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Eastwood – MuBu Bursary Holder Meet-up

On Friday I spent the day in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire visiting the DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum, the Breach House, Durban House Heritage Centre and Brinsley Headstocks, all in the company of knowledgeable Eastwood resident, ex-miner and MuBu bursary holder David Amos, MuBu food bursary holder Cynthia Brown, and David Coleman ex-miner and now historical coal mining entertainer. Together we learnt lots about DH Lawrence and his family, the history of coal mining in Eastwood, and the legacy of coal on the landscape of Eastwood. This was a fascinating day out and a chance for me to catch-up with the other MuBu bursary holders before our bursaries end next month. We are all still enjoying our museum visits and hoping to get in a few more before the end of the project. Please see my Flickr page for more photos…

DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum

DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum

Brinsley Headstocks

Brinsley Headstocks


MuBu bursary holder meet-up!

Last Tuesday I went to New Walk Museum in Leicester to catch up with the other MuBu bursary holders – David (mining) and Cynthia (food). We’re all enjoying our projects, especially our visits to the museums of the region and it was great to be able to share our progress, ideas and problems! Time is flying by and it really is time for me to start putting together my final digital resource. Any ideas on the best format for this and what would be most useful would be much appreciated… The MuBu digital writer Rod Duncan was also able to come along to New Walk and to find out a little more about our projects. Please check Rod’s MuBu webpage for excerpts from Rod’s short interviews with us and for more on the other MuBu projects he’s visited. We also had time for a look around the museum before lunch in the cafe and heading back out into the snow!

We’re planning another meet-up in the New Year in Eastwood where David will give Cynthia and I a tour around the D.H.Lawrence birthplace museum and heritage centre – I’m looking forward to it! In the meantime, please do have a look at David and Cynthia’s MuBu project pages.


The Empire of Climate – Radio 4

Every afternoon (3:45 pm) this week, Radio 4 are broadcasting ‘The Empire of Climate’, a series of five short programmes by geographer Professor David Livingstone in which he considers climate as an empire that has shaped our lives through history, not just as something which we are altering today.

My supervisor Dr Georgina Endfield also contributes to episode 2.

The programmes are all available to listen again through the BBC iplayer.


The Lowes at Highfield House, University Park

Highfield House, University Park, Nottingham

I recently walked over to Highfield House on University Park, home of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and a building with important meteorological connections. Joseph Lowe built Highfield House for his family in 1798. Joseph’s grandson Edward Joseph Lowe (1825-1900) was born in 1825 at Highfield House and began to make meteorological observations at the age of 15. He continued these until 1882 when he moved to Chepstow. He published A Treatise on Atmospheric Phenomena in 1846 and also wrote papers on meteors and fireballs. He was a founder member of the British Meteorological Society (now Royal) which formed in 1850. Edward’s father Alfred Lowe (1789-1856) had also taken meteorological observations at Highfields until ten days before his death.


Herbarium specimens and climate data…

Research published last week showed that herbarium specimens can hold valuable and reliable long term data on phenology (the timing of climatically driven events like plant flowering), in turn indicating how the natural world might respond to future changes in climate.

The research used 77 specimens of early spider orchids from herbarums at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and London’s Natural History Museum, alongside field observations collected between 1975 and 2006. Data from the specimens (relating to the date when the specimen was collected*) was matched against the Met Office’s historical records. Results showed that for every 1 degree Centigrade increase in the average spring temperature, the orchids flowered six days earlier.

One of the researchers Professor Davy (University of East Anglia) told the BBC, “There are huge collections in different museums and herbariums around the world; it is estimated that there are 2.5 billion specimens stored in these collections”.

This piece of research has shown the value of museum collections in documenting climate change. I hope that my own research will show that it is not just herbarium specimens which hold useful snippets of climatic data. Any suggestions of herbarium collections in the East Midlands that could be used in a similar way are appreciated!

*Plant collectors are assumed to have taken plants when the species were at their peak flowering, in order to provide the best taxonomic reference for the herbarium.

Research published in the Journal of Ecology.

BBC news piece on the research.


‘Wild Weather Week’ (13th-20th September)

It’s ‘Wild Weather Week’!

This week the BBC will be taking a closer look at the extreme climatic conditions in the UK. East Midlands Today weatherman Des Coleman will be exploring a range of climatic conditions that affect the East Midlands region. In Nottinghamshire his focus will be on flooding. Please use the links below for more details.

A few weather records from the BBC Wild Weather pages:

  • Hottest day in Nottinghamshire: 36.1 degrees C in Clarborough, 3rd August 1990.
  • Windiest day in Nottinghamshire: 82 mph in Watnall, 2nd January 1976.
  • Coldest day in Leicestershire: -23.3 degrees C in Caldecott, 13th January 1987.
  • Hottest day in Lincolnshire: 35.8 degrees C in Bourne, 3rd August 1990.
  • Coldest day in Lincolnshire: -18.6 degrees C in Lincoln, 18th December 1981.
  • Windiest day in Lincolnshire: 93 mph in Waddington, 2nd January 1976.

