A new book chronicles the weather and climate in Durham over the past 180 years from ice-skating on the River Wear to the City’s hottest day.
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.
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, including:
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;
Durham’s hottest-ever day in July 2019;
The wettest winter ever experienced in the City in 2021.
Global climate change
Durham Weather and Climate Since 1841, written by Emeritus Professor Tim Burt, of our Department of Geography, and Dr Stephen Burt, of the University of Reading, also considers the long-term effects of global climate change on the City.
This includes an observed rise in mean average temperature of 1.62 degrees Celsius since the decade 1851-60 and a related extension of the growing season for plants by about six weeks over the period since then.
The book charts a relatively sharp increase in the frequency and amount of rainfall in the last 20-30 years, offset by an increase in sunshine, particularly in winter.
The authors say this is most probably due to decreases in the frequency and duration of fog, itself a result of reduced aerosol emissions from coal-fired domestic and industrial properties.
Find out more
Durham Weather and Climate since 1841 is published by Oxford University Press (OUP) and is available from the OUP website.
It was written by Professor Tim Burt, who has run the Durham Observatory weather station since 2001, and Dr Stephen Burt and is the sister book to Oxford Weather and Climate Since 1767.
Flooding at the Racecourse, Durham City, on 4 June 2000 after the River Wear burst its banks. Credit: Tim Burt
Crowds enjoy the sunshine on the river banks at the Racecourse in Durham in June 2000 during the Durham Regatta, a week after heavy flooding. Credit Tim Burt.
Professor Tim Burt, co-author of the new book Durham Weather and Climate since 1841 – measures the depth of the snowfall in the garden of Kingsgate House, Bow Lane, Durham City, in January 2010. Credit: Tim Burt.
Snow on Palace Green, Durham City, with Durham Cathedral in the background, January 2010. Credit: Tim Burt.
Durham’s ‘climate stripe’ representing the annual mean temperature for every year from 1795 to 2021; the warmer the year, the redder the line, showing the dramatic warming in recent decades (courtesy of Professor Ed Hawkins, University of Reading).