2019 Rainfall Observer Newsletter

Voluntary Observer Newsletter – Dec 2019

Welcome to our December Newsletter   – courtesy of the Met Office and SEPA

Increased media interest in Rainfall Observing in 2019

Promotion of school rainfall observing escalated into a flurry of interest from various media outlets including a piece on television by BBC Landward. Rainfall observer Susan MacColl from Dunlop in Ayrshire was kind enough to take part in the filming and explain it all to Dougie Vipond. The filming also covered the purpose of a tipping bucket raingauge, as explained by SEPA hydrologist, Fraser Anderson. In addition to the Landward piece, there was also two interviews on BBC radio Scotland and an article in the Herald newspaper.

 Some of the articles can still be found online:


Some of you may wonder why you receive a visit from your area Met Officer every few years, especially if you thought you were taking readings for EA, SEPA or NRW.

The explanation is that there is a database known as the National Rainfall Archive, which is managed by the Met Office.  To ensure that all rainfall sites, regardless of stewardship, adhere to the same standards they are subject to regular routine site visits across all the partner organisations.  You may be aware that, ideally, no obstructions (trees, buildings etc.) are closer to the raingauge than twice their height, so a 10m tall tree should be at least 20m from the raingauge.  These readings are obtained from the silvered domes you may see us putting on the gauges (Kiff Mushroom).  In practice it is quite rare to find a site which has no such obstructions, so allowances are made.  Often it is impossible to reduce the number or height of these obstructions as they may, for example, be on neighbouring land.

At the other end of the spectrum we try to reduce the incidence of over exposure when the horizon is actually below the height of the gauge, often found on hillside sites.  The only good thing about these is that they cannot really get any worse, whereas trees will continue to grow and cause obstructions.

We also check the condition of the raingauge, specifically checking that the circular rim is completely round and exactly 5” in diameter.  The rim should also be horizontal in all directions and the recognised height above ground level.  Whilst we do not expect all gauges to be on pristine lawns, the grass should not be so long that it interferes with wind flow around them.  We also check that there is no water in the outer case of the gauge (possible seam leak), and check that the bottle and tapered measure are in good condition.  If these are cracked or broken, we will replace them for H&S reasons. Why do we do this? Well, all these components can affect the accuracy of your gauge.

Before sites are visited we contact our main quality control centre in Edinburgh, who provide an assessment of the data being received, including any potential problems.  Probably the most common are there being no station details on the postcard, making it difficult to identify which site they have come from.  Every site has its own unique name and is allocated a RSN (Rainfall Station Number).  Please do not hesitate to contact SEPA, EA, NRW or the Met Office if you have any doubts about what these are.  If you happen to have both daily and monthly gauges these will have their own individual numbers.

Following the site visit our Metadata knowledge base is updated to include equipment updates, small site moves or changes in the exposure, in order that these are recorded for posterity, along with your readings for use time and time again.

Recruitment of new observers

The increased exposure from the media in 2019 resulted in over 110 enquiries from the public to start rainfall observing. SEPA is currently processing these and the initial advice for new observers has been to acquire a plastic gauge and enter their data on SEPA’s website. This also provides SEPA with an easy method to assess how an observing is doing. Through time SEPA hopes to upgrade these new observers to Met Office Standard installations. Some of the new observers have already started and their data can be viewed on the website at https://envscot-csportal.org.uk/rainfallobs/ .

The web facility also provides an alternative option for existing observers to send their data to SEPA. Anyone interested should press the ‘sign up’ link on the above website and follow the instruction to register their gauge. This method would suite anyone who uses a smart phone, tablet or computer on a daily basis. It provides a number of advantages such as allowing observers to view their own data along beside other observers around Scotland. It also provides SEPA with much quicker access to the data. If you wish to try this , please use it in tandem with the traditional rainfall card for a few months and make a note on the card that you have started using the website. Also it is always recommended to keep you own paper records for resilience.

Storm naming conventions

Storm Names Word Search


Severe flooding South Yorkshire, November 2019

A slow-moving front brought persistent heavy rainfall across parts of Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire on 7 November 2019. 50 to 100mm of rain fell in a swathe from the Humber to Sheffield, around the whole-month average rainfall or more in a period of 24-hours. This event followed heavy rain affecting a swathe from Wales, through Shropshire to South Yorkshire on 25 October and generally unsettled and wet weather from late September onwards.

Zooniverse – People Powered Research – Can you Help?

The Met Office are excited to launch a Citizen Science project which will help them extend the digital record of observations from the heritage site at Eskdalemuir Observatory in  Dumfries & Galloway, where Met Office staff first began recording meteorological parameters back in 1910

Data Rescue

Whilst all recent and current data is stored electronically in the UK Climate database hosted by the Met Office, there are long periods that predate the technological revolution where the data exists solely on paper forms on which the observations were originally recorded.
Scanning of Meteorological paper records is a continuous and often critical process as more and more paper records are at risk of loss or decay. Once scanned, to optimise the availability of the data, it must then be digitised.  This is a mammoth task for any organisation hence the inception of this Zooniverse project. It is hoped that a 40year gap in the existing datasets held electronically for Eskdalemuir may be filled with the assistance of the Zooniverse community.  This will increase the volume of electronic data and improve both temporal and spatial resolution availability for use in UK and global research, in a faster timescale than would be possible otherwise. The data will be assimilated to Climate Models, greatly assisting with cutting edge Climate predictions. Historic meteorological data is also required to put severe weather events into context and with potentially in excess of 100 years of digitised data from Eskdalemuir. Trends and patterns will be identifiable to feed into a variety of planning purposes aligning with the Met Office purpose to help people stay safe and thrive.

