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Page last updated at 14:44 GMT, Tuesday, 14 September 2010 15:44 UK
Wild weather: Extremes in Gloucestershire

By Professor Giles Harrison
Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

Flooded Tewkesbury - pic from Cotswold Aero Club
The dramatic floods of July 2007, particularly around Tewkesbury, yielded the worst summer flooding since 1886.

As with other south-western counties, Gloucestershire receives regular winter battering from Atlantic storms.

The legendary tempest of 26 November 1703 wreaked extensive damage to Gloucester Cathedral, also generating a storm surge of over two metres in the River Severn, levitation of church lead roofing and extensive destruction of well-established trees at Kingscote.

Our knowledge of such national climatic extremes, particularly in temperature, depends principally on the long "Central England" temperature record extending back to 1659.

Secret evacuation

From the diligence of a Stroud apothecary, Gloucestershire contributed daily temperatures between 1771 and 1813.

The English pioneer in lightning and thunderstorm electricity studies, John Canton FRS was born in Gloucestershire, and Dr Edward "Ted" Wilson, from Cheltenham, was principal scientist on Captain Scott's ill fated expedition, making south pole weather observations.

However, the county's position in national meteorological history was settled during the Second World War with the Met Office's secret evacuation to Wycliffe College, Stonehouse.

In circumstances perhaps evocative of the film Enigma, the supply and calibration of meteorological instruments, climatological record-keeping and the navy's mapping of sea currents and ice extent occurred in Wycliffe's hall, house and science block from November 1939 until August 1945.

Highest UK temperature

Gloucestershire continues to experience its share of weather extremes.

With the maximum temperature of 37.1C at Cheltenham in August 1990, an enduring record for the highest UK temperature was broken, and then held until 2003.

The dramatic floods of July 2007, particularly around Tewkesbury, yielded the worst summer flooding since 1886.

Less well known is the particularly heavy snowfall in December 1981, which unexpectedly forced the Queen to seek refuge in the Cross Hands Hotel at Chipping Sodbury.

You can watch Wild Weather in the West with Ian Fergusson, and Wild Weather in the Midlands on the BBC iPlayer.

Hottest dayHottest Day 37.1Cheltenham on 3rd August 1990
Sunniest monthSunniest Month 308.5 Hours June 1957 at Cheltenham


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