Compilation of some of the best bits of the magazine show celebrating and tapping into the nation's obsession with weather, with Chris Hollins and Carol Kirkwood.
Browse content similar to Episode 5. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Hello and welcome to The Great British Weather.
In this series, we've been exploring what makes our weather so unique.
We all obsess and constantly talk about it,
sometimes we complain about it, but there's plenty to love about it, too.
There certainly is. One thing's for sure - British weather is never boring.
In this special highlights show, we're going to reveal some of the more surprising aspects
of our weather, as well as celebrating its variety and splendour.
-On tonight's show...
-Let the battle commence.
We reveal the battle going on above our heads.
And when it does get hot, it's a national crisis.
The heat is still on in parts of Britain,
with temperatures soaring to 32 degrees in some places.
I join the mile-high cloud club in a quest to weigh a cloud.
It's a fabulous view but it does make you feel a wee bit dizzy.
We discover how the weather helped us win the Second World War.
An irrevocable decision had to be made.
And Strictly's Craig Revel Horwood tangos his way through the history of tanning.
Now, something we've come back to time and again in this series
is just how changeable our Great British weather is.
You just never know what's going to happen next.
'Welcome to summer 2007.'
-'This is flooding on a scale no-one here can remember.
-The rainfall of a month in just one day.
'The rain keeps coming and so will the renewed threat of flooding.'
'Today has officially been the hottest day of the year so far.'
'Brollies are being used as parasols. And even the indoor attractions are happy.'
'The snowfall here was the worst for 25 years.'
Schools shut, we've had hundreds of lorries stuck on the roads.
Forecasters tell us what things will get worse here before they get better.
Our unique weather is all to do with our position on the planet.
The whole of the United Kingdom just happens to be
slap-bang under the place where four colossal air masses meet.
An air mass is an enormous lump of our atmosphere.
At the surface it's the same temperature and the same humidity
over thousands of square miles.
When different air masses meet they fight for supremacy,
and the one that wins dictates our weather.
Ladies and gentlemen...
Let the battle commence!
Imagine, if you will, that these guys are what the weather boffins call the Polar Air Mass,
invading our skies from the north, bringing freezing Arctic air,
sending temperatures plummeting across the UK.
But, before you've had the chance to put the heating on,
here comes the Tropical Air Mass, blazing a trail from the south,
delivering warm air from places such as North Africa and the Med.
And when they clash, we get a weather front.
There are a lot of places in the world
that sit under where the Tropical Air Mass and the Polar Air Mass meet,
but the UK is extra-special because it also sits between a large ocean, the Atlantic, to the west,
and a large landmass, Europe and Asia, to the east.
And that makes our weather even more chaotic and a bit more angry.
The Maritime Air Mass, these chaps in the blue T-shirts,
sucks up billions of litres of moisture from the Atlantic Ocean
then travels east to dump torrential rain on our barbecues.
Finally, to the rescue comes the Continental Air Mass,
cruising across the dry land of Europe and Asia, ready to go to war
with the cold, wet front, in a bid to give us a warm, sunny day.
But that is not the whole story because you've yet to meet
the Big Daddy of British weather...
the Jet Stream.
And that can overpower all of those guys.
It's a monumental wind that can fly across the sky at 250mph.
Powerful and determined, if the Jet Stream heads north,
it blocks the Polar and Maritime air masses.
And it's party time for the Tropical and Continental air masses,
now free to smother us in warmth and sunshine.
Well, thanks to the Jet Stream,
we enjoyed the hottest summer on record back in 2006.
We had 18 weeks of uninterrupted sun. Even Northern Ireland and Scotland had a decent summer.
'But, as you'd expect, it's not always good news.
'If the Jet Stream decides to head south, pushing back the warm
'dry front, we're in for more familiar wet and chilly conditions.'
And that, in a nutshell, is why we have our British weather.
It's unpredictable, it's crazy, it's bonkers.
But it's ours.
And deep down, secretly, we love it.
-That was a real rainbow, wasn't it?
-Of course it was! Everything's real on this programme.
I have to say, we had every aspect of British weather that day
except a bit of snow.
We had strong winds, rain, more rain and then a bit of bright sunshine.
I had so much trouble with my Jet Stream. They got locked in the pub and wouldn't come out.
-How did you get them back?
-More pints offered and more crisps. Thanks very much for your efforts.
Brilliant. It wasn't just a real rainbow, it was also real rain.
Something we get more than our fair share of in the UK is the wet stuff.
'Rain, rain, rain -
us Brits endure it on 199 days of every year.
'That's four sodden days a week.
'It just doesn't seem fair, so I've come to the Lake District
'to find out why the Great British weather is amongst the wettest in Europe.'
This is the ideal vantage point to understand our weather.
We're nearly 1,000 feet up in one of Britain's rainiest regions.
Over there is the Irish Sea, and beyond, the Atlantic Ocean.
And that's where all our rain comes from.
'Incredibly, much of the rain which ruins our summers began life 4,000 miles away in the Atlantic.
'Air collects moisture from the ocean which, in turn,
'forms weather systems which bring rain to the UK.'
Warm, damp air travels thousands of miles across the ocean
and it hits our hills.
And as the air is forced up, it cools down, forming clouds.
