Data has been collected daily through famine and world wars

They have continued through famine and world wars and now staff at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP) are determined the daily weather recordings which have been taken for over 200 years will not fall foul to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Carrington Solar Storm, recorded in Armagh’s daily weather record.

Meteorological measurements were started at the Armagh Observatory in 1794 and daily measurements began in 1795. They have continued uninterrupted ever since. Since 2018 the recordings have been taken using digital equipment, provided by the Department for Communities, however, the manual recordings have continued side-by-side with the new technology. This has been largely due to the efforts of AOP’s Estates and Meteorological officer, Shane Kelly who has been taking the measurements at 9am daily for over 20 years.

Shane said: “It is source of pride for everyone at AOP that we have maintained the daily readings uninterrupted for so long. It is also important work, the data we collate is fed into the Met Office.”

Data from 1853 onwards is held in the Met Office database. Much of the historic data for Armagh is also held at the Public Record Office Northern Ireland (PRONI), with start dates in the 1860s and 1870s for most types of data. Temperature and pressure were recorded from the start, rainfall has been continuously recorded in Armagh since 1836, dry and wet bulb temperatures from 1838, the wind since 1843 and the daily maximum and minimum temperatures from 1844. A Stevenson Screen was installed in 1865, providing a controlled environment for temperature measurements from this date onwards.

Shane (centre) at a weather event at AOP hosted by Cecilia Daly from the BBC

Shane added: “It would be a very sad day if Covid-19 brought an end to the daily recordings, but no-one wants to see that happen. AOP is closed to the public at present but I live on-site and am observing strict social distancing protocols when taking the readings. The manual recordings are hugely important as our digital equipment has gone down a few times since it was installed. If it wasn’t for the manual recordings this important data would have been lost.”

Shane said everyone at AOP is determined to play their part to maintain the daily readings. “Last February I broke my ankle and was unable to do the readings, so everyone rallied around and maintained the unbroken record. I am confident that we can continue to take the readings safely throughout this pandemic.”

Sunshine recorder at AOP

Scans of the measurements recorded in observer’s daily weather log book, going all the way back to 1794, can be obtained from the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium’s website. Please visit www.climate.armagh.ac.uk for more information.


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