The Radcliffe Meteorological Station

Head of School Professor Heather Viles and Director of the Radcliffe Meteorological Station Professor Richard Washington welcomed co-authors Stephen Burt and Tim Burt to the department on Monday 24 June, to launch the publication of their new book Oxford Weather and Climate Since 1767.

Watch Stephen Burt and Tim Burt give a talk about their new book at the launch.

Their new title charts the history of the Radcliffe Observatory, which was founded in Oxford in 1772 and has been home to daily weather observations ever since: the longest weather record in the British Isles and one of the longest in the world.

The School of Geography and the Environment maintains the Radcliffe Meteorological Station (RMS) on behalf of the University of Oxford. A tour of the station (in the Green Templeton College garden adjacent to the Radcliffe Observatory building) was offered to guests as part of the book launch.

Oxford Weather and Climate since 1767 brings together a unique 250 year-long weather record, placing today’s weather in a rich historical context. Included are easy to find listings of extreme weather such as the hottest, coldest, driest and wettest periods (some of which you can discover below), while local documentary sources and contemporary photographs bring the statistics to life, from the prolonged frosts of January 1776 to the sparkling summer of 2018.

    The hottest day yet recorded in Oxford has been 35.1 °C, recorded on 19 August 1932 and equalled on 3 August 1990; the coldest night was Christmas Eve 1860, when the temperature fell to -17.8 °C.

    The mean temperature over the last 30 years (1989-2018) stands at 11.06 °C; for the first 30 years of the record (1814-1843) the equivalent figure was 9.34 °C. Oxford has therefore warmed by 1.72 degrees Celsius over the last 200 years. Around 0.2 degrees Celsius of this can be attributed to urban growth.

    Clear local evidence of climate change comes from Oxford’s long records - all of the ‘Top 5’ warmest years have occurred since and including 2006, the warmest being 2014 with a mean temperature of 11.8 °C. In contrast, the most recent ‘Top 5’ coldest year was 140 years ago in 1879, when the mean temperature was just 7.7 °C.

    Almost all of the instruments have been replaced over the years, including the thermometers many times; but the Newman Standard barometer, installed in the Radcliffe Observatory in June 1838, is still read every morning by the duty observer – over 180 years and counting!