Weather watching is an essential scientific practice. It lets us prepare ourselves for what nature decides to bring us on that day. It’s often taken for granted that for the longest time, humans had no way of telling what the weather was going to be like past hunches. The history of weather watching is fascinating and it would be a disservice to not talk about it. So, that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing today.
Weather watching is the in-depth observation of weather patterns using quality-controlled prediction models. Weather watching can be done on either a local or global scale. Without the comprehensive weather reports provided by weather watchers, people would not be able to prepare themselves for sudden weather changes.
Weather watching is done through observations of pressure, moisture, wind speed, wind direction, and temperature. The consistency of all these factors since the earliest weather observations has helped in making predictions much easier. In addition to that, the advancements in weather forecasting technology have made weather updates more accurate than ever before.
The Radcliffe Observatory is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, weather observatories ever recorded. It has records from as far back as 1772, which gives us insight into what the weather was like hundreds of years ago. The Radcliffe Observatory boasts the longest single-site weather records in the UK and one of the longest in the entire world.
Its creation was thanks to one Dr. Thomas Hornsby (1733-1810), a Savilian Professor of Astronomy. He was entrusted with the funds for the construction of a large observatory as well as all the proper equipment. The building began in 1772 by the Radcliffe Trustees, who promptly gave Hornsby the title of Radcliffe Observer.
The research they took started with observations of air temperature, but surprisingly enough, for astronomical refraction, not the weather. Slowly but surely though, Hornsby began observing the weather until the date of his death in 1810. All of these records are recorded in the annual volumes of the Radcliffe Astronomical, which began in 1849.
For equipment, they would often use very rudimentary thermometers. However, the observatory was always kept up to date with the latest in forecasting technology. In fact, many of the innovations for weather forecasting in the UK stemmed from Radcliffe. Famous institutions include Kew, Greenwich, and Oxford.
The 1850s was when the records started becoming more in-depth and frequent. Photographic and autographic instruments were used to provide more consistent records of rainfall, wind, and temperature. 1881 to the present is complete and reliable, as dictated by the Met Office.
Radcliffe Observatory’s constant observations since its inception to the present day have been a major benefit to weather watching. The link it provides between the weather from hundreds of years ago and the weather today is essential to understanding our world.
Another important weather station in the UK showcases the importance of weather watching to the general public outside of scientific advancements. The creation of Weston Park Weather Station is because of an outbreak of bacterial infections in Sheffield back in 1882.
In fact, this particular use for weather watching is still applied to this day with the recent COVID-19 epidemic. By analyzing the temperature and humidity in the different areas infected with COVID-19 (or not), scientists should be able to determine when an outbreak may next occur and act accordingly.
Elijah Howarth, dubbed “The Prophet”, believed that understanding weather conditions, especially temperature, would help let the local doctors know if an outbreak was going to be likely. The station’s first equipment was bought with the help of a small department in the Board of Trade.
That small department would soon become the Met Office, the main meteorological authority in the UK. Weston Park is one of the Met Office’s first official weather stations for this reason. Its longevity, along with Radcliffe, is why it’s considered one of the most important weather stations in the entire country.
To this day, Weston Park continues to record weather patterns using various techniques and equipment such as state-of-the-art thermometers, barometers, and weather drifting buoys.
The history of weather watching is an important period in scientific history. There’s a lot of benefits to be learned from how observations were recorded back then as opposed to how the weather is recorded now. Determining what the climate is going to be like in the future is important not just for scientific study, but for socio-economic reasons.
After all, the weather affects more than just forecasting equipment. Important activities such as farming, disaster prevention, and travel are all reliant on accurate weather predictions. To constantly improve our current weather forecasting technology, it’s important to look back on how our predecessors did things with much less equipment.
Article Contributor: Bash Sarmiento