Weather introduction

Few things fascinate people more than the weather. It's a stereotype of the British that strangers can talk easily about the weather, but the same is true of most cultures. I have always been interested in the British weather - particularly in extreme weather events. My first weather memories are of thunderstorms, in the London area in 1961 or 1962. Another very early weather memory is making a snowman in the winter of 1962-63 - I've no idea exactly when, as I wasn't even five at the time, but I suspect it was soon after Christmas, 1962. I am currently awaiting another exceptional winter: so far Scotland has disappointed, although 2000-01 and 2010-11 were pretty good.

The British Isles are one of the most interesting places in the world in which to live for exciting weather. The weather is particularly unpredictable here. The Gulf Stream keeps us much warmer than we should be for our latitude (look at places at similar latitude on the east coast of America, for example). We live in the battleground where maritime and continental weather often fight. I'm at my happiest when the continental weather wins: that's when we see the extremes of summer heat and winter cold.

I grew up in Southampton, and remember great events such as the summer of 1976 there. I have kept my own detailed weather records since 1988 - but unfortunately (in the weather sense) I moved from the Midlands to east Scotland in 1996 so I've had to start all over again. I had nearly ten years of records in the Midlands, which was just long enough to be starting to be meaningful. Now at last I'm near that length again. Keeping a personal weather log is a big disincentive for moving. I wish I started earlier, but moving around and lack of a proper location prevented this. I do remember some spasmodic attempts at keeping a weather diary as a child, but never had the equipment. My advice to you, however, is start recording today! All you need to get going is a maximum-minimum thermometer and a rain gauge - you can do a reasonable job with £15 of stuff from your local garden centre or DIY store.

See here for my reminiscences about my personal notable weather events.

I have my own amateur weather station in Newtyle, at the edge of the Sidlaw Hills, 10 miles out of Dundee to the NW. From 1996 until 2003 I was based in Pitroddie, in the foothills of the Sidlaws between Perth and Dundee, and from 2003 until 2013 in Lundie, in the heart of the Sidlaws. I can measure the temperature (with an accuracy of under one degree Celsius), rainfall, humidity, pressure, and estimate the wind speed and direction. See here for more site details.

One significant advantage of rural Scotland over the Midlands is the absence of light pollution: the stars are beautiful. (Do your duty and complain about light pollution, wherever it is. And if you have an external light or security light, please try to minimise the time it is on. Whatever you do, don't do as some of my [fortunately distant] neighbours do and leave it on all night.) I at last caught up with a fine aurora on the night of 11 April 2001, although the auroras of late October 2003 were even more outstanding here. The recent display on 9 November was also quite impressive. What do I miss most about the weather of the southeast of England? The chance of thunderstorms, and most of all, the prospect of some really hot days (by which I mean 35C+, although in fact here I'd love some 30+). I have only just recorded a day over 80F here. (You'll have to get used to a conflict of units. I try to stick to Celsius (C) - or Centigrade as it used to be called - for temperature. I occiasionally give temperatures in Fahrenheit (F) as well, particularly for earlier records where the numbers were recorded in F and later transmitted to C. I've noticed that I tend to think in F for temperatures above freezing, and C for temperatures beneath. Similarly I stick to rainfall in mm, but occasionally talk about inches.)

I am particularly interested in severe weather events, and have cobbled together pages detailing interesting weather events in this country.