Alternative sources of Meteorological Data
The Met Office owns three national meteorological collections within the United Kingdom.
Records for England and Wales are kept at that National Meteorological Archive (NMLA) in Exeter, records for Scotland are held at National Records Scotland (NRS) and records for Northern Ireland are held at the Public Records Office for Northern Ireland (PRONI).
There are also a wealth of other records and collections where meteorological information can be found so if you cannot find what you are looking for within the main national collections don’t despair. It may be that the answer can be found elsewhere. Some of the key alternative sources of meteorological information are given below.
County Records Offices / County Heritage Services
Many county collections contain meteorological information. This can include private papers, diaries, parish records and accounts and estate records. A helpful article on the range of meteorological information to be found from local records offices is available here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23257962.2016.1260531
Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) and British Antarctic Survey
The SPRI and British Antarctic Survey both focus on collecting materials relating to polar research.
Additionally the Scott Polar Research Institute holds on permanent loan a series of Met Office owned materials which, due to their significance in polar research, are housed with the main collection of related information. The majority of the records are ship logs produced on board HMS Erebus and HMS Terror during their Antarctic research voyages but the collection also includes the final polar expedition log created by Robert Falcon Scott. A complete list of MET Office records held at SPRI can be found here.
The Royal Society
The Royal Society archives hold a large collection of meteorological data including 18th Century weather records, ship logs and materials relating to the Terra Nova expedition. They also hold materials relating to some of the key individuals in the history of meteorology and the Met Office who were also Members or Fellows of the Royal Society. These include Robert Boyle, Lewis Fry Richardson, Napier Shaw, Ernest Gold and the Dines dynasty. The Royal Society was tasked with management of the Met Office for much of the late 19th Century and documentation related to this role is also held in their archive.
Royal Geographical Society
Many explorers took detailed notes of the weather conditions during their expeditions. UK and International meteorological data can be found within the papers held at the Royal Geographical Society.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Royal Botanic Gardens collection at Kew houses a large collection of private papers from gardeners and botanists. Given the influence of meteorological factors in both horticulture and botany these diaries are an excellent source of information on weather and meteorology in the UK and around the world.
War diaries can be an invaluable source of information for those researching the weather during military conflicts and can also help in understanding the climatology of an area in which a campaign took place. The National Archives (TNA) has produced a number of useful guides to tracing further information in army, navy and air force records.
For personal diaries, which are not held at TNA, a good starting point is the Imperial War Museum.
National Physical Laboratory
The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) worked closely with the Met Office during much of the 20th century. Their archives are held at the TNA.
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
Ship logs will regularly contain a great deal of information on weather conditions. The NMLA holds a very large collection of ships meteorological logs but the logs for royal naval vessels and a wealth of other documents such as deck logs, rather than meteorological logs, are held within the National Maritime Museum archive which is the largest dedicated archive for the study of maritime history in the world.
National Museums Liverpool - Merseyside Maritime Museum archive and library
The Merseyside Maritime Museum archive holds a vast merchant marine archive. The meteorological logs from the majority of merchant ships are held at the NMLA however some were returned to merchant shipping companies and the Merseyside Maritime Museum archive holds one of the finest collections of merchant shipping records in the UK.
The Science Museum holds a large collection of meteorological instruments. This includes the majority of the contents of the Met Office museum, which were gifted to the Science Museum after the museum was closed ahead of the Met Office relocation from Bracknell to Exeter in 2003. The meteorological collection has yet to be fully catalogued but a list of the artefacts given by the Met Office is available on request.
The Royal Meteorological Society
You can find the great early writings on meteorology from such pioneers as Aristotle, Robert Boyle, Francis Bacon and Luke Howard, in our collection of historical meteorological literature. These form part of a rare book collection that we maintain in co-operation with the Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS).
History of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography
The RMetS History Group, as it is more widely known, is a special interest group of the RMetS and we have formed close links with this group over the years. Their committee includes a mixture of experienced academics, meteorologists, and former and current National Meteorological Library and Archive staff, so there is a great deal of experience among them. Part of their remit is to encourage the study of the history of meteorology and physical oceanography and to encourage publication of research in this field and to improve awareness of publications. Clearly the library and archive has a role to play in supporting them in these aims through our resources and we too can widen our experience by learning from the group's activities and publications.
The international Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth initiative (ACRE)
With the support of resources such as the National Meteorological Archive the ACRE initiative aims to undertake and facilitate the recovery of instrumental terrestrial and marine global surface weather observations. These observations will make it possible to create computer reconstructions of past global weather conditions spanning the last 200-250 years. The vast of amount of global historical weather data that is being scanned and digitised comes from a variety of sources, such as ships' logs that are held in various archival repositories, including our own.
This document has details about our links with this project.