How hot was the 1976 heat wave and how long did it last?

Children play on Hampstead Heath during the 1976 heatwave

The sun brought people to Hampstead Heath to cool off in the water. (Image: Mike Lloyd via Getty)

if you complain With this week’s grueling temperatures, a Gen-X or Boomer will no doubt be a quick reminder that they don’t compare to the summer of 1976.

Some areas faced drought as skies remained clear and the heat increased, while public transport was seriously affected by the scorching sun.

Though it was too much for some, others took advantage of the weather to cool off at swimming pools, the beach and local parks.

But how hot was the famous heat wave and how long did it last?

Here’s everything you need to know about summer in the mid-70s.

How hot was the 1976 heat wave?

The heat wave that took place in June and July reached its peak 35.6°C – significantly higher than the peak of 32.7°C recorded this week.

Ilie Nastase covers herself with water during the 1976 heat wave

Tennis players at Wimbledon had to cover themselves with water during the 1976 championships. (Image: Mike Maloney via Getty Images)

The oppressive temperature was measured at Mayflower Park in Southampton in June.

The heatwave, which formed after a weather pattern, resulted in extreme sea temperatures across Greenland and the UK, with research showing this has been linked to, and continues to be, linked to warmer, drier summers in the UK.

The high-pressure weather system was concentrated further east of Britain, drawing in and bringing in moist air oppressive night temperatures for almost two weeks.

Some places in the UK went 45 days without rain, resulting in a widespread drought. Things got so serious that Parliament had to pass the Drought Bill and install MP Denis Howell as Minister for Drought.

Sun-seekers with makeshift newspaper hats

Sun-seekers grabbed newspapers and books as temporary sun protection. (Image: Graham Wood via Getty)
On some of the hottest days of the 1976 heatwave, thousands of Londoners flocked to Hyde Park, London. (Image: Getty)

How long did the heat wave last?

The heat wave lasted an incredible 15 days – from June 23rd to July 7th.

What is the hottest temperature on record?

While 1976 was certainly one of the longest heatwaves the UK has faced, new records have been set in the summers since.

In fact, the latest high on record – 38.7°C – was recorded in Cambridge in 2019.

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Justin Scacco

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