The wet and chilly summer of 2021

The summer of 2021 was a soaking wet exception to the sweltering and bone-dry summers of recent years. Tropical days were scarce; rain showers were anything but; at least in the Netherlands and the direct neighbours.

Looking back

According to the meteorologists, summer ends on August 31; according to the astronomers it goes on for three weeks more. So at the time of writing, September 3, we are in a kind of twilight zone, a transition phase. Autumn is in the air, most summer flowers have finished blooming, the first trees are starting to change colour. It’s time to look back at the summer of 2021. And what a wet and chilly summer it has been…

Dramatic sky above the old bridge across the IJssel river and the adjacent floodplains
Spectacular clouds over the old IJssel bridge near Zwolle


It was a summer that turned out to be just a little less beautiful than hoped, because on closer inspection the pandemic appeared to be not quite over yet. A summer that did not become as slutty for many as in the wildest dreams, high hopes are now reserved for an exciting autumn. And it was a summer in which the world news was no longer dominated by just covid-19 but also by other unsavory things: wars, refugee flows, assassinations, natural disasters.

Marram grass and kitesurfers at the Zandmotor (Sand Engine) region on a windy day in summer
A wet and windy summer day on the Sand Motor


But it was a beautiful summer of sports. Particularly because of the Olympic Games, that event where, once every four years, you watch sports like archery and handball that you usually don’t consider worthy of a look. And yes, it was quite an accomplishment that the Netherlands, as 67th on the country list by population, with just 0,223 % of the worlds inhabitants, finished seventh in the medal ranking. Although it should be noted that if Cambodia, Burkina Fasso or Guatemala had the money for the same high end training facilities, they would probably also score better.

Colorful wildflower on a meadow in summer
It was a beautiful summer for the wild flowers

Room temperature

But what was the weather like in the summer of 2021? There was something strange about that. While forests were going up in flames over the world and temperature records were being broken every day, the mercury barely rose above 25 degrees in the Netherlands. In mid-June there were three fairly warm days, but after that the thermometers got stuck at room temperature. The Heat Plans could remain on the shelf this year. To be honest: I quite like that. If I want to sweat, I’ll go to the sauna. But before I get angry emails from sun worshippers: I’m not the one who decides.

Hiker with umbrella on a narrow pedestrian bridge during a rainshower on the island of Walcheren, The Netherlands
Umbrella hike on the island of Walcheren

Gulf Stream

And no, climate skeptics, such a cold summer doesn’t mean it’s all bullshit, this greenhouse effect. It may well become warmer everywhere else but colder in Western Europe. In fact, the chances are quite high; we actually live here, on the same latitude as Labrador, a little above our means. What if the Gulf Stream suddenly decides to retire?

Typical wet summer scene: rainshower on Gasthuisplein in Zwolle, The Netherlands, as seen from behind a trappist beer
Rain shower in Zwolle, as observed from behind a trappist


It was also a rather wet summer with a lot of rain in some places. The province of Limburg in particular received an overdose. In other parts of the country, the rain was only annoying from time to time. But the differences were enormous: in the days when the town of Valkenburg was flooded, only a few splotches of drizzle fell near Rotterdam, at just 150 kilometres distance. Between the showers there were still quite a few sunny intervals; and sometimes you simply have to enforce fair weather.

Fork in the sandpath between heather and forest near Mount Lemmelerberg in the Netherlands
A brilliant day on Mount Lemelerberg


From a photographic point of view, the abundant rainfall also had a major advantage: nature remained beautifully lush and green all summer. In previous summers there was little left of the grass by the beginning of June, this year I have not seen a single withered blade of grass. Wildflowers thrived on roadsides, weeds sometimes grew man-sized on the pavement.

Common toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) growing between pavement tiles along the road
Common toadflax were flourishing


Photographers could indulge in capturing raindrops on flowers and leaves; although it must be said there are also photographers who always have a plant sprayer in the car for that purpose.

Close-up of a pink dahlia in a garden on a rainy day in the wet summer of 2021
Raindrops on a dahlia


And the wet summer of 2021 had another photographic bonus: the skies. Rarely have I seen so many spectacular cloudy skies as in recent months. Dramatic skies, as the English language describes them so beautifully. And when the sun was shining through an opening in those clouds, it produced almost Carel Willink-like scenes. Magic realism…

Dramatic sky over a farm under spectacular lighting conditions in the polder along the IJssel river near Zwolle, The Netherlands
Dramatic skies, dramatic lighting

In the coming weeks, that’s a certainty, nature will only get more beautiful, because autumn is of course the real dream season for landscape photographers. And again: I’m not the one who decides, but of course I hope for a series of beautiful sunny days as post-pandemic support for the much-plagued catering industry. The forecast for the first half of September is favourable.

And talking about summer: did you already me featuring in an episode of the famous Dutch TV show Zomergasten, elsewhere on this blog?

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