Behind the scenes at the Marham weather station

Chris BishopThey said today's sunshine would send the mercury soaring and the weathermen diving for the record books.But hold on before you stock up on suncream and spark up the barbie.Chris Bishop

They said today's sunshine would send the mercury soaring and the weathermen diving for the record books.

But hold on before you stock up on suncream and spark up the barbie.

For temperatures are unlikely to eclipse Norfolk's hottest day, almost two decades ago when we sweltered in a tropical 34.8C (94.6F).

Forecasters at Marham weather station were shaking their heads as they eyed up the clouds massing over the Irish Sea.

In a far-flung corner of the RAF base, the experts were poring over their charts and satellite pictures as a dayglo windsock twitched ominously in the breeze.

Tim Newbery looked up from an array of computer monitors and said a cold front was on its way to Norfolk.

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'We have access to a lot of computer modelling and data from our HQ in Exeter,' he said, predicting temperatures would hover around the mid-20s instead of the mid-30s some were forecasting at the beginning of this week.

'It's going to be quite humid as well with all the moist air from Spain and the Atlantic.'

Fellow forecaster Ian Bartram said: 'The cold front's moving faster than expected so it's not looking like we'll have a really hot day on Friday.'

Forecasting and flying still go hand in hand.

Despite the awesome techonology on board their 650mph Tornado GR4 aircraft, modern-day air crews need accurate prediction, as much as their forefathers who took to the skies from Marham aboard Bomber Command's lumbering Wellingtons and Stirlings.

And fliers are still briefed on weather conditions before take-off.

But, these days, cloud heights are measured with laser beams, instead of releasing weather balloons and estimating the height at which they disappear through binoculars.

Met Office scientists attached to the base say Norfolk's climate is not usually renowned for extremes.

On the rare occasions when Marham does feature in the superlatives, it is because the base has a Met Office weather station rather than any quirk of the Breckland climate.

'We don't really tend to get huge extremes of temperature here,' said Mr Bartram.

'But at the start of last month we had some quite heavy rain that gave us the average rainfall for the whole of June in a couple of days.'

Despite this, Britain also managed to have the driest start to any year since 1929, the Met Office said yesterday.

Marham recorded the hottest day in Norfolk since modern records began in 1951, notching up a scorching 34.8C (94.6F) on August 3, 1990.

Hunstanton ran it a close second at 34C (93.2F). But Sunny Hunny was pipped by Herne Bay in Kent, where temperatures of 35C (95F) were recorded.

Spa town Cheltenham has retained the record for being Britain's hotspot, set on the same

day �- with 37.1C or 98.8F in old money.

It might have felt like the lazy wind was doing its worst last winter, when the River Ouse froze for the first time in decades and skaters took to the Fens.

But the mercury didn't drop quite as far as the Arctic -16.7C (1.9F) recorded at Marham in February 1956.