'Clouds are born when invisible water vapour in the atmosphere
'condenses into tiny droplets which then fall to the earth as rain.
'And it's this rain that forms these mountain streams which then feed the glorious lakes.'
The ancient Greeks had a theory that all of our rivers and lakes
were fed by vast underground seas.
And when you see all this water - oh, that's fresh! -
you can't really blame them.
But, in truth, every drop of our fresh water comes from the oceans.
It's sucked up into the atmosphere, it then forms into clouds and then
returns to earth in the form of rain, millions upon millions of tons of it.
It's a never-ending cycle.
'And, as it invades our shores from the Atlantic,
'it's the west of Great Britain that bears the brunt.
'Each one of these tubes shows how much rain falls
'on a particular square inch in certain parts of Britain
'in an average year, starting with London.'
This is Glasgow, gets a little bit more, but this is the wettest city
in the UK. Guess which one it is.
It is, in fact, Swansea.
It's all pretty pathetic compared to the Lake District,
which gets a whopping 79 inches a year.
Remember, tbat's per square inch. If you multiply that by the area of the Lake District,
Swansea, Glasgow and London...
Well, basically, it's a lot of rain.
'Just a few miles from the sea and made up of high peaks
'and deep valleys, the Lake District doesn't stand a chance.'
You're almost guaranteed a soaking in the Lake District.
It rains here, on average, 211 days a year.
And below the cliffs of Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England,
is a little village which has the dubious honour of being
Britain's wettest inhabited place.
'Seathwaite in Cumbria is home to the Pratt family,
'inhabitants of Raingauge Cottage at the edge of the village,
'probably the wettest house in England.'
Where and when did you find out that you lived in the wettest part of England?
We've always known, but I was sat in geography the other day,
just reading through a textbook when I was bored
and looking in it at the hottest place and the wettest place.
-I was like, "That's me! I'm there."
-Did you feel proud?
I felt really proud, I felt so proud of myself.
Why is it here that it's so wet?
The fells draw the clouds down and then you get the different
change in temperature and you get rain, lots of it.
What's the worst period of rain you've ever had?
Probably the floods in 2009, I think.
'This is flooding on a scale no-one here can remember,
'few could have imagined.'
'Everyone in Cumbria remembers the floods of November 2009.'
I just remember it being rain for about 48 hours,
torrential raining and not ever stopping, seeming relentless.
'For three days, heavy rain fell on already saturated ground,
'causing many of the county's rivers to break through flood defences.'
We managed to keep it out of the house, just, didn't we? But the road was hugely flooded.
'On 20th November, Seathwaite alone was pounded by 2.4 inches of rain
'in just 24 hours, an unwelcome national record.'
We're OK as long as we're here.
If we're here we can protect the house,
but if we're not, then usually we can't get home.
'When the water came last night, it was with such speed, such force, that nothing could stop it.'
'In Cockermouth, 30 miles north, water levels in the town reached 2.5 metres.'
That is the river at the moment. The main street is the river.
'As the emergency services struggled to rescue 500 people,
'PC Bill Barker tragically lost his life
'when the bridge he was warning motorists not to cross was swept away.'
-Have you ever seen anything like these floods?
'It was described by the Environment Agency as a once in 1,000-year weather event.'
'There have been reassurances the worst of the weather has passed.'
'But just four days ago, half the average rainfall for July
'fell on parts of Cumbria in only 24 hours,
'proving yet again that the power of the Great British weather should never be underestimated.'
This summer has been a bit of a disappointment weather-wise for most of us,
but what if a heat wave was just around the corner?
Imagine, if you will, a long, hot, sizzling summer.
The heat is still on in parts of Britain
with temperatures soaring to 32 degrees in some places.
'In Central London, it has been officially a scorcher.'
-People have been enjoying...
-'The great British Summer bathes us in 362 more hours
'of glorious sunshine throughout June, July and August than in the chilly winter months.'
'The temperature started high - 20 degrees at 6am.'
'Hottest of all is the South Coast,
'where Eastbourne holds the record for the UK's sunniest summer month.
'It still battles annually with Bognor Regis for the title of sunniest spot in the UK.
'But no matter where we live, us Brits always cry out for more.'
We don't always have a soggy summer.
Sometimes, the sun arrives in the British sky and stays here for weeks.
It refuses to budge as Britain bakes. That means only one thing.
We are having a hot, hot heat wave.
'To get the heatwave we say we crave,
'the Met Office definition demands at least two consecutive days of high temperatures.
'For London, this would mean 32 degrees Celsius or above,
'or for northern cities like Newcastle, 28 degrees or above.'
Britain is in the grip of one of the longest heat waves for years.
'Our last severe heatwave was in 2003.'
'For once the brollies are being used as parasols.'
'It featured the UK's highest recorded temperature.'
'A health warning is in place in the Midlands and Southeast.'
'On 10th August, it reached a record-breaking 38.5 degrees Celsius in Faversham in Kent.'
'This long swathe of brown land is why there are fears of a drought.'
'But whilst it was the hottest, 27 years previously,
'the nation was gripped by a heat wave that was more sustained and far more serious.
'Britain had experienced its driest 18 months on record.
'Reservoirs were empty and the ground was parched.
'On 26th June, a temperature of 35 degrees Celsius was recorded in the UK
'for the first time in the 20th century.
