Dr Ian Ashpole measuring sunshine hours with a Campbell-Stokes recorder on one of the highest points in the City. Invented in 1853, the device focuses the sun's rays through a glass sphere onto a specially calibrated card where they burn a trace. "You can smell the burning card and sometimes see a small smoke trail" said Dr Ashpole. "It's a beautiful and wonderfully simple yet very clever device."
- After warmest year, December 2014 had almost twice as much sun as long-term average
- Oxford-trained NASA scientist announces world's warmest year
December 2014 in Oxford was the sunniest since records began in 1881. Observers from Oxford University's Radcliffe Meteorological Station recorded nearly 97 hours of sunshine for the month. This is almost twice as much as the average of 49 hours.
The previous record in 1952, when the sun shone for just under 78 hours, is nearly 20 hours below the 2014 record. Only nine other years have had Decembers with more than 70 hours.
Dr Ian Ashpole, Observer for the Radcliffe Meteorological Station from the University's School of Geography and Environment said "This December record is just another chapter from the extraordinary weather story of 2014. Overall it was the warmest since 1815 and January - and the winter months December to February - were the wettest in 248 years. September was the second driest on record."
Nine of last month's days had over 5 hours of sunshine, and a further nine had between 2 and 5 hours. Six days had no sun at all.
Frustratingly for Oxford's citizens December's sunshine did not necessarily mean warmth. Five of the six warmest days had less than 2 hours of sun, three of them having none at all. The sunniest day was only the 11th warmest. Winter sunshine is often associated with high pressure zones coming in from the north or east and hence colder air.
As confirmed on New Year's Day, 2014 was Oxford's warmest year since full temperature records began in 1815. It is part of a very warm trend since 1990. Dr Ashpole says "I would be very wary of suggesting - and explaining - any similar trending for sunny Decembers but it is interesting to note that 17 of the Decembers in the last 25 years have been above average."
The announcement of Oxford's sunshine record dating back to 1881 coincides with the official confirmation last week by NASA that 2014 was the world's warmest year since 1880. The NASA announcement was made by Oxford graduate Dr Gavin Schmidt, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies. Dr Schmidt read Mathematics at Jesus College in the mid-1980s.