ADVERSE weather in the North East might be a term that some are all too familiar with – from rain, snow, sleet, hailstones and scorching sun, all of these weather types have been documented in the region for a very long time.

The constant contrast of a day starting sunny and ending rainy may seem frustrating, but this has been happening for a very long time in the North East, and Durham in particular.

Up until now, this phenomenon hasn’t been documented – but thanks to a new book chronicling the weather and climate in Durham over the past 180 years, it’s now possible to see the weather types that have hit the historic city.

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From ice-skating on the River Wear to the City’s hottest day, the book entitled ‘Durham Weather and Climate Since 1841’ captures one of the longest continuous series of single-site weather records in Europe.

The book describes how the records were collected and looks at the people who compiled them, while examining monthly and seasonal weather patterns and extremes across almost two centuries.

The Northern Echo: Durham racecourse riverside. Picture: DURHAM UNIVERSITY.Durham racecourse riverside. Picture: DURHAM UNIVERSITY.

Drawing upon local documentary sources and contemporary photographs, the book charts key events that provide a record of changing temperatures and climate up until February of this year.

This includes plummeting temperatures in February 1895 which saw people skating on the frozen River Wear, the cold and snow of the winters of 1947, 1963 and 1979, the summer of 1976 heatwave and Durham’s hottest-ever day in July 2019.

The Northern Echo: Framwellgate flooded November 27, 2012. Picture: DURHAM UNIVERSITY.Framwellgate flooded November 27, 2012. Picture: DURHAM UNIVERSITY.

The book also looks at weather events in Durham prior to 1841, such as the Great Flood of 1771 when a sudden thawing and heavy rainfall in November of that year led to three arches of Elvet Bridge being washed away, Prebends Bridge being destroyed, while the city’s Corn Mill was badly damaged and had to be rebuilt.

Durham Weather and Climate Since 1841 is the sister book to Oxford Weather and Climate Since 1767, both written by Dr Stephen Burt, a visiting fellow at the University of Reading’s Department of Meteorology and Emeritus Professor Tim Burt, of Durham University’s Department of Geography.

The Northern Echo: Durham riverside. Picture: DURHAM UNIVERSITY.Durham riverside. Picture: DURHAM UNIVERSITY.

Professor Tim Burt, who has run the Durham Observatory weather station since 2001, said: “The British have always been obsessed with the weather and astronomers at Durham Observatory began weather observations in 1841.

“Those weather records continue to be taken to this day and provide a vital source of information about the changes in climate and weather patterns in Durham and wider North East England over a significant period of time.

The Northern Echo: Dr Stephen Burt. Picture: DURHAM UNIVERSITY.Dr Stephen Burt. Picture: DURHAM UNIVERSITY.

“Such a wealth of statistics, backed up by first-hand local accounts, is important when considering what future changes in climate might bring.”

Dr Stephen Burt, who has published widely on British climatology including case studies of notable weather events, added: “Durham is one of only three places in the entire British Isles where weather records have been made continuously at the same spot since the 1840s.

The Northern Echo: Deep snow in Durham City in January 2010. Picture: DURHAM UNIVERSITY.Deep snow in Durham City in January 2010. Picture: DURHAM UNIVERSITY.

“The importance of continuing the long Durham Observatory record cannot be overstated, in both regional and national climate science contexts.”

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