'Roy Hattersley and his Government colleagues were starting to get concerned.'
I think we began to realise it was a problem, gradually.
You get to a point where you realise even a week of heavy rain isn't going to solve it.
So by the time of the summer recess in Parliament, we were getting worried indeed.
'Throughout the first week of July, temperatures at night never dipped below 20 Celsius.
'Forest fires erupted across the UK.'
-How many hours sleep on average in 24 have you got?
-13 in one week.
In seven days, I've had 13 hours' sleep.
'And there wasn't enough water to put them out.'
Thousands of gallons of sewage have been used on one fire to help conserve dwindling water supplies.
'A massive area of high pressure sat over most of the UK for another three weeks.
'The Government had to act.
'On 5th August 1976, they passed the Drought Act.'
The demonstrators weren't impressed. They called for the resignation of water officials.
Every area is short of water.
'They even appointed a special minister to handle the crisis - Denis Howell.'
Drought enquiry office.
Denis Howell took to the drought, how shall I put it, like a duck to water.
He loved the idea of going around the country telling people they had to stop wasting water.
'Howell encouraged us to share baths,
'put a brick in our toilet cistern
'and cut supplies to thousands of homes.'
'Basically, the pressure will be reduced so that the water will reach the standpipe,
'but not individual houses.'
'The strict emergency measures were in place for three long weeks
'until one of the most complained about aspects of our Great British weather
'actually came to our rescue.'
'During the August bank holiday, it rained.'
And Denis Howell took most of the credit for the rain.
He spent days being photographed under an umbrella, looking up at the clouds.
'The downpour continued for ten days straight.'
Suddenly, instead of being minister for drought,
he became the rainmaker and, somehow, he became a hero.
For a moment, it seemed the Government itself, rather than nature,
had solved the problem.
'The heatwave of 1976 destroyed thousands of acres of forest,
'ruined £500 million worth of crops and sent food prices soaring.
'So the next time you're longing for a hot summer,
'be careful what you wish for.'
We still find very high heat or extreme lows very difficult to deal with.
But throughout history, our ever-changing weather has been the mother of invention.
Woo-hoo! It's invisible. It can be really powerful,
and, on its day, really impressive. What am I talking about?
I'm talking about the wind, and if you get the right day, you can fly a kite!
-But not today. Not a breath of wind. Thanks, Catherine.
But don't worry, it's going to get a lot breezier later on.
'Wind was the driving force behind the growth of the British Empire
'and the success of our Navy.
'So perhaps it's not surprising that it was a British naval officer, Admiral Francis Beaufort,
'who came up with a way of measuring it back in the 1800s.
'He devised a 13-tiered scale of wind strength,
'ranging from force zero, no wind, to force 12, hurricane.
'His system allowed sailors to judge the strength of the wind
'based on how many sails a ship was able to put up.'
For example, force six - "A strong breeze.
"You could carry single reefs and top gallant sails."
Ever since 1838, when the Royal Navy adopted the scale,
the categories have stayed the same. But the descriptions have changed.
'This is because, in 1921, meteorologist Sir George Simpson
'modernised the Beaufort Scale so that wind force could be measured
'in relation to how things on land were affected, using trees or even umbrellas.
'So what does the wind measure today?'
Let's consult the Beaufort Scale.
"Light breeze, wind on face, leaves rustling" - all yes.
That has a force, they say, of two.
And that would go at speeds of four to seven miles per hour.
What about a bit of modern technology? My anemometer. Four.
Not bad at all.
'But this is the sort of wind we get all the time.
'So what's it like to be in a force nine, ten or even 12? Well, I'm going to find out.
'Normally used to test the durability of roof tiles, gutters and television aerials,
'this wind tunnel at the Building Research Establishment
'is going to test the durability of...
It's man versus machine. Mr Beaufort, give me everything you've got.
'Well, I have to say, so far, this is a breeze.
'We've moved from force one to five in a matter of minutes.
'And it's gentle at best.
'Let's see what force six has to offer.'
Wow! 'According to the scale, it should be hard to hold up an umbrella.'
Let's give it a go.
I'd say yeah.
Okey-dokey! Now we're talking windy. We're up to a force nine.
According to the scale,
tiles and chimneys could be thrown off the roof.
'As we moved from 50 miles an hour to 60 miles an hour,
'this is the point where a strong gale starts to become a storm.'
OK, we're up to 11 now.
And according to the scale, widespread damage to buildings. Wow!
It's so strong!
We're up to 12 now.
You don't often see this in the UK, but we did back in 1987.
Hurricane force. This is really, really frightening.
But if I'm going to experience the full force of the UK wind,
I can't stop there, because on Burns Night 1990,
it was even stronger.
This is absolutely petrifying.
I really can't stand up.
Thank goodness I had a harness on
because the wind was so strong, it forced me off my feet.
My investigation of the Beaufort scale very nearly blew me away.
We have truly taken on the elements this series.
If Chris confronting a 100-mile-an-hour wind isn't enough,
I decided to go even further to 5,000 feet
where no weather presenter has ever dared to go before,
into a huge cumulus cloud.
We can all see that clouds float across our skies.
We can all too often feel the effect of the huge amounts of water they contain.
So, if they float, but are full of water, that begs a question.
