If you have ever wondered how we have all that historical climate data …


This article from the BBC tells the story of the weather station on top of Ben Nevis which collected weather data used by climate scientists today.

Back in Victorian Britain, science was still largely an amateur pastime conducted by bands of self-financed enthusiasts who formed scientific societies. One was the Scottish Meteorological Society, which set up and maintained a network of weather stations across Scotland between 1855 and 1920.

Keen to gather similar data for Britain, the Scottish Meteorological Society decided to build a weather station at the top of Ben Nevis. For a trial run, one particularly intrepid member scaled the mountain every day for four months – through blizzards, gales, and heavy storms – to record measurements at the summit. Funding to build the station and obtain the instruments was raised through a kind of 19th-Century crowdfunding initiative. Even Queen Victoria donated.

Today, we have advanced weather forecast models – which are capable of using the kind of data taken at Ben Nevis to generate three-dimensional pictures of the atmosphere. Climate scientists now hope to use these models to re-observe famously severe storms from more than a century ago, such as a 1903 storm which wreaked havoc in Ireland before passing right over the top of Ben Nevis the following day.

“We live in a part of the world which gets storms and we’ll always have them. But we’re trying to understand whether these storms are becoming more or less frequent, are they becoming more severe, are we getting more rain out of these storms, are they changing direction?” Hawkins says. “Going back in time and looking at the storms of that period enables us to compare with the storms of today, and look at the potential changes which have resulted from human-driven warming of the atmosphere over the past century.”

Read the full article here.