Strange weather unnerves the Dutch

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Weather records tumbled all over the world in 2006, and the Netherlands was no exception.

But the difference lies in the fact that the Dutch have been keeping records longer than most. Nicolaus Cruquius began tabulating daily temperatures in systematic fashion in 1706."A very unusual year," the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) at De Bilt summed up on Friday as the year drew to a close.The first 300-year record was surpassed in July, when the average daily temperature hit 22.3 degrees Celsius, by comparison with the 17.4 degrees regarded as normal.

The measuring station Westdorpe recorded a scorching - for the Netherlands - maximum of 37.1 degrees on July 19, breaking all previous records.July was also extremely sunny, with 310 hours of sun recorded nationally, against a long-term average for the month of 201 hours. At the De Bilt national measuring station in the province of Utrecht, it was the sunniest July since 1904.A record amount of rain fell in August - although this time it was only of around 100 years' standing, as accurate measurements do not reach as far back as with temperature.The average of 184 millimetres that fell in the month smashed the previous record of 152 millimetres set in 1969. Some stations measured as much as 320 millimetres.Farmers were unable to get harvesting machinery into waterlogged fields and Dutch coastal resorts saw a sharp drop in visitors.September saw another 300-year temperature record fall by the wayside.

The average daily temperature came in at 17.9 degrees, compared with the normal 14.2 degrees.The ensuing autumn was the warmest - or "softest" as the Dutch like to say - since 1706. The average daily temperature for September, October and November came in at 13.6 degrees, smashing the previous record by more than one degree.The last 10 days of November were the warmest ever recorded for that period.At De Bilt, the KNMI noted that the year as a whole had been the warmest in 300 years, with an average of 11.2 degrees.The record was particularly noteworthy, as the first three months of the year had been colder than usual, the KNMI said.And it pointed to perhaps the most alarming record of all.On November 1, as the worst storm of the year passed, a water level of 4.83 metres above NAP, or Normal Amsterdam Level, was measured at Delfzijl on the far northern coast."A water level as high as this has never before been recorded," the KNMI said ominously.Cruquius, whose efforts to have his measuring obsession taken seriously were met with official scorn at the time, would have been impressed.

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