How much does a cloud actually weigh?
Unfortunately there's only one way to answer that.
We're going to be flying up amongst the clouds. Isn't that dangerous?
It can be depending on what sort of cloud you choose to fly near.
By their very nature they're formed by huge volumes of air.
They can go up to heights of 60,000 feet,
in which case you get huge problems.
A lack of oxygen
and very cold temperatures which you can't withstand.
The coldest I've flown in is -63 degrees.
I went up to 41,000 ft to break a world record.
It gave me frostbite on my face and my eyes froze shut.
But you'll be able to watch where we're going, won't you?
You're having a laugh!
'As long as we survive the cold,
'Judy and I will attempt to fly through a cloud carrying one of these.'
Got a radiosonde package here.
It measures temperature, humidity and pressure.
Here we have a GPS antenna -
it tracks the position of the radiosonde.
'Dr Jeremy and the Met Office research team's theory is
'that by carrying the radiosonde through a cloud,
'Judy and I can transmit back GPS and humidity data to his computer
'which will enable him to weigh the cloud.'
Pre-flight check. Leg loops, yours are in. Mine are in, helmet done up.
Reserve is checked. Centralise weight.
OK, take up slack, take up slack. Hold very, very tight. Here we go.
Yee-ha, we're off.
-Here we go.
Oh, my goodness.
It's a wee bit bumpy.
I'm hanging on to you for dear life.
It's a fabulous view, but it makes you feel a wee bit dizzy.
When it's near the surface,
the wind gets interference from the trees and the buildings
and the general fiction from the ground.
That's why it's bumpy.
'But there will be plenty of time for more bumps.'
The wind is getting stronger as we get higher.
'We've got at least a kilometre to travel to reach the clouds, upwards.'
Now you can have a look at the view, isn't it beautiful?
The view is spectacular. The sun is out.
You can see some cumulus clouds. Oh!
You'll never feel the power of the weather
as strongly as when you're flying in a hang glider.
I've never been this high without an aeroplane around me.
I'm keeping my eyes open, just.
It's very scary and I'm still too scared to look down. Oh, gosh.
Much colder now, you can feel it against your cheeks and your skin.
They've just hit the inversion now.
'Usually as you gain altitude, the air gets colder,
'but because of a phenomenon called an inversion,
'once you get to a certain height in our atmosphere,
'it actually starts to get warmer.
'This warm air stops our clouds from rising.
'That's why you see a flat blanket of cloud beneath you when you look out of a plane window.'
Can you see this beautiful cloud?
Gosh, we're up level with the clouds.
Oh, my goodness. Wow!
Oh, look at that.
'But now that we've gained enough height,
'there's no time to admire the view.'
I'm going to release now.
-What do I do?
-Relax. That's it. It's done, it's done.
-It feels like we're diving.
'We're running out of time to find a cloud to weigh.'
That cloud looks like it's decaying.
This one looks good.
CHORAL MUSIC PLAYS
We're completely in a white-out situation now.
All you can see all around is cloud.
And it's very windy in this cloud as well. Gosh, it's a huge one.
You can feel the little lumps and bumps now cos we're just at the base of the cloud.
When we were in the cloud, it didn't feel moist,
but it felt very windy - I felt quite scared, to be honest.
It's always different and exciting. It's the best view of the planet.
What I love is how much you learn about the weather.
'And hopefully with all the data we've gathered for Dr Jeremy and his team.'
We're nearly there.
We're nearly at ground level.
Hanging on for dear life.
There we go. Lovely.
'We're about to learn something very new.' That was brilliant.
Incredible stuff. I still don't believe it was you.
I don't believe it either, Chris.
Just remind me, what does one of these fluffy things weigh?
Wait for it, an amazing 137 tonnes.
That's the equivalent of 14 double-decker buses.
Just that one cloud illustrates the magnitude and power of the weather.
I'm so proud of you. Well done.
Now, the weather affects what we wear, what we eat, what we buy.
When the sun comes out, what do we all do? Plan a barbecue?
Well, 120 million of them every year,
which means we start buying more meat, ketchup.
Our shopping habits can be as changeable as the weather.
The supermarkets try and stay one step ahead.
MUSIC: "Dance of the Knights" by Prokofiev
Weather is big business.
Multinationals all over the world pay huge sums of money
for long-range weather forecasts.
A 2003 study revealed if companies account for the weather in their business plans,
it could boost sales
by £4.5 billion per year.
One company that really focuses on the weather is Sainsbury's.
They have a strategic weather forecast meeting every day.
They pay for incredibly detailed, long-range weather forecasts so they can plan what goods to stock.
They wouldn't tell us the cost.
Who's looking after Scotland?
However, what they did tell us is the technology allows them
to work between eight and ten days ahead.
We need to downgrade the weekend from hot to warm...
..based on the fact it will be raining across the region.
-West Midlands and East Anglia?
-Temperatures and conditions are unsettled until Saturday.
Once they have this data, it's up to them to predict
how weather conditions will affect consumer buying,
or to you and me, what they put on their shelves.
Get wellies, macs, umbrellas for the forecasted weather.
So crucial is the role of weather in the sales of some products,
supermarkets only decide on the quantities to order one day in advance.
It just seems amazing that a company this big is going to make decisions
on the weather.
