Britain’s Favourite Topic – The Weather!

We are living through unprecedented times… some of us are mega-busy and others are obliged to self-isolate or stay away from work with nothing to do after they’ve done their household chores…

For those with time on their hands can I suggest helping out for say half an hour a day at Zooniverse they have various projects that would welcome help. My current favourite is the Rainfall Rescue project where they need help in transcribing handwritten rainfall records into computer data records. Five minutes looking through the instructions and you are away.

The ultimate aim is to better understand wet, dry and normal periods in the UK’s history and help water companies plan for every eventuality. For example, October 1903 was wet. Very wet. Wetter than any month we know about – including February 2020. Yep. You’ve guessed it, the rainfall in October 1903 was more evenly distributed across the country than in February 2020. This will also help improve the predictions of the likelihood of flooding in certain areas – for which we can look to help build flood defences of various sorts.

The reasons I’m interested in this:

  • My first technical job was calculating the average and standard variation of river flows for the then Department of Environment – a summer job while studying at University – so it brought back some happy memories
  • I’ve always had a fascination with fluid flows (fluid is either a gas or a liquid to be pedantic) and you could say the Rainfall Rescue project scratches the right spot for me
  • The Met Office has recently put a humungous computer on line to predict the variations in the weather more accurately across the country. It will be interesting to see how well the new computer’s predictions pan out and Rainfall Rescue project is probably part of the same initiative.

It’s the combination of the getting all the old data onto the computer, the humungous computer and the wish to get more accurate predictions that is absolutely fascinating for science fiction writers. Why? Because it will help us understand the impact of climate change much more accurately.

Now way back when – Autumn 2012 to be precise – Jupiter published my short story – Ripple Effect. Amazon UK Link Here.


It was a fun story to write. And as you’ve guessed it is about this very topic. I would recommend you read the story because it goes further than just getting more accurate predictions. A lot further, but I won’t spoil it for you.




5 thoughts on “Britain’s Favourite Topic – The Weather!

  1. Excellent advice. When I first started teaching it was in West Yorkshire in the mid 1970s. By heck it rained and yet it was during the droughts in 1975-6 that I undertook research in air pollution and climate for my MSc. Near my school in the hills above the Colne and Holme valleys (Last of the Summer Wine) was Blackmoorfoot Reservoir. They made their daily rainfall records available to me. I spent many hours there transcribing daily totals from 1886 to 1975 onto computer input sheets then at Huddersfield Poly, onto cards. I had plenty of other data too from local weather stations. I visited them all to ‘ground truth’ on behalf of the Met Society. I found one rain gauge under a tree and another on top of a wall! The wettest month for the UK might have been October 1903 but it was an average month there for West Yorkshire with only 138mm. The wettest by far was October 1935 with 300mm !
    Summaries of my data became my first published book(let). “Huddersfield’s Changing Climate: Part1. The statistical background published as an Occasional Paper by Huddersfield Poly in 1977
    For me, I had enough of transcribing all that data to last several lifetimes but I encourage others to participate in the Met Office’s project.

    1. Fascinating… thank you for sharing. Maybe you ought to get in touch with National Centre for Atmospheric Science and University of Reading who are running the Rainfall Rescue project about your MSc work – you never know they might be interested – the leads for this study are Ed Hawkins and Stephen Burt.

      1. I did consider getting in touch and asked Mrs N what happened to the boxes of punched cards we had in the attic. She said they went for paper recycling years ago! Sadly, it was long before data like that was saved to floppy discs or memory sticks. I don’t even have a print out except in the book with monthly totals.

      2. Maybe you could send them a photocopy of the article? I have a suspicion they might welcome it as an independent check on the numbers as you sourced it directly from the original material!

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