It has been as hot in NI as it was in Spain, but it never quite felt it

When in the 1990s I lived in the southeast of England, people from home said things such as: 'You get better weather down there.'

Saturday, 28th July 2018, 6:09 pm
Updated Saturday, 28th July 2018, 8:09 pm
The last of the warm weather.: A couple and their dogs pictured in Holywood beach on Friday, when the temperature reached more than 24 Celsius in Northern Ireland, before the wet and cooler weather was due to begin on Saturday. Picture By: Arthur Allison Pacemaker

My response was usually: the weather is no better in southern England than Northern Ireland! Yet there is a widespread sense it is.

But I came to realise that both views are simultaneously correct.

Weather in southern England is no better than NI most of the year. It is cloudy and damp in both those UK poles for eight or so months — a bit more damp and windy in Ulster but often miserable in both regions.

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People enjoy the sea at Biarritz beach, southwestern France, Wednesday, July 25, 2018, which reached 26 Celsius (79F), not far above Giant's Causeway, which was 25C the same day. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

But for the remaining four months the weather in southeast of England is markedly better than in this Province: June to September.

It is sunnier and hotter – the typical July maximum is 22.5 Celsius in southeast England and only 18.5C in Northern Ireland. That is an average margin of 4C but often the southeast pulls 6C or even 10C ahead of us. It gets the kind of Mediterranean heat we almost never do.

I also remember since childhood how rarely summer in Northern Ireland extends into September. Almost from the first day back at school, the rugby pitches had that hard, sterile look of winter.

In SE England however, September is often balmy and pleasant, and autumnal gloom is kept at bay.

On Sunday June 3 2018, during the recent long hot spell, people flock to the beach at Helen's Bay. The Co Down village was hottest place in Northern Ireland on a number of days, including Saturday July 7 when it reached 25 Celsius, Sat Jul 14 (27C), and last week, Mon Jul 23 (27C). On Tue Jun 27, Bangor nearby reached 28C, yet did not feel as hot the same temperature did in Spain, Ben Lowry writes. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

This summer it has been notable that Northern Ireland was close behind England in the hottest period, late June and early July. When it was hitting 32C, we were hitting 30C, where it was 28C we were 26C, etc. On a few days we were hotter.

But at no point in this heatwave did Northern Ireland feel as hot as Spain, where I was this month. Yet the maximum temperature in my resort stayed was 28C-29C each day, the sort of temperature we reached. For example, I was in North Down on June 27 when Bangor hit 28C and at Stormont the next day when it touched 29C and while it was clearly hot there was never the wall of heat you encounter in Spain.

The Spain heat was dry, not the humid heat that can seem even hotter than it is.

Is it because urban areas in the Med have a build-up of heat in buildings that lasts all summer and causes those occasional waves of almost suffocating warmth?

People sitting in the sun in St Paul's Cathedral Churchyard Gardens in London on Friday July 27 as the heatwave saw temperatures reach 35C in Norfolk. Southern England is notably sunnier and warmer than Northern Ireland from June to September, writes Ben Lowry, but not much better weatherwise the rest of the year. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor