11000BCE-1099CE: Weather History (more UK than Ireland)

From The Booty Website, compiled by MG Rowley (please note this is an evolving history and so the tables below will likely be more up to date on MG Rowley’s website) – published with kind permission –

This site attempts to collect together in one place the most notable events in our ‘weather history’ across the British Isles. It has been built up in a rather ‘ad-hoc’ fashion, initially just for the latter third of the 20th century, then worked backwards as and when I stumbled across data etc., and of course kept up to date as far as possible. I am aware that these data are heavily biased towards ‘UK’ events: I would like to add more for Ireland, so if you spot any significant missing events, please advise me.

I have tried to capture the “notable events”, but I am always open to suggestions! Inevitably, there is some element of subjectivity over what constitutes a ‘significant’ event. Also, the further back in time we go, the scrappier the information & the greater the probability of missing something.

Much of the information contained in these records must of necessity be ‘tentative’ to say the least! Up to about 1000 years ago, we only have archaelogical evidence to reconstruct the record: some Roman chroniclers provide cursory evidence for the Romano-Celtic / British era, but it is not until roughly from AD 800 that documentary records make a major contribution – and of course, the era of instrumental record doesn’t really start until the 17th century, and even then, inconsistencies / errors in the instrumentation make the early record questionable. Prior to the age of scientific enquiry, the climatological data have been reconstructed using ‘proxy’ data, such as tree ring records (dendroclimatology), ice-core sampling, estate records, tales of war and the administration of great kings, monastic lists etc.

Date Description Ref:

11000BC – 4000BC
12000 BC onwards Period of ending of the last great Ice Age. Rapid warming in the period up to ~ 11500 BC, steadier warming thereafter: by 9000 BC, major ice sheets had been eroded significantly, though were still in evidence in the Highlands of modern-day northern Britain. As regards conditions over southern Britain, by ~11500 BC, it is estimated that mean winter-time temperatures were between 0 and 4degC ( perhaps a little lower than today’s values) & high-summer values between 12 and 16degC, again a little lower or similar to current figures. 1, 4, 17
~9500 BC

~11000 – 9600 BC The ‘Younger Dryas’ reversal (YDR) [ also known as the ‘Loch Lomond’ stadial ]: a ‘reversal’, because it has been found to be a sharply colder period in what was a general rise in temperature after the end of the last Ice Age. The downturn is thought to have started abruptly ~11000 BC, reaching a depth of cold ~ 10500 BC (note the short period), when average temperatures are thought to have been: mid-winter, -16 to -20degC [ at least 15C below modern values – a truly dramatic fall ] and high-summer, 8 to 12degC, about 4C below modern values. This would have been disastrous – given the ~50yr period over which the decline occurred: if it were to happen today, it has been argued that civilisation as we know it would cease. From ~10000 BC, a slow, then rapid recovery, and by ~9500 BC, temperature levels back to pre-YDR values. 1, 17
8400 BC By about this time, the post-Glacial rise in temperature (& increase in humidity) had resumed: estimated temperatures were: mid-winter 0 to 4degC (similar to today) & high-summer 14 to 18degC, perhaps higher than today. 1, 17
8000 BC

~8000 – 6500 BC Sea level had been rising, in response to post-Ice Age warming, since ~ 8500 BC. The rise continued up to ~ 2500 BC, but the major sea-level uplifts occurred within the period 8000 & 6500 BC: by the latter date, most of the ‘land-bridges’ (e.g. Dover Strait, North Channel) had gone, with a rapid retreat of the major glaciers. At 8000 BC southern & eastern ‘North Sea’ was essentially land (or a marshy region), whereas by 6000 BC at the latest (varying ideas on this – some have 7500 BC), it was mostly sea.
[ Sea levels rise due to a combination of melting of land-based ice (e.g. the glaciers), and thermal expansion of the sea-water.]
6200 BC onwards The Atlantic climatic era: the period 6200 BC – 3500 BC (approx.) is now regarded as a major ‘Climatic Optimum’. In the NW Europe / NE Atlantic region, pressure is thought to have been relatively higher, with the depression tracks much further north (and / or south .. e.g. highly blocked) & less intense than before or since. The northwest of these islands were warmer, drier & less ‘stormier’ than modern conditions.
Mean annual temperatures eventually (by latter part of this “Atlantic” period, i.e. 3500 to 4000 BC) it is estimated that a +2 degC anomaly (c.f. 1960’s) was probable, with warm winters. Moderate humidity overall, but periods of heavy rain, some of lengthy duration. Rainfall evenly distributed winter to summer. (4600 – 3500 BC: moderate dryness.)
1, 17, var
5500 BC

