The first fortnight in September looks to be shaping up quite nicely (in terms of weather) at present.
A high pressure system has finally drifted up from the Atlantic and western continent, the skies are blue and the thermometer is breaking 20c easily every day at present – something that (as I’ve said) looks set to continue for some time this month.
There’ll be the odd breakdown of course, but it certainly looks like our “summer” has arrived in September this year.
Sooooo… there’ll be the inevitable media reports of an “Indian Summer” of 2012 any day now (if there haven’t been already).
But it is an “Indian Summer” in the most-oft-used meaning of that phrase?
I hate to be a killjoy yet again, but to answer this simply – i.e. are we having an “Indian Summer” this year – wellll…… the answer is an emphatic NO.
So what is an “Indian Summer”?
The phrase is North American in origin (in Europe such a phenomenon has had different names – see below) but it was almost always used to denote a period of above average temperatures for a good number of days (a week or more) AFTER the first killing frost of the year.
If an “Indian Summer” did occur in any given year, it would not begin before that first killing frost, generally at the end of September.
It is widely used these days as a prolonged period of “summer-like” temperatures, occurring in the autumn, usually between late September and mid November (even though I’ve pointed out in a number of previous posts on this blog that strictly speaking, autumn falls between September 21st and December 20th….)
In Europe, (as I’ve briefly mentioned), any “Indian Summer” was originally known by a variety of names depending on what country it was felt :
In all of the above, autumnal warmth cannot be described as an “Indian Summer” (or “St.Martin’s/St. Michael’s/ Old Ladies’ Summer) unless it falls in Autumn – i.e. not before the fourth week of September has started and we’ve had at least one killing frost. Generally speaking, “Indian Summers” occur in October.
We’ve sorrrrt of approached one frost late last week (but no-one suffered from anything like a killing frost) and we’ve only jussssst begun September – so…. no. This is not and never could be described as an “Indian Summer”.
Once, when I was a baker, I took myself camping and surfing on the north Devon coast in the last week of September (the only week available for me to take off as leave that year). It must have been about ten years ago (before I got with my wife, Anna). My fellow bakers (and manager at the time) scoffed at me for “not going abroad” but I didn’t see a cloud all week, the daily temperature reached 28c/82f every day and I returned from Devon in the first week of October, looking like I’d been to the Med for a month.
Now THAT’S an Indian Summer!
Yes, I know that the Met Office (and most of us, let’s be frank) have the autumn months down as September, October and November…, but I guess that’s another reason why we probably shouldn’t.
Autumn doesn’t begin for another two and half weeks.
Parliament might have reconvened, the schools might be open for the new year butttt….we are still in summer.
So all we are experiencing is a nice, warm, sunny, settled period of late summer weather. Nothing “Indian”, “saintly” nor indeed “old lady-like” about it.
That said, if you really are desperate to have an Indian or St.Michael’s summer… pop down to M&S with a bottle of San Miguel in your hand and a feathered Sioux war bonnet on your head…. and set up camp in the swimwear section.
We’ve all been there eh?
(Ok. Just me then).
Footnote: I do realise that anybody reading this from the good ol' U.S.of A. won't have the foggiest what "the foggiest" means or for that matter what I'm on about when I write about "M&S", "St.Michaels" etc... (I do apologise, its a British thing).