Aberystwyth seafront, January 2014 © Sarah Davies

May 8, 2014, by Lucy

Historical perspectives on extreme weather

This week I wanted to use my blog post to explore historical perspectives on extreme weather whilst also publicising a couple of activities and events involving members of the project team. Our project aims to build up a database of information relating to extreme weather events of the past that we hope will be of interest and utility to people exploring both past and future weather and climate. Recent events, notably the storms of last winter, have prompted many to declare that ‘extreme’ events are increasing – both in their frequency and scale of impact. Our project places recent events within an historical context, to investigate not only the timing and impacts of weather extremes but also the processes by which certain events enter the cultural memory of a community (the ‘extreme’ winter of 1947, the ‘extreme’ summer of 1976, the ‘extreme’ floods of 2007), whilst others are quickly forgotten.

A public lecture

This evening (Thursday 8th May), Sarah and Cerys will be giving a public lecture as part of the Climate Change Consortium of Wales (C3W) events programme. The title of the lecture is ‘I do not remember the weather so severe…’ a historical perspective on weather extremes in Wales and they will be drawing on the rich archive of documentary sources to identify episodes of past extreme weather in Wales. A focus will be placed on exploring how extreme weather events of the past affected local communities, how they have been remembered and how a historical perspective on the weather might provide insights into how we deal with extremes today.

Cerys and Sarah

Sarah and Cerys

If you can’t make it to Aberystwyth you can watch a live webcast here and read more about C3W and other events on their website.

Britain’s most extreme weather – Channel 4

Next Monday (12th May), the final episode of the Channel 4 series Britain’s most extreme weather will be concentrating on floods. Tune in to see a member of the project team exploring the country’s flood archive! This series, presented by weatherman Alex Beresford, has so far explored storms and ice, and has drawn on personal accounts of extreme weather events, documentary evidence and meteorological data, to look at the impacts of and responses to extreme weather, in much the same way as we will be doing in our project. Whilst watching I found my thoughts turning to the accounts of extreme weather that I’ve been reading in the archive, some of which document the events mentioned in the series (the 1703 storm, the Royal Charter storm of 1859, and the winter of 1963). As the number of sources consulted multiplies, it will be possible to begin to build up regional histories of extreme weather in Britain, and to explore both those events that are firmly in the public consciousness as well as those long forgotten.

Flooded homes in Talybont, Wales, June 2012 © Henry Lamb

Flooded homes in Talybont, Wales, June 2012 © Henry Lamb

On Monday and Tuesday next week we’re gathering the full project team together in Liverpool. As well as watching Britain’s most extreme weather, we’ll be catching up and sharing information gathered from our archive visits completed to date as well as discussing our database and future events and activities…

We’re always interested to hear from you if you have memories of extreme weather events to share, or know of particular historical sources that we should explore.


Posted in EventsMedia coverageProject themesWeather extremes