5000BC Although it is probably dangerous to put a particular year to an event this far back in history, many researchers regard the period around 5000 BC as the warmest in post-glacial times: the discussion revolves around whether our current spell of warmth is comparable. 1

4000BC – 100BC
~4000 – ~3500 BC “Climatic optimum”: peaked circa 4000 – 3500 BC (some references say 4000 – 2500 BC); markedly reduced glacier extent. (var. refs); tree-lines in northern areas, particularly northern England & Scotland roughly 300m (or 1000ft) higher than they are now, with forests established at higher elevations than now: this implies that wind-damage might not have been a major problem. This in turn translates into weaker, less frequent spells of significantly low pressure (i.e. major cyclogenesis spells). (see also previous date file .. this period started circa 6200 BC). Both globally & regionally, several references mention an anomaly of ~ + 2degC over those values relating to the latter third of the 20th century.
~3500 – ~3000 BC Tentative suggestion of a ‘downturn’: climatic conditions decade-to-decade now more variable, with occasional cooler / colder & wetter periods, BUT overall the spell still warmer than today! Storm tracks are thought to have been directed more towards the British Isles (perhaps biased to southern areas), and more vigorous. Periods of heavy rain, severe gales – these more frequent, and summer warmth was less reliable – with runs of such seasons classed as ” wet and cool”. European glaciers advance (again) and forests retreat from higher elevations (storm damage?). Decline in warmth-loving tree species. ( a ‘disturbance of the global regime’: [Lamb] ) 1
3000 BC

~3000 BC onwards Bronze Age recovery (after previous, relatively short-lived downturn): freedom from major storms, excessive rainfall etc., and renewed increase in temperature. Glaciers & ‘permanent’ snow-patches less prominent. Increase in forest cover back to more ‘exposed’ (in modern terms) western / upland areas. Renewed building of stone circles – possibly as observatories – this suggests lower cloud cover amounts than before. 1
~2200BC ‘Major VOLCANIC eruption’. (possibly in/around Iceland, disrupting the North Atlantic and/or Arctic circulations).
Bitterly COLD winters & indifferent, occasionally poor summers.

~1500 – ~1300 BC A possible ‘sharply’ cooler period (the ‘Neoglacial’), when glaciers advanced in Alaska and the Alps. Growth in peat bogs – large fluctuations (inundation) of marginal land around Alpine lakes (implies additional precipitation). [However note that overall temperatures still warmer than current – these are small-scale fluctuations – in fact we are here in a broadscale downturn in temperature from the warmth of the Bronze Age to the chillier late Iron Age.] 1
1159BC ‘Major VOLCANIC eruption’. HEKLA (Iceland): COLDER/WETTER conditions for Europe (at least). Crop failures/famine. [ Be wary over exact dating of such as volcanic eruptions in these ancient times; no-one was actually recording the event in a contemporary sense, so dating comes down to interpreting ice cores, ancient tree ring records etc., and a decade either way of error would be quite likely.] 20
~1100 – ~900 BC Periods of extended warmth (in a longer-term post Bronze Age cooling phase). Frequent dry, ‘blocked’ spells of anticyclonic weather – however this begs the question – were the winters often bitterly cold? 1

~900 BC – ~650 BC In the west: increased ‘wetness’, cooler, more unsettled & stormier. Evidence of much trackway building. Rapid growth of peat bogs.
In the east: no detectable changes within this period – indeed, most researchers state that it was notably drier in the east: however, the increased storminess implies some effects such as coastal inundation. To get this ‘west/east’ split, the mean flow must have been a highly westerly type. [ See comments on broadscale flow in section below.]
850BC Fimbul winter“: Harsh conditions affecting high-latitude areas (revealed in Nordic sagas) – possibly connected with downturn in solar / sunspot activity, and/or increased cosmic rays. The subsequent reduction in direct radiation from the sun led to COOLER/WETTER conditions. (“The Long Summer”/Fagan) 20

