What are dog days and why are they bringing 30C temperatures? 

From ancient astrology to a chart-topping hit, the warmest days of summer have been an obsession throughout history.

What are dog days and why are they bringing scorching temperatures to Scotland this summer? iStock

If you watched the weather last night – of course you did – you would have heard me talking about us being in the ‘Dog Days’ of summer.

But what is particularly doggy about them, and why did Florence and The Machine sing about them?

The origin of this term is from Greek, Egyptian and Roman astrology during the Hellenistic age when astrologers connected the rising of the star system ‘Sirius’ (aka the Dog Star) in July, with the particularly fiery hot humid days of summer.

Sirius is the brightest star in the sky, other than the sun of course, and it was thought when both of these were present in the sky their combined heat caused summer days to become unbearable. The name Sirius even comes from the ancient Greek ‘seirios’ which means glowing or scorching.

We know nowadays the summer heat is nothing to do with the rising of a star other than the sun, but it does of course make sense, as the warmest weather usually does occur around this time of year.

In the UK, on average, the warmest week of the year is the first week in August which lies right within the Dog Days – between July 3 and August 11.

This year we’ve had two extreme hot spells during this period, with the new record of 35C set in the Borders three weeks ago, and our current spell of fine weather which could see temperatures peaking around 30C in Aberdeenshire, the Lothians and the Borders.

Of course nature doesn’t follow set patterns, although that would make my job easier, but rather, we attach terms to celestial events to mark occasions, Dog Days being one of them. Our ancestors were especially good at using the position of stars, the moon and sun for a celebratory event.

So despite today being the last Dog Day, the heat will continue for some time.

This current spell will last into early next week with temperatures possibly reaching 29C in and around Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire on Friday and Saturday, before tailing off into the new week.

With such extreme heat having built up in the Mediterranean this summer, I reckon this will continue to drift north on occasions well into the autumn giving us much warmer than normal episodes.

And what about Florence and the Machine? Well, Florence Welch’s song was inspired by a ‘Dog Days Are Over’ sign installed by artist Ugo Rondinone which she cycled past each day in London. She said it was a reference to how animals wake from being languid and sleepy after Sirius sets in early August.

Well the way things are going this year, I think they’ll stay rather languid and sleepy for a bit longer, just like me…

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