It defines how customers shop and defines what we do.
And it's not just Sainsbury's.
Tesco told us that the first sign of frost sees a peak in demand
for cauliflower, long-life milk and bird feed.
In hot weather Sainsbury's can see the sales of hair removal products
increase by a whopping 1,400%.
while barbecue sales can leap up by 200%.
It pays to have them in stock.
One of the items that's most sensitive to changes in the weather is the modest lettuce leaf.
It's a nice, sunny, summer.
What difference does it make in terms of salad sales?
Overall about 60% more salads.
We have 22 million customers a week, so you can imagine the difference in a warm summer or a cool, wet summer
is millions and millions of bags of salads difference.
We buy £450 million worth of bagged salads every year and because they have a short shelf life,
supermarkets are careful not to overstock.
We receive the orders on the day because freshness is critical.
The order is transmitted from the factory to Adam on the farm.
We can have the material cut by eight o'clock in the morning.
Three-and-a-half hours later it's in the factory
and we can have it washed, packed and on a lorry running out to the depot by late afternoon.
In good weather they could be asked to supply twice the normal amount,
but at the first sign of rain that could all change.
The weather plays a huge role in influencing the orders.
We're vulnerable to the shopping habits of the consumer
in the supermarket and they won't pick up bagged salads
if the weather isn't salad weather.
Shoppers respond differently depending on where they live.
In Scotland 20 degrees sees sales of barbecue goods triple,
whereas in London
it's got to reach 24 degrees before the same statistic applies.
But there are common trends too.
Supermarkets sell more ice-cream on a sunny, cool day than on a warm, cloudy day.
While sales rise with temperature, once it hits 25 degrees,
sales of tub ice-cream drop
as people worry it will melt before they get home.
So, the next time the sun is shining
and you reach for that barbecue in your local supermarket,
remember, they knew what you were going to buy before you did.
George II famously said that we get three sunny days followed by a thunderstorm.
That's British summer.
That's especially true in the South-East of the country,
because as soon as the temperature rises, it becomes a thunder factory.
We all love it when the sun eventually comes out on a lovely, British, summer's day.
But did you know that the sun's heat is the vital ingredient
for one of the most powerful,
beautiful and downright awesome displays of weather in nature?
I'm talking about thunderstorms.
And I'm going to find out exactly how they work.
MUSIC: "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC
There are 2,000 thunderstorms
rumbling across the world at any given moment.
Eight million bolts of lightning flashing through the skies every day.
In the UK we have an average of eight days of thunderstorms every year.
And if you think lightning doesn't strike twice, you'd be wrong.
London and the South-East are hit by lightning once a fortnight during the summer,
twice as much as the Midlands and an astonishing eight times more than Northern Ireland.
And I want to know why.
Meteorologist Dr Daniel Kirshbaum,
is giving me a crash course in thunderstorms
in a very visual way.
This is brilliant, but what's going on?
He is representing the blazing sun
-heating the Earth's surface during the summer time.
-Why is heat important?
It's important for generating the instability to give rise to clouds and storms.
The South-East is Britain's hottest region
with average summer temperatures
a massive seven degrees higher than those in Inverness.
Two crucial ingredients for a thunderstorm are moisture and warmth.
The high humidity alongside warm temperatures
creates massive amounts of warm, moist air,
rising into the atmosphere, forming clouds.
When the clouds form near the surface, they're cumulus clouds
and these are the cauliflower clouds you see in the sky.
They're not too dangerous until they keep growing vertically, till they eventually start making precipitation
and they're cumulonimbus clouds, thunderheads.
In the summer months these thunderheads occur
more frequently because the warm air has more energy
and therefore the potential to make larger clouds.
The cumulonimbus has the ability to reach up as high as 10 miles
and as it continues to expand upwards,
it cools causing the water droplets to freeze into ice crystals.
Now we're looking from inside the cloud where there's
loads of liquid droplets and ice particles of different sizes banging together.
These performers represent the colliding particles whose
friction creates an electric charge.
Positively charged particles rise to the top of the cloud and
negatively charged particles sink to the base creating an electric field.
This field becomes so intense that an electrical charge is released.
It's a high-voltage, high current surge of electrons
and that's lightning.
With a temperature of 30,000 degrees,
lightning is six times hotter than the surface of the sun.
The air around it is rapidly heated until it explodes
creating a shockwave which we know as thunder.
There are three main types of lightning that strike the UK each year.
Each equally spectacular but with different levels of danger.
The most common type is intra-cloud, it happens within the cloud.
You might have seen this,
it's a flash of light followed by a few flickers.
It's also known as sheet lightning. It's awesome.
There's intra-cloud lightning which happens between two different clouds.
One positive part of one cloud and one negative part of another
and the lightning flies across.
I'm perfectly safe down here but up there in a plane?
The most dangerous lightning of them all is from cloud to ground.
The negative charge of the cloud meets the positive charge
of the earth creating a bolt.
It's potentially lethal.
Yes, on average 30 to 40 people are struck by lightning in the UK
each year so whilst it might be a dazzling display to watch,
it's best to keep out of its way.
Don't be too concerned, people at home or you, Carole.
There's only a one in 1.4 million chance of getting struck by lightning.
And it gets better for you
because men are much more likely than women to be hit.
