How paper predicted record heat 19 years ago

It’s been nearly 20 years since a town in Kent briefly recorded the hottest temperature in Britain.

But as temperatures continue to climb towards a record 40C, some frighteningly accurate predictions from that time may well come true this week.

How the Gravesend Messenger reported the heatwave in August 2003

On August 10, 2003, Gravesend was briefly crowned the hottest place on record in Britain when it was a sizzling 38.1C.

But the distinction of being the hottest place in Britain on record lasted barely a few days before it was superseded in the heat ranks by a neighbour.

Meteorologists armed with further data revealed that the highest temperature during the August 2003 heatwave had in fact been in the same county, but nearly 40 miles east at Brogdale, near Faversham.

Gravesend often tops the temperature table, mainly due to the sandy soil at Broadness where the MET weather station is sited, and heats up in direct sunshine.

But it was the Met Office warning, as reported in KentOnline’s sister publication the Gravesend Messsenger in August 2003, that with the effect of global warming, we could soon see temperatures rise to more than 40C in coming years that is likely to strike a chord today.

How we reported the news in August 2003

Scientists today are saying climate change is increasing the likelihood of exceptional heatwaves in Britain.

Alex Deakin from the Met Office told Sky News: “We’ve had hot spells in the past. But what is absolutely clear is that these hot spells, these heatwaves are becoming more intense, more frequent.

“The science is absolutely clear that climate change has its fingerprints all over this current hot spell.”

The meteorologist added: “What we know is that 40C is now 10 times more likely in the UK than it would be under a naturally-varying climate – so one that humans haven’t influenced.”

When Gravesend was crowned the hottest town in 2003, bookies William Hill said one gambler had won £1,000 after placing a £200 at 5-1 that temperatures would reach 100F.

Record-breaking temperatures meant big business for newsagents at the time, with many selling out of ice cream and chilled drinks flying off the shelves.

Nathan Wyatt drinking in the garden of the Three Daws in Gravesend back in 2003. Picture Steve Crispe

Businesses struggled to cope with demand as customers quickly snapped up bestsellers such as Ice Poles and Calippos and pubs saw record takings as sun-seekers enjoyed a pint or two in the Three Daws.

The town’s Woolworths sold out of fans and paddling pools, leaving staff with a flood of customer inquiries.

Fast-forward to today and The Met Office has issued a red weather warning for the rest of the day and tomorrow as temperatures are predicted to rise to 40C.

Schools in Kent are divided over whether to keep children in hot classrooms or send them to work from home.

By 10am Manston had reached 29.5C, climbing to 34C by 4pm.

Beaches in nearby Margate were rammed as sunseekers sought out spots to make the most of the high temperatures.

The UK Health Security Agency increased its heat health warning from level three to level four – a “national emergency”.

Level four is reached “when a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system… At this level, illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups,” it said.

The government’s advice is that 999 services should be used in emergencies only and people should seek advice from 111 if they need non-emergency health advice.

Gravesham Kent Weather Sean Delaney


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