Monday, 21 June 2021

Caversham Heights Society

THERE was only one meeting of the society during February which, appropriately enough, was a talk on “100 years of Reading weather”.

Despite the bitterly cold weather, there was a good turnout to hear Dr Stephen Burt, from the department of meteorology at Reading University, talk about the weather records that have been kept since 1907.

Rainfall and climate recordings were made at the London Road site of the university from 1908 until 1963 before they were moved to the geography department.

Now there is a large observatory site, monitored daily on the Whiteknights campus.

Rainfall has been measured since 1908, grass frost since 1960 and the wind speed and direction more recently.

Barometric pressure and hours of sunshine are logged every second and sent to the Meteorological Office, which used to be in Bracknell until it was moved to Exeter several years ago.

Even so, because of Reading’s work over the years and the presence of the European weather station in Shinfield Road and because the instruments used have improved in sensitivity and accuracy, the university’s meteorology department is still the largest in Europe.

Because there is a detailed daily log of Reading’s weather over the past century it has been possible to identify any unusual patterns or blips.

For example, 1903 was the wettest year but November 2014 until November 2016 saw the wettest two-year period.

The year 1903 also coincided with a period of Saharan dust blowing across the town.

Very heavy snowfalls occurred in 1927, 1947, 1940, 1962/3, 1981/2, 2008 and 2010/11. (We should also include March 2018!)

February 1929 saw the coldest day until 2010, although January 6, 1987 was the coldest day on record.

On January 10, 1940 the River Thames froze over and in the winter of 1962/3 children had three months off school.

By contrast, July 1983 was the hottest month, even hotter than 2006, although one day in December 2015 was the hottest day ever in Reading.

Since 1840 six tornadoes have hit Reading.

Among all the charts and data that we were given, two stand out. The first is that since 1956 the decline of fog has been dramatic.

The second is that this century has seen 16 of the warmest years of the last 25. However, when we were shown a graph of the weather over the past 100 years it was clear that fears of a dramatic increase in global warming affecting Reading are exaggerated.

While the audience was given a mass of data, the pity is that more was not made of particularly dramatic weather events.

Meetings of the society are held fortnightly on a Wednesday in the hall at Caversham Heights Methodist Church at 8pm. Coffee and chat begin at 7pm.

New members and visitors are always welcome. For more information, please email contact@caversham or visit

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