Met Office historic UK climate records

The Met Office holds an extensive archive of weather observations from thousands of different locations around the UK.

The number of stations operating at any one time, the methods of observation and the surroundings of individual sites have all changed over the years - making the interpretation of these data a complex and challenging task. Collectively these weather records comprise our best available description of the climate of the UK.

The National Meteorological Library and Archive hold original manuscript records dating back to the 1730s. A significant number are also held electronically. This computer database contains all of the climate records since 1959, plus a proportion of earlier data. See a selection of station records.

In addition to the records from individual observing stations, the Met Office also maintains several time series calculated from the station records, which are used to monitor the climate of the UK at a regional and national level. There are two main types of series - the Met Office UK Climate series and the Met Office Hadley Centre series.

Met Office UK Climate series

Data from every available observing station in the UK are used to create our best estimate of the 'true' average for the UK, its countries and regions.

  • Individual station data are used to estimate monthly values at 5 km grid points, taking into account factors such as topography, i.e. hills and valleys, and land use, i.e. urban or rural.
  • The 5 km grid values are then averaged over areas including: the entire UK; individual countries, e.g. Wales or Scotland climate districts and counties.
  • Series are produced for a wide variety of climate elements, including average maximum temperature, rainfall amount and hours of sunshine.
  • The series generally start in 1961, however, the air temperature, rainfall and sunshine series extend further back as a result of an ongoing programme to digitise the Met Office archive of station records.
  • Provisional values are produced as near to real-time as possible using data available at the time. Final values are issued several months later, based on fully quality-controlled data from the entire network.
  • To create the gridded data set an evenly distributed network of stations is needed in digital format. Sufficient data only currently exist in the Met Office electronic databases from the start dates given in the table.
Start dates
1910UK and regional gridded temperature and precipitationmonthly
1929UK and regional gridded sunshine durationmonthly
1961UK and regional gridded weather variables, e.g. frost, cloud cover, windmonthly

The gridded monthly data used to create the series can be  downloaded free of charge for research purposes only.

These time series are used to post information on the UK climate and weather statistics page.

Met Office Hadley Centre series

The Central England Temperature series (HadCET) and the United Kingdom Precipitation series (HadUKP) have been developed to study changes in our climate. They are calculated using a limited set of carefully selected stations so that the data are comparable over time.

A consequence of using a smaller sample of stations is that the series exhibit greater variability. Provisional values are produced as near to real time as possible with final values issued after data quality-control. The HadCET and HadUKP are calculated differently as described below.

The Central England Temperature series (HadCET)

  • These series are representative of an area from the south Midlands to Lancashire.
  • Series are produced for maximum, minimum and mean temperature - both daily and monthly.
  • Data from a small number of stations are used, the 2007 core network being Rothamsted (Herts), Pershore (Worcs) and Stonyhurst (Lancs).
  • Any effects of urbanisation are minimised by comparison with nearby rural stations.
  • Estimates of the uncertainty associated with the values are available at all timescales, from daily to annual.
Start dates
1659Mean Central England Temperaturemonthly
1772Mean Central England Temperaturedaily
1878Maximum and Minimum Central England Temperaturedaily and monthly mean

The UK Precipitation series (HadUKP)

ewp_regions

  • The HadUKP series is available for the combined area of England and Wales; five sub-regions of England and Wales; Scotland; three sub-regions of Scotland; and Northern Ireland (see above map)
  • The series is produced using a limited number of selected stations, currently approximately 80, or about 3% of those used to produce the Met Office UK Climate series.
  • The series is produced for both daily and monthly figures.

A project is running to merge the HadUKP and the Met Office UK Climate series. The outcome will be a single historical series for the UK. If you would like further information about this project, please contact climate@metoffice.gov.uk.

Start dates
1766England and Walesmonthly
1873Five sub-regions of England and Walesmonthly
1931Scotland, three Scottish sub-regions and Northern Irelandmonthly
1931England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and eight sub-regionsdaily

Further Reading

Alexander, L.V. & Jones, P.D., 2001: Updated precipitation series for the U.K. and discussion of recent extremes. Atmospheric Science Letters.

Gregory, J.M., Jones, P.D. & Wigley, T.M.L.,1991:Precipitation in Britain: an analysis of area-average data updated to 1989.International Journal of Climatology,11,331-345.

Jones, P.D. & Conway, D.,1997:Precipitation in the British Isles: an analysis of area-average data updated to 1995.International Journal of Climatology,17,427-438.

Manley, G.,1953:The mean temperature of central England: 1698-1952.Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society,79,242-261.

Manley, G.,1974:Central England temperatures: monthly means 1659 to 1973.Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society,100,389-405.

Parker, D.E., Legg, T.P. & Folland, C.K.,1992:A new daily central England temperature series, 1772-1991.International Journal of Climatology,12,317-342.

Parker, D. & Horton, B.,2005:Uncertainties in central England temperature 1878-2003 and some improvements to the maximum and minimum series.International Journal of Climatology,25,1,173-1,188.

Perry, M.C. & Hollis, D.M.,2005:The generation of monthly gridded datasets for a range of climatic variables over the UK.
International Journal of Climatology,25,1,041-1,054.

Wigley, T.M.L., Lough, J.M. & Jones, P.D.,1984:Spatial patterns of precipitation in England and Wales and a revised homogeneous England and Wales precipitation series.Journal of Climatology,4,1-25.

Wigley, T.M.L. & Jones, P.D.,1987:England and Wales precipitation: a discussion of recent changes in variability and an update to 1985.Journal of Climatology,7,231-246.

Last updated: 21 February 2014