BBC East Midlands Today, BBC One at 18:30 BST, will be featuring a film each evening this week, concentrating on a particular aspect of the weather. A special programme will be broadcast on Monday, 20th September, 2010 on BBC One at 7.30pm: “Weatherman Des Coleman explores the East Midlands’ wildest weather, from floods to lightning, and fog to freezing temperatures. What is the science behind our weather patterns and why do different areas experience such extremes? Des challenges three East Midlands alternative meteorologists to make an accurate long range summer forecast, the Holy Grail for forecasters everywhere.”

Details of the other eleven regionally focussed ‘Wild Weather’ documentaries can be found on the BBC One Programmes webpage.


1st National Amateur Observers Symposium, University of Reading

This weekend I attended the 1st National Amateur Observers Symposium at the University of Reading. The event was organised by the Royal Meteorological Society and the Climatological Observers Link (COL) on the occasion of COL’s 40th anniversary. The weekend was a great opportunity to talk to amateur weather observers and learn more about their passion. Speakers included representatives from the Royal Meteorological Society, Met Office, newspaper weather journalists and weather photographers, and members of COL, TORRO (Tornado and Storm Research Organisation), and GEO (Group for Earth Observation). The programme is available to download from the Royal Meteorological Society’s events page. The papers on weather folklore were particularly interesting and I intend to investigate any weather folklore or weather rhymes specific to the East Midlands region – any suggestions?

I am also now intending to join the RMetS’ ‘The Weather Club’ which was launched earlier this month. The club provides an opportunity for people from all walks of life to come together to share their very British obsession with the weather. “The Weather Club promotes an appreciation and understanding of the weather – its beauty, its power, its occasional absurdity, its fragility in the face of human activity, and the deep and fundamental influence it has upon us all” (The Weather Club, 2010).

On Sunday morning we were all treated to a visit to the Reading University Atmospheric Observatory and observed the day’s observer taking his readings and checking the instruments. All the photos are available on my flickr page. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to identify all of the instruments!

Reading University Atmospheric Observatory website with live data streaming.

The Weather Club

The day's observer checking the automated rain gauge

The day's observer checking the automated rain gauge


5 weather diarists of the East Midlands

Following a visit to Nottingham Archives last week I thought I would share some prominent weather diarists of the East Midlands with you…

1) Thomas Barker of Lyndon Hall, Rutland

Barker recorded his first rainfall measurements at the age of 17 in 1736. His subsequent records for his home at Lyndon Hall, Rutland are highly regarded, and he is considered to be one of the first scientific weather observers, taking almost daily readings of temperature and rainfall until almost the end of the century. He was in good company, marrying the daughter of Gilbert White the famous naturalist.

2) Hayman Rooke of Mansfield Woodhouse

After a military career, Major Rooke retired to Mansfield Woodhouse and became an antiquary and pioneer archaeologist in Nottinghamshire. Rooke’s weather observations cover the period 1785-1805. The major oak was named in his honour owing to his love of Sherwood Forest.

3) Colonel Henry Mellish of Hodsock Priory, Notts

Mellish was President of the Royal Meteorological Society and recorded temperature and rainfall between 1876 and 1900. His extensive meteorological library is now held by the University of Nottingham Manuscripts and Special Collections.

4) Mr J. Hunter of Belper

John Hunter of Belper was a member of the Urban District Council who recorded his observatiosn of temperature and rainfall between 1876-1926. The summarises are held in Derbyshire Record Office.

5) Mr Thomas Edge of Strelley Hall, Nottinghamshire

Thomas Edge recorded sunshine between 1882-1916.

These five men are just a selection of the people who have kept weather records in the East Midlands. Increasingly in the twentieth century organisations and institutions have taken over the recording role from dedicated individuals. I hope to be able to map both shortly!


School of Geography – recording the weather, 1935-1979

Automated rainfall gauge

Automated rainfall gauge

Today I got chance to go over to the University manuscript collection where I looked at some of the weather records produced my members of the School over the period 1935-1979. There are around thirty boxes of material containing a huge quantity of data relating to pressure, wind direction and speed, sunshine hours, visibility, weather at present, in the past 24 hours and in the past hour, cloud cover, air temperature, humidity, earth temperature, rainfall, state of ground and general remarks. The record would have taken around an hour to complete and was for several years completed twice a day (including weekends) at 9:00 and 16:00, and thereafter once a day at 9:00. The station was thus a big part of the School’s activities. Lots of people were involved in the recording, technical, academic and postgraduate members of the School, and it would be interesting to compile a full list of the observers. The actual sunshine charts and some for rainfall are in the archive, but most of the records are single sheets with the day’s measurements. My next task is to locate some of the monthly summaries which were published in the Evening Post. I would also like to find the end of year charts which were produced from the data…

This afternoon I took some more photos of the instruments from the weather station which have been kept in the lab – the automated rainfall gauge above is the star of the show but please see my flickr album for more! The rainfall gauge has a windup mechanism which rotates the internal cylinder once every week, a pen attached to the mechanism then makes a trace on the chart according to the level of rainfall.

Thanks to Ian Conway for providing assistance and memories!


School of Geography weather station

Today I was lucky enough to visit the roof of the School of Geography at Nottingham to look at the old weather station. The School used to record the weather daily until 1981, when it was considered that the process was becoming too expensive and time consuming and that the data wasn’t really being used. I’m planning a trip to the University archives at Kings Meadow next week to look at the records. I’d also like to find out more about other University weather stations. More information soon…
School of Geography weather station

Learning about the weather station from Ian

School of Geography weather station

Monitoring visibility!