In the last 10 years, over 80% of those struck by lightning have been male.
That's a high percentage but it's comforting for us girls. Thank you, Chris.
Of course the chances of getting rained on are much, much higher.
Did you know we've been using umbrellas for 2,000 years
and we've so many that 75,000 are lost each year on the buses
and tubes of London alone. They're probably all yours, Chris.
I know where I'd left them now!
Actor Larry Lamb charts the history of our most popular accessory.
During my time on EastEnders I felt the heat on more than one occasion.
Any last words?
And experienced a few downpours as well.
When I got the chance to find out about the history of the umbrella I couldn't say no.
Especially when I found out
I could do a spot of sightseeing along the way.
It starts here in the land of the Pharaohs where the ancient Egyptians...
-Cut! Sorry, we should be in China.
-In China?! Ha!
All right, that's nicer than the dreary old Albert Square
and fancy the BBC flying me all the way out here to China.
Cut! Actually, that might not be right. Have we got ancient Greece?
Greece? Are you kidding?
To be honest, the origin of the umbrella is a little bit ambiguous.
There's evidence to suggest it originated in the sun-drenched East,
either in Egypt or China around 2,400 years ago,
but nobody knows for sure.
What we do know is the word umbrella comes from the Latin root word umbra
meaning shade or shadow.
Early versions were probably made from these, tree branches,
they may not look very rainproof but in those days
umbrellas were used to protect you from the sun rather than the rain.
In ancient Egypt, the umbrella was seen as a symbol of religious importance.
In ancient Greece, it was commonly used by women as
a fashion accessory because of its decorative nature.
The umbrella only became really popular to the Western world around
the 16th century, especially in rainy Europe.
To tell me more, I've enlisted the help of Geoffrey Breeze -
an expert in antique umbrellas.
How did the umbrella become so popular in Britain?
They were used as portable sunshades in Italy and France
and then, women being women, they saw the girls over the Channel
using them, the English girls wanted it as well.
In Britain, they're more useful as a defence against rain than the sun.
But did you know it was the Chinese who first started waterproofing
umbrellas to protect against the rain?
And then the rest of the world followed their example.
In the same way there was one man who popularised the umbrellas use amongst men.
The hard work was done by a guy called John Hanway,
a noted traveller and philanthropist.
He first dared to walk the streets of London sporting an umbrella
to cover his powdered wig as he went about his business.
He had to put up with the London mob shouting abuse at him.
"Oh, sir, your stick's got petticoats on!"
And how would he have carried something like that?
Try it for yourself...
Can you hit the pose, get the angle?
-That came a little too easily, I think!
-There we go.
You feel a drop of rain coming on, lift your umbrella. Up it comes.
-Raise it to an elegant angle.
-Now we're wearing our umbrella.
-And looking good.
-Thank you very much. Very kind of you.
In 1852, the brolly advanced further
when Samuel Fox invented the first steel-ribbed umbrella design in the UK.
He made him from steel stays, the same ones used in women's corsets.
But how do things compare from then to today?
One thing's for sure, we buy a lot more umbrellas.
Around 18 million a year at a cost of £130 million.
One person who's had more than her fair share of umbrellas
is her Majesty the Queen.
The man who's been keeping her dry for nearly 30 years is
manufacturer Nigel Fulton.
And this is the one we supplied the Queen,
-this is her favourite umbrella.
-The royal umbrella.
It's got a PVC see-through cover so she can see out
but more importantly people can see in.
I rather like that.
Great choice, Your Majesty.
So, it's carried by everyone from kings and queens to the common man.
All of us keen to protect ourselves from whatever the great
British weather has to throw at us.
The weather plays a huge part in our everyday lives
so it's perhaps not surprising to learn that it's played
a critical role in our national history, too.
In 1944 the Nazis occupied much of mainland Europe.
Five years into the Second World War, Hitler's forces still posed
a huge threat to the UK.
If the Germans were ever going to be defeated, the British, American
and Allied forces have no choice but to invade northern France and force
back the German troops amassed just over 100 miles from British shores.
The invasion was absolutely essential to the success
of our campaign against the Nazis and by extension
to freeing Europe and turning Europe into the place it is today.
A place of free democracy, free political will and personal choice.
The planned D-Day invasion involved 156,000 men
sailing across the English Channel in 4,127 boats.
Landing on the shores of Normandy in order to invade through northern France.
However, if the invasion was going to be a success,
the weather would have to play a key role.
The weather conditions required for D-Day to be a success were complex.
They needed a series of circumstances to come together.
The timing of the invasion was absolutely crucial.
In particular, they needed cloud cover no lower than 3,000 ft for aerial operations.
They needed visibility of at least three miles for the naval gunnery.
And they needed high tide so they could float over the German beach defences.
And the man charged with predicting these complex weather conditions
was 43-year-old James Stagg reporting directly to
the Supreme Allied Commander, General Eisenhower.
James Stagg was the senior meteorologist who had been
commissioned as Group Captain in the Royal Air Force,
he was a weather expert.
And it was his job to head up the teams that forecast
the weather for the invasion.
Stagg was based at Southwark House in Hampshire alongside Eisenhower.
From here, the key decisions surrounding D-Day were made.
Alison Gregory worked in the operations room throughout this time.
