Weather stations are spread throughout the British Isles. Some of these are read manually at regular intervals; others are automatic, recording changes minute by minute. Amongst other things, they record temperature.
An automatic station can be set to record temperature every few minutes. From the data for any one day, the highest and lowest temperatures can be spotted, and an average temperature calculated.
If a station isn’t automatic it is still possible to get the day’s highest and lowest temperatures, without having to constantly read the thermometer. In 1780, British scientist James Six invented a thermometer that left a marker at the positions of highest and lowest temperature. The Sixes thermometer can be checked and reset just once a day.
So, although standard weather stations were not common before the 20th century, temperature records do go back a lot further.
In the Central England Temperature series, daily average temperatures are listed since 1772, and prior to that, monthly averages since 1659. It is the oldest continuous temperature record in the world.
The data has been extracted from a variety of old records and diaries. No doubt some of these were recorded by scientists, but others would have been the careful records of enthusiastic amateurs.
So, whether you are into weather, plants, animals, archaeology or fossils you could be making a useful contribution to your subject. You don’t need to be a professional scientist, just a careful observer. Record your observations and keep asking questions.
We will be asking some more questions about maps on Wednesday, launching into some hands-on archaeology on Thursday and finding out how you can help with some important geology research on an upcoming Friday. What an exciting week!!