~650 – ~200 BC A general increase in rainfall (& presumably snowfall – temperatures falling). Western & highland areas notably wet – abandonment of upland settlements, and retreat of tree-line to lower altitudes. The east now also become wetter (see above), suggesting a tendency to cyclonic activity over the British Isles (rather than passing to the NW). By ~200 BC, it is estimated that mean European temperatures were at least 1degC below those of the warmest post-glacial period (possibly as much as 2degC, which latter would be a highly significant number). Over the whole period of this last millenium BC, there was major glacier re-growth in Europe, and falling sea-levels (i.e. the reverse of the conditions we are seeing today).
~300 BC: possible peak of stormy, wet conditions in NW Europe (including the British Isles). Rainfall possibly as much as 40% higher than late 20th century values. Summers frequently cool / unsettled.
In the broadscale, the period ~900 to ~200 BC is one where it is thought that the Polar vortex was expanding / cooling, therefore both increasing the jet strength (greater vigour of depressions) and nudging the whole pattern southwards.

~200 BC – 350 AD ~200 BC: Beginning of an upturn in temperature levels. A steady recovery (after the cooler late Iron Age) from now, right through the ‘Roman-British’ period, only petering out somewhere around 350 AD. Mean temperature levels based on ‘middle’ England would peak at around, or a shade below those of the ‘Climatic Optimum’ of the Early Middle Ages & precipitation amounts overall were declining – though adequate. The climate would become generally ‘benign’ by the time of early years of the 1st Century AD, and eventually villas became bigger and built on hillier sites in areas we would not normally construct ‘high status’ buildings. Southern Britain in particular self-sufficient in wine (a staple of Romano-British life, not a luxury), and there is evidence of export of same, implying very good conditions for growth / ripening.
However, there are records (principally from the Roman occupation period), of ‘severe / snowy’ winters. This is a warning to us nowadays not to assume that a ‘warmer’ climate necessarily means we will not have ‘severe’ winters. Sea levels thought to have risen between 1 and 2 metres compared with before and after.
120 – 114 BC: Either a ‘great’ storm, or a series of storms in the North Sea basin. Sea floods, which affected the coastlines of Denmark, the Netherlands & Germany – if so, these storms must also have affected the east coast of Britain. These events are consistent with the change in temperature regime, as it implies alteration of jet-stream patterns etc., which often accompany major changes of climatic type.

Temperature(T) = H/C (warm/cold events); Rainfall (R) = D/W (dry/wet events); Stormy events = S

Date T R S Description Ref:

100BC – 499AD
55 & 54 BC

S Julius Caesar’s first invasion of Britain (late summer 55BC) was hampered by persistent, often strong northwest winds, though he did obtain a toe-hold in Kent. This was probably only a recconaisance visit anyway, but a ‘storm’ some four days after landfall wrecked many boats already drawn up onshore, and also dispersed & damaged (or wrecked) many of the supply vessels coming across the Channel from Gaul (France). After further setbacks, Caesar decided to abandon any further incursion into southern Britain as the ‘equinox was near’, (i.e. late September). This was sound judgement. The second (and more successful) attempt the following year (summer) was ‘weather delayed’ (TEC): landing and incursions were most successful, but his support fleet fell victim to a ‘violent storm’ – about 40 ships were wrecked and others seriously damaged. By late summer / early autumn, it became clear that Caesar had not established sufficient control, and he evacuated the legions to Gaul ‘as the equinox was at hand’; even then, the weather played a part in preventing cross-Channel operations. However, the weather did relent sufficiently to allow evacuation.
(You have to ask whether these conditions were ‘unusual’ – was it simply that the Mediterranean commanders were simply frustrated by ‘usual’ British / Channel weather as the European monsoon kicked in! – see for example, 1066, or were depression tracks a lot further south than we ‘normally’ think is the case.)