Become a Citizen Scientist

The success of projects like this relies on volunteers, and all you need to become involved is a little spare time and access to computer/laptop, I-Pad (or Smartphone) If you would like to learn more about the project or even sign up as a volunteer helping to transcribe the data from scanned copies of the original documents on to the database please visit https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/malcolma1/eskdalemuir-100

The value of long term observations

Long-term meteorological observations, such as those provided by volunteers like yourself, form part of the irreplaceable cultural and scientific heritage of mankind that serve the needs of current and future generations for long-term high-quality climate records. They are a unique source of past information about atmospheric parameters, thus are references for climate variability and change assessments. To highlight this importance WMO has a mechanism to recognize centennial observing stations. Eskdalemuir Observatory, in the Scottish Borders, with continuous meteorological records spanning more than 100 years between 1910 and current day is one such site. In so doing, the WMO (World Meteorological Organisation) promotes sustainable observational standards and best practices that facilitate the generation of high-quality time series data. The invaluable contributions from our voluntary observers, some of whom have provided data for half a century and more allows much more detailed analysis to be performed, ultimately improving the accuracy of climate predictions and of our understanding of longer term impacts.

UK actual and anomaly maps

If you have not seen these before, they may be of interest. https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/climate/maps-and-data/uk-actual-and-anomaly-maps

School participation in Rainfall Observing

In August SEPA’s north area hydrometry manager, Becky Thomson, presented a certificate to Dr Jo Kinghorn at Nairn Academy. The school has been observing for three years. Pupils at Bridge of Allan Primary have also started observing. SEPA hydrologist Grant Kennedy visited the school in September. Grant was “very impressed with the enthusiasm and awareness of environmental issues shown by the pupils”.



Storm Erik

Storm Erik was the fifth named storm of the 2018/2019 winter. This was a deep Atlantic low pressure system bringing strong winds across the UK. Storm Erik was a fairly typical winter storm – notable but not exceptional for the time of year.

The chart below shows rain-rates at 0600 UTC on Friday 8 February 2019, with persistent heavy rain across western upland areas of the UK.



Storm Freya

Storm Freya, the sixth named storm of the 2018/2019 winter, was a rapidly deepening area of low pressure as it crossed the UK, bringing strong winds and heavy rain to England, Wales and southern Scotland. This storm rapidly followed another deep area of low pressure which brought some very strong winds across Scotland.

The chart below shows rain-rates at 1800 UTC on Sunday 3 March 2019, with persistent heavy rain associated with strong winds across northern England and southern Scotland; 20 to 30mm of rain fell across this area.

The analysis chart at 1800 UTC Sunday 3 March 2019 shows storm Freya centred in the Irish Sea as it tracked rapidly north-eastward across the UK.

Summer 2019

The following represents a provisional assessment of the weather experienced across the UK during Summer 2019 (June, July, August) and how it compares with the 1981 to 2010 average.

The first two-thirds of June was generally very wet in most areas, and cooler than average, but the latter part of June and most of July were more settled with some warm spells. The warmth peaked on June 29th, and again on July 25th with a new UK maximum temperature record being set. Numerous thundery outbreaks occurred during the second half of July too, making the month somewhat wetter than average overall. The majority of August was unsettled and showery, though there was a drier spell later on during which it became hot especially in south-eastern areas.

This summer was rather warmer than average. Apart from the first two days, much of June was relatively cool, but warm weather towards month end brought June temperatures overall up to near average. July began slightly cooler than average but this was far outweighed by the warmth of the last three weeks and the month ended up being a warm one. Much of August was rather warm despite not being settled. The UK monthly mean temperature for June was 0.2 °C above average. July temperatures overall averaged out at 1.2 °C above average. August temperatures were 0.9 °C above average.

June rainfall totals were above average across most areas, with double the average in many parts of England and Wales; most of the rain fell in the first half of the month. Overall the UK had 152% of average rainfall, provisionally the 8th wettest June in a series since 1910. July also ended up rather wet from the English Midlands northwards, with again more than twice the average monthly rainfall in some places; the UK overall had 114% of average for the month. August was very wet over Scotland, Northern Ireland and the far north of England, only East Anglia and Kent being drier than average, with rainfall overall 153% of average.

Many parts of England and Wales were rather duller than average in June, but some northern areas of the UK fared better. July was reasonably sunny for southern parts of England and Wales but slightly duller in Scotland and Northern Ireland. August totals were near or just above average. Sunshine totals for the UK overall were 95% of average in June, 100% of average in July, and 107% in August. This was the 12th warmest and 7th wettest summer in a series from 1910.


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