My love for the weather goes back as far as I can remember and some of my earliest memories are of weather related events such as heavy snows and thunderstorms when I was a child. Growing up on the foothills of the Pentland Hills and in the Yorkshire Dales meant that I was often exposed to what I would call ‘interesting’ weather, ie. heavy rains, buffeting winds, heavy snows, severe frosts, thick fog and mighty thunderstorms, and whilst I do enjoy some spells of fine and settled weather, I still to this day love nothing more than a good day of heavy and persistent rain, a dramatic thunderstorm, or better yet some biting frosts and a good dump of snow. To be honest I've never really grown up!
My earliest weather instruments included old soft drink bottles cut in half to act as basic rain gauges and simple min/max thermometer hung on north facing walls, but as time has gone by I have endeavoured to improve my recording techniques and now try to keep as close to Met. Office standards as our current sites allow. All of this scientific equipment didn’t come cheap but since the weather is my most enduring passion it has definitely been worth it, my Stevenson screen and the carefully maintained instruments within being among my most cherished of worldly possessions.
The Weather Station
Our traditional and manually recorded weather station is located in a moderately wooded area on the edge of Beverley in central East Yorkshire, standing at an altitude of approximately 20 metres above sea level and some 12 miles away from the North Sea coast. It is on the western edge of the area known as Holderness, a largely flat plain which extends eastwards from the Yorkshire Wolds to the North Sea, and in common with most of this area enjoys a relatively sheltered and temperate climate with few extremes from one season to the next.
The weather station as of 2016 utilises a mixture of equipment to monitor the ever-changing weather, with air temperature being recorded by mercury and alcohol/spirit thermometers (mercury for maxima & alcohol for minima temperatures) with all the thermometers being housed within a standard sized Stevenson screen. The screen is of wooden construction and is located within an open location 4 feet above a neatly trimmed lawn with the thermometers being manually read and reset daily at 0900 UT.
Rainfall meanwhile is recorded by a traditional 5 inch copper rain gauge, the contents of which are emptied and measured daily at 0900 UT via an accurately calibrated glass measure which measures in 0.1 mm increments. The rain gauge itself is located near the Stevenson screen in a similarly open lawn location, though it does suffer from a degree of shelter when winds are from the north-west.
Most other weather data is recorded by an electronic automatic weather station, with a standard Davis Vantage Pro 2 being utilised for this purpose. This measures weather variables such as wind speed, wind direction, barometric pressure, rainfall rate, rainfall duration, frost duration, relative humidity and dew point. One day I plan to add a data logger to the weather station so that I can also keep more comprehensive data for my location and post live data to this website, but for the time being all data collected is recorded manually at 0900 every morning.
The East Yorkshire Climate
The climate of the county is fairly typical of lowland eastern England with warm but rarely hot summers and generally mild winters with only occasional periods of snowfall. However since the climate of the British Isles is unpredictable to say the least, year on year variations can be quite marked, with one summer seeing little rainfall and an abundance of sunshine while the next might be unseasonably cool and wet.
Being on the east coast of England does mean that East Yorkshire is particularly vulnerable to chilly winds from the north and east, the perennially frigid North Sea adding a rawness to such breezes. In winter these winds can bring heavy snowfalls to the county, especially on high ground such as the Yorkshire Wolds, while in spring and early summer these same breezes can bring low cloud in off the sea, a phenomena known locally as a ‘sea fret’ (or a harr in the North-East and Scotland).
However since the dominant prevailing wind across the British Isles is from a south-west or westerly direction the position of the county is generally sheltered from the worst the North Atlantic throws our way, with the Pennine Hills on the far side of Yorkshire forming a sizeable rain shadow which means that annual rainfall is around 25 inches on the lowlands and around 30 inches on the higher parts of the Yorkshire Wolds.
Beverley & Holderness
Holderness is the name given to the flat region of the county between the Yorkshire Wolds and the North Sea coast, and due to the relatively flat terrain of the region the climate is fairly uniform throughout. However a maritime influence on the climate of the region does increase as one travels eastwards, with the area of south-east Holderness being particularly influenced by the North Sea due to the exposed geography of this part of the county. Indeed for those areas within a few miles of the North Sea it would perhaps be best to refer to the climate of Bridlington for a more accurate picture of their climates. However as for inland parts of Holderness (which includes my own weather station near Beverley) the weather is marked by its temperate nature with few extremes in any given season.
The city of Hull is the only major built up part of the county, with this city of 250,000 people standing on the north bank of the river Humber in the far south of the county. The urban nature of the city means that the climate is generally warmer than that of the surrounding countryside (see the statistics for Leconfield above), especially so by night with the resulting reduction in frost frequency during the winter months. However it is interesting to note the increased rainfall and reduced sunshine totals compared to Leconfield some 10 miles north of the city, and this may be a result of the cities proximity to the river Humber.
Bridlington & the North Sea Coast
The North Sea coast forms the eastern boundary of the county from Flamborough Head in the north to Spurn Point in the south, and it is down this coastal strip that the maritime influence is most marked. The influence of the sea moderates the climate with daytime highs generally lower than inland (especially in summer) while nightime lows are higher. This means that this area is the least frosty part of the county, this being especially the case in the Spurn area, but it is conversely also the windiest, again the Spurn peninsula as well as Flamborough Head in the north being particularly exposed to coastal gales. Though no sunshine records are kept for Bridlington this area is nevertheless the sunniest part of the county, though late winter and spring can be plagued by sea mists and low cloud if the wind is from the north or east, something which is worth bearing in mind if ever heading for the coast at these times of year !
As the only area of significant upland in the county, the climate of the Yorkshire Wolds is quite different compared to that of the eastern and western lowlands with temperature extremes being greatest in this area. The Wolds reach their highest point at Garrowby Hill at an altitude of 250 metres asl, and with numerous hidden and deep cut valleys many parts are notorious frost pockets, the small village of Thixendale being one of the most famous of these and holder of the unofficial lowest temperature ever recorded in Yorkshire at -22 C (-8 F). Meanwhile the exposed roads can suffer from severe drifting in snowy spells with some roads becoming impassable for prolonged periods in the worst winters and in the famous winter of 1963 food and supplies had to be delivered by helicopter to the more remote farms. Rainfall meanwhile is at its greatest up here on the Wolds, with over 30 inches being recorded at some spots (most lowland areas of the county receiving around 25 inches), while sunshine is also reduced with the higher altitude, modest though it may be, leading to an increase in cloud amounts.
The Vale of York & Humberhead Levels
To the west of the Wolds lies the flat plain of the Vale of York, an extensive area of inland lowland which stretches beyond East Yorkshire’s historic boundaries which in the west is marked by the river Ouse. The climate of this area is very similar to that of inland Holderness though maritime influences are less apparent as shown by the higher summer maximums and lower winter minimums. Frost is also a more frequent phenomena with the sheltered nature of the area and the hills which surround the plain allowing cold air to pool in the area. This same process also means that the Vale of York is notorious for its fogs, especially in autumn and winter, and in some places fog can persist all day in particularly quiet anticyclonic spells. The distance from the sea and the shelter afforded by the Pennines also means that this is the driest part of the county, annual rainfall being as low as 22 inches in some locations.