Sheffield weather station has records dating back over 100 years

Vehicles navigate flooded roads after heavy rain and flash flooding hits Rotherham, South Yorkshire today, June 9th 2014. Heavy Rain has hit many parthe of the midlands and east of England today causing travel disruption and flooding.   Tom Maddick / Rossparry.co.uk
Vehicles navigate flooded roads after heavy rain and flash flooding hits Rotherham, South Yorkshire today, June 9th 2014. Heavy Rain has hit many parthe of the midlands and east of England today causing travel disruption and flooding. Tom Maddick / Rossparry.co.uk
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When Elijah Howarth first set up Sheffield’s weather station over a century ago, it was as much about public health as it was our British obsession with rain.

In 1882 the city authorities noted that other cities had such stations and there was a big link between people getting sick with stomach complaints such as dysentry and rises in the temperature.

Elijah - known as ‘the prophet’ because of his proficiency in predicting the weather - set up the station as a private enterprise.

Every day he would measure the temperature, humidity, rain and other changes four times.

Up until 2005, the measurements were taken in much the same way, by hand.

But now it is more of a high-tech affair, with each instrument sending data back by computer to be entered into an exhaustive database that spans 48,000 readings from the last five years.

The environment around Weston Park has also changed from mostly rural to a busy city suburb.

Alistair McLean, today’s version of Elijah, joked that a ruler used for measuring the depth of snow was still the same.

He added: “It has been interesting working here during the transition from a system that has been in place for more than 100 years to something completely new.

“It used to take us about an hour every day to get the measurements, now it takes about five minutes.

“We need to make sure that the data is still comparable - it is calibrated every year.”

The weather station, which has been an official Met Office station since the late 19th century, sends data to authorities like the city council and subscribers.

It occupies a small area near the front of the park, where strange-looking gauges and the Stevenson screen with thermometers inside remain.

Wind measuring equipment is on top of the nearby university.

A one metre deep ground thermometer continues to record the water table temperature that was so crucial in predicting illness back in 1882.

Over the years the station has recorded extreme weather, including The Great Sheffield Gale of 1962 when freak winds of 90mph killed four people and flattened houses.

More recently in 2007 widespread flooding caused major damage and tragic loss of life.

Staff at the station also deal with thousands of requests every year, from people who want to make insurance claims over weather incidents, students researching building design and even BBC Look North TV weatherman Paul Hudson.

“I don’t think there are any other cities in the country that have got a weather station with records going back this far,” added Alistair.

“It is still really important - it is unique.”

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2014 so far

January - Most rain days on record - 30 - same as in 1999

February - Wettest February since 2002

March - Sunnier than average with 137.4 hours of sun

April - Highest temperature for April since 2011 at 21 degrees

May - Wettest May since 1983 with 121mm of rain

June -Warmest June since 2010 with a mean temperature of 15.3 degrees

July - Hottest day of the year recorded at 27.7 degrees

August - Flash floods make it the wettest August since 2004

September - Lack of rain makes it the driest September since 1986

October - Halloween is scarily warm at 18.8 degrees, in sync with the rest of the country

November - Dullest November since 2002