Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Buxton Weather Station - A brief History

The following blog post has been written by Michael Hilton, a voluntary observer in Buxton. The original, unabridged, article can be viewed here. The weather station at Buxton has been part of the Met Office's network of climate sites since the 1870s. The voluntary observers at Buxton use WOW to upload their daily climate observations. The observer's thoughts and views below are their own. 

The Buxton Slopes Met Office site, is a Climatological Weather Station, (a Climatological Weather station takes daily readings to create a long term climate record, whereas a Synoptic Weather station records more frequent, often real-time, readings with the primary function of forecasting). The Met Office operates the Voluntary Climate Network alongside the automatic Synoptic Network.  The Buxton site is some 100 metres to the North of Buxton Town Hall, at map reference SK 058 733 (Latitude 53 15’ Longitude 1 54’). The site is at an altitude of 307 Metres above sea level.

This site is managed by The Met Office, and manned by a group of local volunteers, who attend the station each morning, 365 days a year, at 09.00 GMT, to take readings.  Some 22 readings and observations are taken on every visit, and these are entered by the volunteer team, each morning, through an online Met Office portal (WOW), for use in real time forecasting – and for inclusion in Long Term Climate Records for the UK.

We also maintain a written book of all the daily  observations – in much the same way readings have been noted since the mid 1800’s – of course these will be preserved, and passed on to future generations.



All approved Met Office sites, comply with global standards, set by the World Meteorological Organisation. Our Volunteers have received Met Office training in order to meet those standards. This ensures the quality and reliability of readings generated by the Buxton Station.  Maintained high standards, ensure Buxton readings are included in the Met Office Climate Records for the UK.   This national database is accessed by many researchers and others, for a myriad of purposes. The Buxton site continues to provide information to local people and visitors to the town, and to commerce, industry, schools and universities.


Buxton Climatological Station is one of the longest, continuously recording weather stations in the UK. The station has unbroken records going back over 150 years, to 1865.

In the middle of the 1800’s, there were many serious outbreaks of diseases like the cholera, typhus, etc. outbreaks which resulted in many deaths, particularly of young children.   Doctors before this time did not realise that these diseases were spread by contaminated water. They thought the diseases came from airborne sources, the famous “miasmas”That would explain a growing interest in climate data. When sinks were first installed in bedrooms to replace the old jug and washbasin arrangement, people were very suspicious of this new-fangled idea. They were afraid that the “miasma” would come up through the plughole and contaminate the bedroom with deadly diseases and the solution was to keep the plug firmly in the basin to stop the “miasma” spreading into the room!


Also, in the mid-nineteenth century, doctors considered that a change of climate and exposure to pure, fresh, bracing air had a stimulating effect on an invalid’s system. As a result, mountain health resorts became very popular and, in order to justify promoting the benefits of Buxton’s climate, it was essential to have accurate data.

So a major factor in the founding of the Buxton Station was in response to the realisation that the weather did have an influence on health and diseases.  Scientists knew by this time that there was a link between outbreaks of these kinds of disease and current weather conditions, but there was no local weather station making regular readings.  Without this data, doctors couldn’t predict or prepare for the outbreaks when they occurred.

In 1865, the people of Buxton, subscribed to the setting up of a weather station, to record temperatures, rainfall, and other details. This was initially placed in the grounds of the Devonshire Royal Hospital.  Readings in the late 1860’s to 1870’s were taken by Edwin J Sykes, FRAS, FMS.   Edwin J Sykes was a Dispensing Chemist.  He was the resident dispenser to the Devonshire Hospital from about 1868 to 1873, and in 1873 bought the business of Mr Acton at No 5 The Quadrant and succeeded him as a Family and Dispensing Chemist. He continued to act an honorary meteorologist at the hospital. The Devonshire Hospital and Buxton Bath Charity Annual Report for 1874, Records the following “Mr. Sykes, who had acted as Honorary Meteorologist to the Hospital during the five years of his residence in the Hospital, kindly continues to perform these duties without payment.”

