So the Sheffield weather station has evolved over time and plays an important role in tracking climate change


Despite world wars, pandemics and recessions, the weather station has never seen recording interrupted since its inception by Weston Park Museum curator Elijah Howarth in September 1882.

That, along with the fact that Weston’s Park is one of the longest running weather stations in the country, means it is an incredibly important and significant resource in measuring climate change.

“We can’t say why the climate is changing, but we can say that it is changing and getting warmer. We get more intense rainy periods and the like,” said Alistair McLean, the fifth custodian of the weather station who is in his remit as curator for Sheffield Museums Trust natural sciences falls.

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Weston Park Weather Station. Pictured is Alistar McLean, who is responsible for the station. Image: Chris Etchells

Summer weather

He acknowledges that this summer was not an extreme one and is quick to produce data showing that it was the 20th driest summer on record for Sheffield; and the eleventh warmest on record with an average temperature of 16.8 ° C, compared to the summer average of 15.5 ° C.

While this summer was above average, the temperature didn’t reach 30 ° C for the first time since 2014.

This is in stark contrast to the summers of 2019 and 2020, when Sheffield not only sizzled in the sun with temperatures above 33 ° C, but also recorded the highest temperature ever of 35.1 ° C on July 27, 2019.

Weston Park Weather Station. The temperature monitor is shown. Image: Chris Etchells

2019 was also a record year in terms of rainfall.

It was officially the wettest year the city has ever known, with 1,176 milliliters of rain falling over Sheffield during the year.

Just under a fifth of the rainfall in 2019 occurred in November, when Sheffield experienced the worst flooding in years after torrential rains on November 7th.

2020 was another particularly wet year when the Weston Park weather station recorded a total of 997 milliliters of rainfall.

Elijah Howarth, who founded the Weston Park weather station in 1882.

Autumn can be a game changer

Alistair says it’s too early to predict if this fall will be a washout right now, but notes that September was already wetter than 2019.

He adds that fall is usually a game changer when it comes to record breaking weather.

“It just goes to show that at this point in the year we could have a really dry fall and the driest year on record. But if it keeps getting very wet, we could see the wettest year yet. Right now we are on the downside of the average but not significant so it could go either way, ”said Alistair.

Weston Park Weather Station. Pictured is Alistar McLean, who is responsible for the station. Image: Chris Etchells

The changes brought about by modernization

While it only took Alistair seconds to retrieve the data used above, compiling such numbers used to be much more tedious and took much longer.

Alistair, who took on the role of weather station administrator in 2010, recalls that he used to have to flip through many pages of a spreadsheet to view numbers and that it used to take up to half a day to generate monthly weather summaries.

And that after digitization of the numbers, before everything had to be recorded in paper books.

This is just one of the myriad ways the weather station has been modernized during Alistair’s tenure.

He also recalls having to go to the weather box in Weston Park every morning at 9 a.m. to record the temperatures from the previously used mercury thermometers and also manually calculate the humidity.

Weston Park Weather Station. The rain gauge is shown. Image: Chris Etchells

Alistair explains: “We were outside in all weathers 365 days a year. It had to be an enormous team effort, because you couldn’t have one employee do it 365 days a year. “

He added, “When I started the weather station worked just as it had since it was founded in September 1882.”

Today everything is automated, including the way in which temperature and precipitation are measured.

“We had to measure the precipitation with a measuring cylinder … it used to work that we had a memory measuring device, a funnel, buried in the ground. He funnels the precipitate and pours it into a measuring cylinder, ”says Alistair, adding that they would then measure the amount of water in the cylinder.

He continued, “We’re using a dump bucket now, but it’s not as sophisticated as it sounds. It’s a relatively old invention it dumps the water and starts filling the other bucket and filling it up to a certain point and so on … 0.2 milliliters of rain make it sway … so we’re just measuring the cones. It’s a bit like a seesaw where rain is directed to one end or the other. ”

Another curious method that was previously used to measure weather events is the Campbell-Stokes recorder, which uses a glass ball and a piece of cardboard to record the number of hours of sunshine on a given day.

“It directs sunbeams onto a piece of cardboard as the sun moves across the sky, burn marks move along the box, and we would measure the burn marks,” said Alistair, adding that she was the size of the cardboard, which changes with the seasons was used.

The Campbell-Stokes recorder was used by the Weston Park weather station until 2006 when they switched to a much more modern electronic method.

The advent of the hourly recording

The modernization of the equipment of the weather station, which is “operated with small resources”, has also led to the fact that they can not only record the daily weather readings in their database, but now also hourly ones.

Unsurprisingly, this had a huge impact on the number of records in their database, which covers each reading from 1882 to the present day.

The weather station transmitted daily measured values ​​from 1882 to 2009 and added a total of 50,771 entries to its database during this time.

They submitted daily readings from 2009 to date and at the time of writing had recorded a total of 107,542, more than double what it was over a 128-year period in just 12 years.

Wind speeds

One weather record that has been influenced by the development and growth of Sheffield is wind speeds.

Since 1896, Sheffield wind speeds have been measured with a mast located on top of the museum; but Alistair says the “problem” with her contemporary recordings is the way the area around the Weston Park Museum has “built up” over time, which affects the accuracy of her wind speed data.

“On the one hand, we have a very useful comparison reading tool, but since the Arts Tower is next door, we can’t definitely say that the readings are as accurate as we’d like them to be.

“The rest of our data is Met Office standard, but the wind speed isn’t, but we’re still recording it,” said Alistair.

During a major storm last year, the weather station’s mast recorded wind speeds of 40 knots, but Alistair didn’t think this was accurate, so he posted on Twitter to see how this compares with the speeds seen by others were recorded in the city.

A representative of BAM, which is responsible for the construction of the social science building on the site of a former reservoir between the nearby Northumberland Road and Whitham Road, reported that he had also recorded the wind speeds with a mast on the roof of their crane.

As Alistair suspected, the weather station reading was not entirely accurate as the BAM mast recorded speeds of 70 knots.

Manager of the weather station

Alistair is only the fifth person to have held the role of weatherman since 1882 and describes the responsibility as a “privilege”; but admits that it is also a “worry” because he doesn’t want to be the one to compromise or stop continuous recording.

Fortunately, the 2013 Met Office installed a separate weather station at Weston Park, which means that in the event of any problems with the recording, there is a backup record for either party that should allow them to fill in any gaps in their ledger.

The last incident occurred in mid-August this year after heavy rains.

Alistair and the team discovered that the Weston Park weather station had stopped recording, and when he investigated, he found that the rain gauge was blocked by a snail.

Alistair’s role as a science curator includes a variety of other responsibilities including running exhibitions and is currently in the process of putting together a “small exhibition” at the Weston Park Museum on the effects of plastic use on wildlife and marine life. something that has particularly affected the South Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Alistair described that the show he hopes will open on Nov.

How to find up-to-date weather records for Weston Park Station

The weather station team used to post the recorded weather data on the museum’s bulletin board, but today you can find daily updates online via the weather station’s Twitter account at:

The weather station also offers the public a subscription service through which those registered receive monthly weather data.

It costs 15 pounds and all of the money raised through the service is used to pay for the maintenance of the weather station, the cost of which is thousands of pounds each year.


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