Rainfall Cards

Scope and Content

Our earliest rainfall records date from the 1860s and the values were generally produced on annual sheets until 1963 after which time monthly cards were used.

Measurements of rainfall amount often vary greatly from location to location because of the variable nature of rain producing weather systems and their interaction with high ground. For this reason a high density network of rain gauges is required to define accurately the rainfall climatology of the UK and to identify where flooding events are likely to occur as a result of local heavy storms. Consequently, in the archive, we have a great many rainfall cards usually consisting daily, weekly and monthly totals sourced from both professional and amateur stations throughout the UK.

Observers typically used a traditional 5 inch rain gauge which had a sharp brass or steel rim of diameter 5 inches (127 mm), sited 30 cm above ground level with a funnel that collects rain in a narrow necked bottle placed in a removable can.

Administrative / Biographical History

Originally founded in 1860 by George James Symons, the British Rainfall Organization (BRO) coordinated a network of rainfall stations around the country and published the results in the British Rainfall Magazine, a complete set of which is available to view here in the archive. The original paper forms written by the observers each day as they inspected their rain gauges are also stored here in the archive.

The BRO transferred to the Meteorological Office in July 1919, who maintained and considerably extended the network over the next few years. Today, the responsibility for water management and flood forecasting lies with the Environment Agency in England and Wales and with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Although both these organisations now operate and fund the dense network of rainfall stations, the rainfall cards themselves have continued to be stored here at the National Meteorological Archive on their behalf (intake will cease after 2010).