Coloured Rain (usually an indicator of a major volcanic eruption in the weeks before the event); said to have lasted 5 hr. 8, LWH
AD7 (or 9)
First recorded Thames flood – just what sort of settlement there was along the Thames is not given: it may be that the warming / drying in place since 200BC had by this time encouraged a sizeable settlement (or several) close to a lowering river, so any out of sequence high-rainfall event would lead to such an event. Equally, a storm-surge could have been responsible, and this is suggested by Brooks & Glasspoole as the source of this event. Of course, as we know from modern events, the two often go together: wind-driven surges are made more damaging where high volumes of land-water are cascading downstream against the incoming tide. [ NB: the Thames in the area of what is now central London would have looked nothing like it does today; probably wider (at least twice current width), and shallower, with islets dividing the flow, across which wood/bridge structures would have been set. The Thames would have flooded relatively easily given this topography, especially as it would have been tidal for a considerable distance inland – such flooding would not necessarily have been regarded as a ‘disaster’ in the modern-day sense of the word. ] 8, LWH
River Severn FLOOD: great DAMAGE. (no details as to whether this was purely a RAIN-driven flood, or in combination with with a storm-surge. LWH

S GALE & SEA FLOOD along North Sea coast; many roman soldiers DROWNED in northerly GALE. LWH

S North Sea GALES; roman fleet scattered, many ships lost. [ I wonder if there is confusion here with the event listed as AD15? ] LWH

S Possible Severe Gale/storm. (noted as a ‘Hurricane’ in some references .. no dates given). Much damage at what is now Westminster; (though what was at the site then is not clear: probably no more than a settlement of ‘Wattle & Daub’ dwellings – albeit with ‘high-status’ elements given the location. Given the structure of homes at the time, even a ‘Severe Gale’ would have caused fairly extensive damage, let alone a ‘hurricane’!) 8
England: STORMS – RAIN, HAIL & “strange lightning” ruined corn. LWH
(but possibly AD38)

A notable Thames flood – no details given, but on balance, climatologists think this was due to high rainfall (but see below). Several thousand people were drowned, though it is thought that the figure of 10000 is a gross exaggeration. (However, the Environment Agency has the following entry: ” 10,000 people drowned along the East Coast and Thames Estuary”, and the note is published in connection with the 1953 East Coast Floods – this implies a tidal/storm-surge.) 8
(extended Winter)

England: SEVERE WINTER; all rivers & lakes froze from November to April. If this is literally correct, it would indeed be a significantly COLD event. LWH

S Britain (& France): Sea FLOODS; great ‘STORM’ floods. LWH

S England: GALE – ‘Hurricane’ killed many. 15000 houses fell. LWH
W D Britain: RAIN & DROUGHTS (?); famine lasted 2 years with many thousands dying of hunger. LWH

Lightning is supposed to have destroyed part of London – but very tenuous accounts. (only 20 or so years into the Roman period in southern Britain .. ) 8
~AD80 C

A severe winter (year not known exactly: it may have been any of the winters between 77 & 84). 8

England(?); COLOURED RAIN – “blood rain” for 3 days. [ Implies a major volcanic event somewhere.] LWH

Britain: RAIN – heavy for 9 months, then FAMINE. LWH
AD134 C

Possible severe winter. Thames noted as being frozen over for two months. (However, rid your mind of the Thames as it is today – it would have been a meandering, much wider & perhaps slower moving affair in London than now). 8, LWH
Drought (possible). Thames dried up for two days !? (see notes elsewhere about the character of the Thames .. not impossible). 8, LWH
late 1st & through 2nd Century AD

By the end of the 1st Century or early 2nd Century AD, a high frequency of anticyclonic types, with weaker (and/or less ‘focussed’) jet: the Polar vortex probably warmer (or less intense). 1
AD153 C

Possible severe winter. Chroniclers (Roman I guess by this time) say a ‘severe frost’ for nearly three months. Makes you wonder if they were comparing with Italian conditions – severe winters may have been ‘normal’ for this time in the Celtic/Roman lowlands of ‘England’. Again, Thames noted as being ‘frozen over’. 8, LWH
AD173 C

