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Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2006, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Britain blooms in extended summer
A dahlia 'Alan Melville'

With less than 10 weeks to go until Christmas, people and wildlife across the country are enjoying the warmest autumn for decades.

But, with the British weather not playing along with the great winter build-up, the usually cold festive season seems a distant prospect.

It has been the warmest extended summer period on record, according to the Met Office - and temperatures look likely to remain unseasonably high for the rest of October.

Gardeners have seen their summer flowering plants lasting longer, late migrating birds are feeding up on bumper numbers of insects, and Mediterranean moths and butterflies are heading to Britain.

But, it may not all be good news.

The unseasonable warmth also means homeowners will need to continue cutting the grass well into November and wildlife may find itself out of pace with the changing seasons.

Because the temperatures are over and above those required for growth, the grass needs cutting, vegetables are swelling and fruit is ripening
Guy Barter, Royal Horticultural Society

According to Met Office figures, between May and September the average temperature was 16.2C.

That is 2C warmer than in any year between 1961 and 1990.

July was also the warmest month ever, September hit record temperatures, and now the first half of October has seen temperatures about 3C above average.

Many put Britain's expanding summer down to the greenhouse effect.

David Parker, of the Met Office, said: "It is one thing to get a month with very high temperatures, but to get a record-breaking, five-month unbroken stretch over the entire period, that is a dramatic confirmation that we are now experiencing significant levels of global warming."

A swallow lands on a perch
Swallows are enjoying the large supply of insects

The warm weather also brings good and bad news for both humans and wildlife.

Guy Barter, head of horticultural advisory services at the Royal Horticultural Society, said keen growers should be enjoying the extended warmth.

"Because the temperatures are over and above those required for growth, the grass needs cutting, vegetables are swelling and fruit is ripening.

"Dahlias are flowering when they would normally be burnt back by frost, and many plants are moving into their second rounds, like salvias. Gardeners should be enjoying it as an unexpected bonus."

But he admitted there was a down side.

"Usually grass cutting slows down from late September. This autumn it is growing at a fair clip - and I would be surprised if it slows down in November."

Garden writer Bob Purnell also warned gardeners not to presume the warm weather would continue.

"What I would say is, don't be lulled into a false sense of security with plants which should normally be moved inside. The weather can suddenly change."

Wildlife experts are also noting the effects of the warmer weather in the behaviour of many species.

RECORD BRITISH SUMMERS
2006, average 16.2C
1947, average 15.9C
1976, average 15.8C.
According to Met Office figures

According to Butterfly Conservation, the warmer weather is forcing native butterflies out of the Mediterranean and North Africa and attracting high numbers of migrant moths and butterflies to Scotland.

The Hummingbird Hawk-moth, which originates from North Africa and is normally the subject of a handful of sightings nationally, has been sighted as far north as Scotland.

And John Clare, of the RSPB, said that the changing seasons can be a good thing for birds. But, it is not all good news.

"Generally warmer weather coming later in the year would benefit certain birds as the conditions of their trip are better because there is a late flush of insects.

"Late leavers, such as swallows and house martins feed themselves up for their long journey.

"But where climate change is a problem for birds is when the natural seasons are out of sync, or in a sense have moved, and when the birds come back to spring they are out of time with when food is available.

"In a way, the England they expected is not the England they get."


Is summer still on show where you are? Is your garden refusing to turn autumnal?

Send your pictures to yourpics@bbc.co.uk. Or you can text them to 07725 100 100.




SEE ALSO
Warm weather means birds return
29 Jul 06 |  Nottinghamshire
Warm weather hurts retail sales
08 Nov 05 |  Business
Warm weather tricks African bird
07 Apr 04 |  North West Wales

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