I'm perfectly certain that the job of Group Captain Stagg did
was vital to the whole operation.
so much depended on that poor man!
The pressure on Group Captain Stagg was immense.
He knew the decision on whether to invade or not to invade
would be based on his meteorological advice.
And with 156,000 troops on standby, many lives were at stake.
I had long had in the back of my mind the tactical use of
weather just to be able to pick out some interlude unknown to
the enemy forces that would allow us to make use of it
and catch the people on the other side unaware.
But weather forecasting in 1944 was not nearly as advanced as now.
It was as much of an art as a science.
They used data from observation stations.
What they didn't have is the sort of satellites,
weather satellites we have today.
So, weather forecasting involved a certain amount of gut instinct
as well as a considerable amount of technical skill.
Stagg knew the next right tide and moonlight conditions to launch
an invasion would be between the 5th and 7th June.
But the weather was looking atrocious.
The rain was pelting down, the wind was blowing.
It was unimaginable!
It must have been frightful for all the senior officers having to
work out what on earth to do.
But the Stagg saw a glimmer of hope.
After receiving data from a single weather ship in the Atlantic,
he spotted a short period of high pressure looked like it was moving in from the south-east.
He was able, based on that data, to predict a short break in the weather,
on the morning of the 6th June.
That didn't mean the weather would be good,
it meant he thought it would be good enough and there's a big difference.
Based on this information, Stagg took the momentous decision to advise Eisenhower to invade.
The whole operation was in suspense and everyone in that room knew
that within a few hours, an irrevocable decision had to be made.
Eisenhower took Stagg at his word and launched the attack.
At 11:30, the captain came on the Tannoy and told us that we were leaving
to go to Normandy to liberate Europe.
If Stagg was wrong, hundreds of thousands of troops could be lost in rough seas.
We understood that "this is it, lad", you know.
It was imminent.
As the fleet set across the Channel,
all Stagg and Eisenhower could do was hope they were right.
RADIO: 'People of Western Europe, a landing was made this morning
'on the coast of France by troops of the Allied Expeditionary Force.'
And Stagg's prediction there would be a crucial break in the weather was correct.
For around ten hours on that historic day,
the cloud cover was perfect for the aerial assault,
visibility was right for the naval gunnery
and the rising tides enables the landing crafts to sail over the German beach defences.
When we knew the landing was successful,
it was absolutely wonderful.
Absolutely thrilled to bits.
How our boys landed on this beach, I'll never, never ever know.
Only God above can say. Miracles happened that day.
They got there and did a wonderful job.
I feel privileged to be part of it.
It is arguable that one man, James Stagg, his weather forecast,
given to General Eisenhower with his advice,
made the invasion possible and began the process that ended the war in Europe.
That is amazing.
Can you imagine the responsibility on one man's search shoulders to get that forecast right?
-Of course, if he gets it wrong, we're changing the course of history.
The Germans were told to stand down that day because of the weather conditions.
My goodness. They didn't expect the invasion.
Talking about massive responsibility,
what about having to deliver the weather to the whole of the nation every day?
-Carol, imagine that?
-Yes, I can actually.
-I bet you could.
This year marks the 150th anniversary
since The Times newspaper publish the first forecast in September 1860.
And TV has only been trying to get it right for the last 57 years,
during which time things have changed quite considerably.
# I don't care What the weatherman says... #
The BBC has been broadcasting the weather for nearly 60 years.
-That's where the rain is sitting.
What we've tried to do is bring the weather to life, to tell the story,
so that people have an impression of what we think is likely to happen.
'They've developed their own unique styles -
from Michael Fish's colourful wardrobe, to Bill Giles's customary wink.'
-A very good night to you.
-'And, like the weather,
'the style of forecasting during that time has been distinctly changeable.'
'Let's step back in time.'
'The first televised weather forecast was in January 1954
'when the broadcasts were rather more formal affairs compared to today's colourful bunch.'
Hello there, and if you got wet today,
you were decidedly unlucky because...
I certainly remember watching the weather forecasts in black and white,
not just black and white, but civil servants doing them.
Let's go across and take a look at today's chart.
He probably didn't even volunteer to go on television.
He was a civil servant and he was doing a Met briefing!
'Things got a bit more lively in 1967 with the introduction of colour television.'
'With that, the BBC brought in a new range of weather symbols,
'based on international standards.
'But they weren't that easy to understand.'
That blue triangle means "shower".
That, rather appropriate today, means a thunderstorm.
And that, rarely used, means sunshine.
'1974 and the first-ever female forecaster, Barbara Edwards,
'burst onto our screens.'
Outbreaks of rain, sleet and snow in many eastern parts of the country.
'She blazed a trail for many others who have followed.
'And in 1975, more excitement as the BBC introduced magnetic rubber symbols.'
I'm afraid to we are going to be losing the sunshine
in southern and eastern parts.
'Viewers watched with awe as the forecaster could show the weather changing in front of our eyes.'
The magnetic symbols we had actually transformed the weather forecast.
And many of them could well turn out to be fairly thundery with some, er, oh dear...
-Let's do it again.
'1985 and the forecasters had some new toys to play with - computers.'
By 12 o'clock, brighter weather getting into the north-west of Scotland.
