and then to be followed by rather changeable conditions through much of the Games themselves.

Just as we saw this year, July 1948 was characterised by generally very cool and dull conditions until shortly after mid-month when high pressure built across the UK to bring hot and sunny conditions in the run up to the start of the Olympic Games.

During this warm spell in 1948 Milford, near Guildford saw temperatures reach 35 °C on the 28th, and  Greenwich, for example, saw 32.8 deg C on three successive days up to the end of the month. This year, also saw a warm fine weather in the run up to the Games with a temperature of 30.7 °C recorded at St. James Park on the 25th July.

The warm conditions of late July 1948 persisted into early August, with the 1st being the hottest day of the month, with 28.3 °C being recorded at Greenwich. However, conditions started to turn more unsettled, where thunderstorms on the 2nd led to scattered falls of more than 50 mm of rain in areas extending from South Wales to East Anglia, with Silsoe, near Bedford recording 100 mm. 

Cooler, cloudier weather then quickly settled in over the UK, with maximum temperatures falling by 8 to 10 °C in the London area in the first few days of August before conditions turned much more unsettled as a succession of low pressure systems crossed the UK. These depressions brought spells of wet and at times windy weather to much of the country.

Across London, although most of first half of August 1948 was rather unsettled, there were still some fine days as well.  However, the period between the 6th and 8th was particularly unsettled; 30-60mm rain was recorded quite widely across the London.

Maximum temperatures then remained typically in the high teens or low 20s Celsius for the rest of the first half of August.

Conditions then started to become a little less changeable mid-month, just in time for the closing ceremony. The rest of August then remained on the unsettled side, though over southern UK not to anywhere near the same extent as during the first half of the month.

Weather certainly affected outdoor sporting events through 1948. Photos show the main running track often taking on a wet appearance with puddles forming in places, whilst contemporary reports talk of rainy conditions during major events. However what is clear is that the sport still went on and the Games will be remembered for setting the standard for the Olympic Games in the post-war era.


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