Possible severe winter. ‘Frost for three months’ (London/South – probably across England more widely). 8, LWH
FLOOD – River Trent overflowed 20 miles wide each side. LWH
AD220 C

Possible severe winter. Severe frost lasting for 5 (!) months (London/South & possibly more widely across England). 8, LWH
Scotland – RAIN for 7 months (presumably excessive) – FAMINE followed. LWH

S Canterbury (Kent) – GALE / date not known / STORM blew down 200 houses. Given this effect, the storm must have affected a greater area of at least the SE of England. LWH

S Lincolnshire – SEA FLOOD – 1000’s acres lost permanently to the sea. LWH

England – COLOURED RAIN – ‘blood rains’ in many places; ‘bloody sword’ after sunset. LWH
AD250 C

Possible severe winter. Tidal R. Thames frozen for 9 weeks (some sources say 5 weeks). One of the earliest recorded instances – presumably Roman tax (or similar) rolls. However, there is considerable doubt about the exact year, some quote 230, others 250 – 252. 8

S Possible severe gale / storm. 900 houses blown down in London. 8
AD270 – 300

S Several ‘sea incursions’ in the southern North Sea: implies storm surges of some sort – probably the first signs of the climate change at the end of the Romano-Celtic ‘benign’ era. 1

S Possible severe gale/storm. Several people killed (in London?) 8

Possible severe winter. Most rivers in Britain frozen for nine weeks (some references have only 6 weeks, though even this smaller figure would have been significant); date uncertain. (Must have been a major event if the phrase “most rivers in Britain” is an accurate description (Roman Britain?) – a severe winter indeed!) 8, LWH

A severe winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1

England: coloured rain – ‘rain of blood’ for 6 hours in Somerset. LWH

Possible severe winter. Most rivers frozen for six weeks. Deep snow in Wales. ( However, year may be 359. ) 8, LWH

Britain: SNOW – up to 15 feet deep lay 6 weeks. LWH

S England: gale – 420 houses fell, Carlisle. Many killed. LWH
” A great flood in Cheshire, 5000 persons and an innumerable quantity of cattle perished.” (origin in doubt). x

A severe winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb); In Scotland, the frost thought to have been ‘continuous’ for 14 weeks. There may be some confusion with the winter of 329 (see above). 1,
Drought (possible). London Weather says … “severe drought”. 8
Drought (possible). 8
AD400 – 440

S Frequent storminess in the North Sea: English Channel coastal changes. About this time, there may have been a sudden cooling, or weather pattern change. 1

A COLD winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
Winter: AD 406/407 C

Possibly a SEVERE WINTER, at least in near ‘western Europe’: ‘Germanic’ tribes apparently crossed a frozen Rhine at Mainz on the last day of 406 to invade former Roman provinces in Gaul / France. Implies bitterly cold, easterly regime for some time beforehand, which must have impacted some part of these islands. 16

A SEVERE winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1

A COLD winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
AD436 C

Ireland: A ‘huge’ SNOW. LWH
Several chroniclers refer to a famine in 439 and some state that it was a year of DROUGHT. 8


A SEVERE winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
Scotland: RAIN – 10 months. LWH
AD474 C

Possible severe winter. Four months with ‘great’ snow. 8, LWH
Possible FLOOD in (and around) London, but considerable doubts surround this, both as to date and details of the event. Given that the text mentions ‘extending 10 miles above & below London’, this tends to suggest a Thames-based flood, possibly a tidal-surge aggravated by high inland RAINFALL, but this is highly speculative. 8

500 – 750
~ AD500

S By this time, the storminess of the latter part of the 5th Century (q.v.) had ‘re-arranged’ some coastal alignment in East Anglia. A sea-level rise noted, BUT, Lamb considers that this may have more to do with reporting of increased frequency of inland storm-driven surges, rather than a general world-wide sea level rise. Also note that evidence of significant rise in peat bog deposits by or around this time: therefore implies greater ‘wetness’ (and presumably cyclonicity). 1
AD508 C

Possible severe winter. Rivers frozen for two months. Years also quoted as 507 or 509. 8,