In 1874, the Meteorological Office took on Buxton Weather Station as one of their official climatological stations:
The meteorological report which is annexed to the 1874 Devonshire Hospital annual report states “The year 1874 was one of great importance in a meteorological point of view. Several new and necessary systems have been suggested, and to a considerable extent carried out, under the superintendence of many distinguished naturalists- and meteorologists, who have established a method of co-operation for the investigation of such periodical phenomena of nature as depend on the progress of the seasons. To this end, several observatories have been recognised by the Meteorological Society, for the purpose of simultaneous observations twice daily: it has pleased the Council to distinguish the observatory at Buxton with that honour. The chief physical conditions to be observed are : The highest and lowest temperatures of the air daily;  the intensity of solar radiation; the humidity of the air; rainfall and snow; frost; occurrence of storms; direction of the wind; the movements and aspects of the clouds; and the general state of the sky.” (We still take most of these same readings today,  together with many other readings such as “wet bulb” temperature to calculate dew point & humidity, grass tip temperature - and temperature readings down into the earth at 10cm depth, 30 cm depth and one metre depth).

In August 1925, the equipment, together with the gated and railed enclosure, was moved to the present site, on The Slopes. 


Mr Sykes continued taking readings into the late 1880’s, and was followed by a succession of other volunteers from the town.

Around 1990, High Peak Borough Council took over the readings. At first, the readings were recorded by John Fletcher, the Market Inspector. Around 1995, a member of the Environmental Health Team took over - he became well known as  “Borough Meteorologist” – His name was Stephen Green – he took daily readings, and maintained the records, as well as transposing many long term records into "e-form".  Stephen tells me "as well as the morning readings, we also used to be part of the "Health Resort Scheme". This meant taking a second set of readings at 17.00 pm, and phoning them through to the Met Office. This was when Buxton readings (amongst others) appeared in the National newspapers. Stephen maintained his role for more than 20 years, until he retired in 2015.

After Mr Green retired in 2015, the Environmental Health Team continued to maintain the readings, but pressure on local government resources, meant that this daily duty was causing difficulties for the Council team. Because of these manning difficulties, in May 2015, the Met Office Regional Network Manager, Gill Allbones, advertised for volunteers to take over the readings, and maintenance of records. With 150+ years of unbroken records, it would have been a great loss to stop the recordings – these long unbroken records, are a valuable resource for researchers – and the long history, is a matter of some prestige for the town of Buxton, and the Borough of High Peak!

Our Slopes Team formed in June 2015, received initial training and support from the Met Office and support from the Environmental Health Team – and we have been in place since then – and we are proud to have never missed a day!  We currently have around 12, wonderful and committed volunteers, which seems about the right number to maintain regular attendance, whilst keeping the duties not too onerous.

I co-ordinate the activities of the team, and carry out day to day repairs and maintenance of the equipment. Our Met Office Manager ensures that replacement and consumable equipment is made available when required.  In addition, the Met Office inspects and calibrates every aspect of the equipment, and the site, regularly – this to maintain accuracy – and to ensure our compliance with global standards.


If you would like to know more about the Met Office Buxton site, access records, add to this tale, or even enquire about joining the volunteer team, please contact Michael via www.buxtonweather.co.uk


Friday, February 8, 2019

WOW in schools

WOW is a platform for anybody to submit, share and display their weather observations. A couple of new sites have recently appeared on WOW, linked to Primary Schools who have opted to join the WOW community. 

The Beacon Church of England (VA) Primary School, Exmouth, Devon, are now sharing their observations on WOW:





Mum of two, Debbie, decided to purchase a weather station for this school. After doing some research she opted for a Watson W-8681 wireless weather station. With the help of one of the teachers and the school's I.T specialist they built the weather station and mounted it on the roof of the school:




Advice about how to best site a weather station can be seen here. It may be difficult to find the perfect location, particularly in an urban environment. However if you share details on your weather station's exposure when setting up your WOW site, any siting issues can be taken into account, making the data more useful to others. More details on how to rate your site in WOW can be seen here. Once up and running the majority of weather stations will require some additional software in order to link them up to WOW. There are a number of freely available third party software packages, some of which are listed on this page. The WOW team are always looking to add more options to this list, if you want to share your software please comment below or send us some feedback. The Beacon School decided to use Cumulus weather station software to link their weather station to WOW.  This is currently running on a laptop, but the school are investigating using a Raspberry Pi to reduce running costs. 


St George's Catholic Primary School, Taunton, Somerset, have also recently set up their own weather station, with a little help from Dad Adrian. They installed a Davis Pro 2 Weather Station. In order to log and visualise the data from this weather station a data logger and the Davis 'WeatherLink' software are required. Once this was all up and running Adrian used Cumulus software to start uploading the data to WOW. This weather station has been mounted on a long pole on the side of a building to improve it's exposure: