Broken weather records – 180 years ago – Is it up because of that?


By Paul Homewood

h/t Ian Magness


England has been ravaged by floods and parched by drought in recent years – but our Victorian ancestors didn’t escape severe weather.

A digitization project Met OfficeThe Weather Archives has found that some records, particularly those for dry weather, were set much earlier than previously thought.

Scientists at the University of Reading have asked the public for help digitally transcribing 130 years’ worth of handwritten rainfall observations from across the UK and Ireland.

Thousands of volunteers in the “Rescue Rainfall” project studied records from 1677 to 1960, based on rain gauges in most towns and villages across England and Wales.

Records date back to 1836

The project, which was launched in March 2020, has expanded the precipitation data contained in the official Met Office country records, meaning it now goes back to 1836 instead of 1862.

The new records include the driest May in the UK, originally thought to be May 2020 but now believed to be May 1844, when the whole country received just 8.3 mm of rain.

The driest year on record, formerly thought to be 1887, is now recorded as 1855.

November and December 1852 were also particularly wet months, with the year seeing the wettest November on record for many parts of southern England.

1852 was also the wettest year overall for parts of the UK including Oxfordshire, where there was severe flooding.

This year’s floods have been called the “Duke of Wellington floods” because they coincided with the funeral of a military hero at St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

Rainfall is methodically recorded

Victorian “observers” methodically recorded the weather, with rainfall particularly important because of its impact on crops and food supplies.

Britain’s Victorian ancestors also suffered from extreme weather, with the Royal Chain Suspension Pier in Brighton destroyed in a storm in 1896 CREDIT: Digital Vision Vectors

Precipitation has been systematically monitored in the UK since the 1860s, when George Symons founded the British Precipitation Foundation, which was later incorporated into the Met Office, but most records are made before 1960 still in paper form.

The 65,000 paper records kept in the National Meteorological Archives were scanned in 2019, and many of the records are written in ornate handwriting meaning a human is required to transcribe.

Professor Ed Hawkins, of the National Center for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading, said he had expected the project to take months but the high level of public interest meant it would be completed. in a few days.

“A lot of the dry records we have have been rewritten, and that is purely because our climate is becoming wetter,” he said.

“Just like all cold records are back in the past, so are dry records, because the climate gets wetter.

“Most of the wet records are more recent – the exception was in 1852, it was an extremely wet November, and I’m sure at the time they wondered what was going on.

“It will be a standout month in that period. Now it won’t look so out of the ordinary.”

The UK’s average temperature is believed to have risen by 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, he said, and the additional data “helps us better understand the long-term trends in changes powerful we are seeing today”.

None of this is surprising, because we see similar trends in the England & Wales Precipitation Series, dating back to 1766.

However, Hawkins proved extremely crooked and dishonest, as he stated:

“A lot of the dry records we have have been rewritten, and that is purely because our climate is becoming wetter.

“Just as all cold records go back in the past, so do dry records, because the climate becomes wetter.”

It is true that the UK is wetter on average:

But this is largely due to Scotland. In the UK, the long-term average has changed little since the 1870s:

The big change is that drought years are back a lot in the past, thus pushing up the average. This is not to say that Britain’s climate is becoming more extreme, quite the contrary.

Now consider this statement by Hawkins:

“Most wet records are more recent”

When we actually examined the data, we found it to be not only baseless but also seriously misleading.

Since 2002, just one year in 2012, it became the ten wettest places.

And in terms of the wettest months, only two have occurred in the last decade, January 2014 and February 2020. Given that there have been 29 months over 150mm since 1836, this is close to the average. jar:


There have certainly been more extreme combos. For example, the 1860s, when three months were given the list. Without a doubt, the most extreme decade was the years 1910, with 5 such months – 1911, 1912, 1914, 1915 and 1918.

1929 was also a remarkable year, with November and December receiving 173mm and 163mm of rain, respectively.

The wettest month in recent years was November 2009, with 170mm. But that was only the sixth wettest month on record. By far, the wettest was October 1903, with 191mm.

By all means, Hawkins claims to be at least not subject to surveillance, for England. It is possible that rainfall is at a more severe level in Scotland right now, but it would be dishonest to pretend that the whole country has been similarly affected.

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