Meteorology Section Report: 2009-10

By Philip Eden

"An Inspector Calls" was written by JB Priestley in 1945. But to me, the words strike fear into the heart, because when a Met Office inspector calls, I have to make sure that our weather station is clean and tidy, the greass manicured, the thermometer screen scrubbed and gleaming, and the rain-gauge absolutely and precisely level. A Met Office inspector visits once every three years, and he turned up last November. Not Priestley's Inspector Goole, but a chap called Steve Haynes, whom some of you will have met at our observatory centenary event in April. He gave us a clean bill of health, but equally important, he invited Hampstead into the Met Office's fully automated station network. This involved the installation of a fully independent eletronic weather station, powered by sonar panel, which transmits data to the Met Office at Exeter every hour, on the hour. The installation took place on a cold and muddy day in early March, and although there have been a few teething problems, the station has been functioning soundly for most of the time since.

It is, of course, important to have a lengthy overlap period between the old AWS and the new AWS, so our own automatic station continues to function. And it is also important to have traditional thermometers and a traditional rain-gauge in place in case the electronic station fails, so the old instruments will remain.

Monthly reviews of Hampstead's weather have been posted on my website, and linked to from the Society's website, by the 4th of the following month, and the summaries extend back to the mid-1950s. The intention remains to extend the data online further and further back as and when time permits.

The Society has continued to supply data to Haycock Associates, a firm of civil engineers, who have established a web-based system for collecting and displaying environmental data in respect of the Hampstead ponds for the City of London corporation, and payments received from them enabled us to afford the service and maintenance visit for our own automatic weather station last November.

Just before Christmas, our weather station completed 1000 xxx 100 years of recording, unbroken, save for one day during the Blitz in 1940. And that also means 100 years of association with the Met Office. During that period the MO has had eleven Directors General, but *we* have managed with just three Honorary Meteorologists – Eric Hawke from 1909 to 1965, Robert Tyssen-Gee from 1965 to 1983, and from 1983 onwards your humble correspondent. At the event in April Inspector Haynes and his boss, Chief Network Manager Tim Allott, presented us with a certificate and a uniquely designed paperwight in recognisition of our centenary.

Let me now briefly summarise the weather we've experienced during the last year.

SUMMER 2009 will long be remembered as the Met Office's "barbecue summer". Most of us will remember it as anything but, but in truth the bad weather was confined to a four-week period between 7th July and 3rd August, both June and August were warmer, drier and sunnier than average in London and the Southeast.

AUTUMN 2009 started well and finished badly. September was mostly fine with plentiful sunshine and above-average temperatures, although there was one day, the 15th, when London caught a torrential downpour which amounted to just over 50mm at Hampstead. October was fairly dry and mild too, though with less sunshine than usual. But November was unsettled and very wet throughout, notching up almost twice the normal amount of rain, making it the wettest November for seven years.

WINTER 2009-10 was the coldest for 31 years – since that of 1978-79 which some of you may remember as the "Winter of Discontent". December started where November left off – mild and rainy – but cold weather set in mid-month and we had several notable snowfalls between mid-December and mid-February. Snow lay in Hampstead on a total of 17 days, deepest on Jan 14th when it was 13cm deep.

SPRING 2010 brought a mixed bag. Early March was dry and cold, but the second half of the month was warm and changeable. April was very sunny with warm days and cold nights. 67mm of rain fell on May 1st-2nd, but the rest of May was dry, very cold at first, but warmer after mid-month.

Philip Eden 17 June 2010


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Last updated   30-May-2010