S Major storm surge in Cardigan Bay. 1
AD525 C

Possible severe winter. Thames frozen for 6 weeks. 8
AD536 [or perhaps AD535]

Volcanic eruption# (East Indies) at around 4degS is estimated to have put around 300Mt of aerosols into the stratosphere (c.f. Tambora in 1815 of 200Mt which led to the ‘year without a summer’ q.v.). This would have brought about an abrupt drop in world-wide temperature, and concomitant changes in atmospheric (& perhaps oceanic) circulation. It is thought that the effects (famine etc.) were experienced over the (then) known world, with a ‘severe plague’ in the years 541-544 possibly connected; up to 25% of the populations of Africa, Europe and Asia affected. A ‘famine’ / shortage of bread noted over Ireland in 538, and, if accepted as part of this phase, a severe winter in 554. [ some publications have the effects lasting until at least 555, and certainly tree-ring data suggest a period of reduced growth for western Europe up to at least 545. The implied NAOI would have been highly negative, with well-above average pressure over Greenland / Iceland sector, and lower values around the Azores. ] (R.Met.S/’Weather’ Feb. 2004 & “The Long Summer”/Fagan)
** There is confusion with dating in some texts: 536 is mentioned a lot, but I fancy this is the year when the major world-wide effects were noted: Ice-core sampling suggests the actual year of the major eruption was 535.
## Alternative theories have been put forward for the world-wide effects noted: either a large comet hitting the earth, injecting huge amounts of debris into the atmosphere, or the Earth passing through a cloud of inter-stellar dust.
R.Met.S, 20

Intensely cold winter (London / South) & possibly over a wider area (according to Easton, in CHMW/Lamb). 1, 8
(perhaps 549)

S Possible severe gale/storm in London; many houses damaged and several people killed. 8,

Severe winter: Some confusion between 545 & 554, but Easton (in Lamb/1.) notes both winters as being notably cold / severe. Winter ‘so severe’ with frost & snow that ‘the birds and wild animals became so tame as to allow themselves to be taken by hand’. (A Meteorological Chronology, quoted in “The Long Summer”/Fagan ref: 20) 1, 8, 20

A cold winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
AD580 – 600
Indications of several, or a succession of wet years. Also, tree-lines by this time were falling & glaciers advancing. 1

S North Sea: floods & great storm. LWH

S Durham: storm flood – sea swept away villages, many drowned. LWH
(January – September)

England: drought. Taken with the entry below, implies considerable blocking / extended periods of high pressure. LWH

A cold winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
AD604 C

Severe frost in England. Also noted as a ‘severe winter’ in Scotland, with 4 months frost. 8,
AD605 H D
Drought (possible). Also, ‘great heat’. 8

Thames flood in London. 8

Ulster, Ireland: snow – killed many. LWH
c. AD640’s C

around this time, some ‘cold’ years noted. 1

According to legend, the drought (only certain for southern England) which ended in 681, and which was claimed to have lasted for three years, was broken on the day that Bishop Wilfrid converted the South Saxons to Christianity. (Actually, converting the King of the time, who would have then imposed the religion on his court and subsequently the people). Known as ‘St. Wilfrid’s drought‘. 8,
AD684 C

Ireland: Cold – lakes, rivers & sea froze. [ If this sort of weather was noted across Ireland, I would think that Britain would also have been affected: suggests anticyclonic / blocked, with an easterly type resulting. ] LWH

Coloured rain: often noted as ‘Bloody Rain’. [ Coloured rain (or contaminated rain) is usually due to the atmosphere carrying very fine sand / dust, due to sand/dust-storms in arid areas, or volcanic dust [ due to major eruptions ] which may have an origin a considerable distance away from the place where the rain fell – often measured in thousands of miles / km. The sand / dust is washed out from the middle troposphere. Vesuvius and Etna are thought to have been very active in 685, and the ‘bloody rain’ which fell in this year probably contained volcanic dust. Whatever the source, it does suggest that the atmospheric conditions were such that tropical continental (Tc) airflow was involved, with a highly-blocked long-wave pattern in place. A mobile, westerly (or Atlantic) type doesn’t allow the lengthy fetch at mid-levels of these contaminated winds. (Various years given, from 684 to 689) 8
Ireland: Flooding due to heavy / prolonged rainfall – Leinster rivers flood for 3 days & nights. LWH
(but possibly 695/696)

