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Durham University

Durham University News


Turning up the heat in Durham

(3 March 2006)

Temperatures are getting warmer in Durham according to Professor Tim Burt, a specialist in climate change at Durham University. He says that 2005 was the 6th warmest year on record since 1850. Overall, the temperature was 9.71 C, which is 1.1 C above average.

In the annual report on data from the Geography Department’s weather observatory, Burt explains that the last decade (1996-2005) was the warmest on record and the first to average 9.5 C. Moreover, an increase of 1.1 C has occurred since the 1960s, reflecting a remarkable rate of warming.

The winter of 2005 was both very mild and very dry. It was both the 10th warmest winter on record since 1850 and the 11th driest since since 1853. Burt explains that a winter as dry as this is something of a rarity as, in recent decades, winters have tended to be wetter than summers. Five of the ten driest winters occurred in the 19th Century, when summers tended to be much wetter than winters. However, most people felt the impact of the weather on the morning of 8 January when extremely high gusts of wind caused havoc on the A1 and brought down a large chimney at St Cuthbert’s Society. The maximum gust of 137 km/h (86mph) is the highest recorded since the new anemometer was installed in 1999.

The summer as a whole was drier than normal (142 mm against an average of 182 mm) but still considerably wetter than the preceding winter (75mm). While the 1990s were characterised by wetter winters than summers, this pattern is being reversed in the 2000s. With a temperature of 15.1 C the summer of 2005 ranks =17th with 2001 and 2002. 2004 ranks =11th and 2003 1st; such readings indicate how warm summers at Durham have become during this decade. Perhaps the most dramatic weather event over the summer was the exceptional downpour during the early evening of Sunday 19 June. 21 mm rain fell in an hour (18:00 –19:00 BST) and most of that in about 40 minutes. This resulted in localised flooding in Durham City, and at Hatfield College the chaplain’s valedictory sermon was accompanied by thunder and lightning!

The meteorological observations were made at Durham University Observatory using an automatic weather station. However, this had failed on 14 August due to a power cut and was not discovered until 7 September. Mean temperatures for August and September were therefore interpolated from maps on the Met Office website and daily rainfall figures were based on the Environment Agency record from Barker’s Haugh Sewage Works in Durham City.

Archived data and reports can be found at:

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