In the annals of climate change, if anything, it will be remembered as an amusing footnote: Ballywatticock’s brief reign.
Few people in Northern Ireland had heard of this town on the shores of Strangford Lough in County Down until its weather station recorded the UK’s highest temperature last Saturday: 31.2 ° C (88.16 ° F ).
The measurement set a new record for Northern Ireland and sparked a series of jokes about an enigmatic name possibly originating from the Irish. Uaiteacoc dance, or the land of Watticock.
Ballywatticock, of course, is adapted from the Irish: dance which means ‘townland’, Uaitecoc which means ‘with a big thermometer’ ”, said one.
Someone changed the local speed limit sign from 30 to 31.2, delighting the television crews who used it as a backdrop to crown this previously anonymous patchwork of fields and houses, the hottest place in Northern Ireland.
The residents enjoyed the attention. “It’s nice to have a little excitement, some fun,” said Donald Crowe, 77, a retired farmer who has housed the weather station in his backyard since 1961.Donald Crowe, owner of the garden that houses the weather station. Photographer: Paul McErlane / The Guardian
“It’s great. A little publicity,” said Chris Holmes, 58, who has spent a lifetime assuring outsiders that Ballywatticock is a real place.
Now it had a place in the record books, he said. “Last Saturday was like getting off a plane in a really hot country.” He pointed to a landscape of yellow grass, the product of weeks of heat. “All those fields are burned crisp.”
Chris Holmes in his garden in Battywatticock, County Down. Photographer: Paul McErlane / The Guardian
Brian Jameson, 56, said there was no wind last Saturday, not a zephyr coming from the sea at the end of the road. “It was incredible, a dry and scorching heat. I left the house and I thought: boy, something is not right “.
It’s possible that the multiple thermometers in Crowe’s garden (some sit in Met Office boxes, some rest on the lawn, some are in tubes on the ground) weren’t right. The Met Office sent a technician to verify the readings and is expected to issue a verdict in the next few days.
Meanwhile, dramatic images from the US, Germany, Russia, China and elsewhere this week made their own strong judgment: the planet is not doing well.
Smoke from wildfires in the western United States traveled thousands of miles and polluted the air of New York. A heat wave in Siberia, one of the coldest regions in the world, sparked forest fires that suffocated the city of Yakutsk with an “aerial apocalypse” of toxic smoke. The researchers said the catastrophic floods that killed more than 200 people in Western Europe may become more common due to global warming.
Such disasters felt remote from Ballywatticock, where residents expressed hope that the heat wave would linger and leave this generally wet and windy corner of the British Isles feel a bit more Sicilian.
However, images of extreme weather beyond its shores, and their own sense that Northern Ireland’s climate is changing, upset residents. It was fun being famous, but what if that fame reflected the global calamity that is unfolding?
“I think the climate is changing. There is too much evidence everywhere, ”said Patrina Jameson, 57. His son Ryan, 29, was concerned about what awaited his generation. “I think the damage has already been done. Something has changed a lot. “
Brian and Patrina Jameson. Photographer: Paul McErlane / The Guardian
Once upon a time, weather records could last for years, even decades. Ballywatticock’s reign as Northern Ireland’s most popular venue had ended in less than a week. On Wednesday, a weather station in Castlederg, a county Tyrone village 80 miles (130 km) to the west, recorded 31.3 ° C (88.34 ° F).
“Northern Ireland has tentatively broken its all-time temperature record for the second time in five days,” the Met Office said. Measurement will also need verification before becoming official.
Northern Ireland has provisionally broken its all-time temperature record 📈 for the second time in 5 days
Castlederg in County Tyrone recorded a temperature of 31.3 ° C at 1437 this afternoon 🌡️
This exceeds the 31.2 ° C recorded by Ballywatticock last Saturday #heat wave pic.twitter.com/M4viWndTEi
– Met Office (@metoffice) July 21, 2021
Castlederg also holds the record for the lowest temperature in Northern Ireland: -18.7 ° C (-1.66 ° F) during the winter of 2010.
Ballywatticock can’t compete with a song of ice and fire. Northern Ireland has a new extreme weather celebrity.