We got a live feed from the Met Office computer in Bracknell
straight into our studio system and on to the air.
Just overnight, like that, you had so many wonderful things you wanted to show,
such as rainfall, such as radar pictures.
Satellite pictures. You wanted to show everything and you didn't have time.
'This was followed by the disappointingly low-tech-looking blue and green screens.'
'But some presenters found it a little tricky.'
We had learnt this whole new technique of a looking at a screen and there's nothing there.
Behind you, when you're presenting, you can't see anything.
When you turn around and run your finger down, say, a weather front,
you can't see it behind you, but you can see it in the screen in front
and when you hit it bang on the nose, it's like, "Oh! Result!"
'Then, in 2005, in a deeply controversial move,
the forecasts were updated with brand, spanking-new 3D graphics, but the public didn't like it.
We had so many complaints about it. What the problem was the angle of the map
was such that the south coast of England looked enormous
but Scotland looked teeny at the top, so that was addressed.
'But despite this half-decade of progress, there's only one thing the viewers are really interested in -
'whether the forecasters have got it right.'
-That's all for this afternoon.
-That is all for me.
We all know the sun doesn't always come out when we want it to,
so when it does show its face, we want to make the most of it.
My old mate Craig Revel Horwood went in search of the quintessential summer tan.
-Every dancer on Strictly knows there is nothing that sets the floor alight
like a gleaming tan.
But it's not just on the dance floor bronzing reigns supreme,
it's the same across the country as, each summer, millions of Brits
invade our beaches, parks and lidos to offer themselves to the sun
in the mere hope of a deep, luscious tan.
Three-quarters of us like to have a tan at some time during the year.
Nearly a quarter go for the year-round bronzed look.
But not so long ago, a tan was not quite so sought after.
Up until the early twentieth-century,
if you had a tan, it meant you must work outside
and, therefore, be a member of the lower classes.
The wealthy even bought a lotions that made them whiter
and, above them, the aristocracy did all they could
to maintain pale translucent skin that exposed blue veins.
The origin of the term "blue blood".
Before the 19th century, it was the poor who were out
in the fields and they had tans.
But, industrialisation and urbanisation
meant the poor went from the fields into the factories,
therefore they were white.
So it actually became more attractive to have a tan.
And aside from vanity, a healthy justification began to emerge
for the latest fashionable indulgence of the rich.
Various medical experts discovered the therapeutic properties of sunshine
and started to use it to cure things like tuberculosis of the skin, and rickets.
If you sunbathed, you referred to it as taking a sun cure.
By the middle of last century, Britain's holiday industry was booming
and beaches up and down the country were packed with sun-worshippers
revelling in the scorching summer temperatures.
But I don't need to tell you that not all the summers here are scorching
and the rise of the package holiday
meant millions could afford to soak up stronger sunshine abroad.
Uninitiated Brits began to get seriously sunburnt.
Something the rest of the world had managed to avoid for thousands of years.
Would you mind, darling, if I demonstrated some ancient...
-..lovely sun-tan lotions on you?
'The ancient Egyptians considered light skin more beautiful than dark skin.'
If I may just have your hand.
'To achieve the paler look in their scorching climate,
'they used rice-bran extract.'
It's very sticky.
'Modern pharmacologists refer to it as gamma oryzanol
'and its UV-absorbing properties are still used in sunscreen today.'
-That looks rather quite nice.
-Not very practical. Everything would get stuck to you.
Ah, sir, you look like a bit of an Olympian.
'In ancient Greece, Olympic athletes would smother themselves in a mixture of sand and oil.'
My you are broad shouldered!
'The oil meant the sand could be rubbed all over the body,
as Olympians believed its tiny grains could scatter the UV rays.'
'Christopher Columbus noted in 1492 that Caribbean islanders used colour pigment as sunblock.'
'Red was their favourite.'
Do you think you could wear this over your entire body for the full day?
Um, I'm not sure about wearing it over my entire body all day because it doesn't rub in.
'But, after 500 years of sun worshipping, things have really changed.'
These days, you don't even need the sun to get a tan. You can spray it on...
..or you can rub it in.
'Concerns about sun exposure and skin cancer have resulted
'in a £100 million market in fake tanning.'
'But which part of Great Britain is forking out the most to fake it?'
-Essex very definitely.
-People in Newcastle - head to toe orange.
Probably Scotland that people fake tan the most.
Liverpool because my grandma is tanned all year round and she's from there.
'It's true. A whopping 59% of Merseysiders admit to faking it
'five or more times each month.'
'Probably almost as much as some people I know.'
S-s-s-scott! You've got the licence to thrill!
Can you imagine us lot on Strictly Come Dancing without our golden glow?
'No, neither can I.'
Well, that's all we have time for tonight.
Yes, we've had a blast on this series,
bringing you The Great British Weather.
-We'll see you next time, whatever the weather. Goodbye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Highlights from the series which adventurously explored the British weather. From the subject of Britain's changeable climate in St Ives, to rain and clouds in the Lake District, to sunshine in London and storms in Stirling, Scotland; all aspects of the weather are entertainingly examined. Presented by Strictly Come Dancing winner BBC sports reporter Chris Hollins, and BBC weather presenter Carol Kirkwood, it is a feast of fun for all those obsessed by Britain's daily weather.