Synoptic Meteorological Charts

Scope and Content

We have a vast collection of weather charts ranging from those which focus on daily conditions directly over the British Isles to North Atlantic and southern hemisphere charts that show weather patterns overa large area. All these charts were drawn and plotted by forecasters during the normal course of business as new charts needed to be made for each set of new observations received. Quite often there were as many asfour charts drawn per day. They run from May 1867 until August 2003, after which time charts are stored electronically and can be made available to customers on request.

Administrative / Biographical History

The first weather charts sought to depict the weather conditions around the British coastline. By 1861 Admiral Robert FitzRoy, the founder of the Met Office, had established a network of 15 coastal stations from which gale warnings could be provided. The development of the electric telegraph in the 1870s and the further expansion of the observational network enabled faster dissemination of warnings and meant more comprehensive synoptic analyses could be created and depicted in graphic form.

Between the end of the nineteenth century and the outbreak of the Second World War the Met Office expanded a great deal in terms of the breadth and scope of its activities and firmly established itself as one of the leading authorities on the weather in the world. Indeed, by this stage our forecasting played a vital role in the success of major military offensives, most famously during the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944. The actual D-Day synoptic chart is available to view here at the archive.

Today, synoptic charts are produced by computer covering the weather across the entire world, but in terms of style and content they remain essentially the same as the very earliest weather maps.