Severe winter. Thames frozen for six weeks – booths were built on the thick ice. 1, 8, LWH
(or perhaps 721)
Wales – very hot summer (& assumed to be dry). LWH
Great drought .. London/South. 8
Scotland: flood (assumed to be due to heavy / intense rainfall) – 400 families drowned in Glasgow. LWH
Great drought .. London/South. 8
(but could be anytime between
744 & 748)

Ireland – Great snow destroyed herds. This would have been a major disaster. LWH

751 – 999

A cold winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) [ Some accounts have this as 761 .. usual dating problems ]. 1
& later)

The winter is noted as being ‘severe’ .. and was followed by a ” long and terrible drought ” .. in the spring/summer of 764: suggests abnormally persistent blocking / high pressure situation (at least, ‘abnormal’ in length of persistence in the same ‘phase’), with the primary jet perhaps shunted well to the south. Some sources note ‘great snow’, with an ‘intense’ frost. In ‘London Weather’ entry, …. “one of the severest winters known in history”. (Probably affected large areas of continental Europe, again suggesting a ‘Scandinavian High’ situation.) 1, 8
~770 – ~800 C

A period of higher frequency of cold winters (note: not necessarily every winter). This leads to the suggestion of blocking of the main Atlantic, westerly flow by often slow-moving, intense anticyclones, or an increased frequency of east or northeast flow with higher pressure to the north of these islands. This would tie in to a certain extent with the idea that Scandinavian exploration / raids were assisted by lack of ‘westerly-storminess’. 1

Ireland: snow – men & animals died. LWH

December 24th (original logged as ‘Eve of Christmas’?): gale: Great SW or W wind. Cities destroyed (!) LWH

March 17th: Ireland – Tornado(?): thunder, wind & lightning. ‘1010 men killed’. [ I wouldn’t normally detail all ‘tornado’ events, but the death-toll warrants mention, and I do wonder given that over a thousand died, whether this was in fact a ‘storm’ event due to a major depression rather than a small-scale tornadic event.] LWH

December 25th (presumably logged as ‘Christmas Day’): Ireland – snow: many rivers & lakes frozen to February 22nd. [ Although only tied to Ireland, given the severity & length of the event, Britain must also have been affected. ] LWH

A severe winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
827 C

Possible severe winter. Thames frozen for nine weeks. 8,

A cold winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1


A cold winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb); Great ice & frost until Jan. 7th – rivers & lakes froze. 1,

Ireland: gale: very great wind; woods felled. LWH

A severe winter in England. 1, 8

A cold winter. (according to Easton, in CHMW/Lamb); Scotland: specifically a cold winter – great frost from November to April; thaw brought floods. 1,

A cold winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1

11th November: Ireland – gale, many trees and houses fell. LWH
908 C

Possible severe winter. Most English rivers frozen for two months. 8,
910 – 930 H

Extended droughts with regularity: also thought that the summer half-years were warm or very warm more often than not – some notably hot summers. 1

A severe winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1

Ireland: severe winter – Great snow. Lakes frozen. [ As elsewhere, implies a blocked pattern, with occasional ‘Atlantic’ incursions. Must have affected Britain as well I would have thought.] LWH
923 C

Possible severe winter. Thames frozen for 13 weeks. Year may be 928 or 929. 8,

A cold winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1

A cold winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1

Ireland: cold – Lakes & rivers froze. [ I wonder if this belongs to the winter noted above? ] LWH

Possible severe gale/storm in London; many houses destroyed. 1500 houses “fell” (destroyed?): affected the whole of England. 8,
946 – 948

England: drought – ‘no rain for 3 years’ (unlikely to have been “no” rain – more likely a marked shortage of rainfall / winter snowfall). LWH

Wales: Hot summer. [ Must surely have affected other parts of Britain – indeed, the heat may have been ‘exceptional’, if the summer was notably hot as far west as Wales.] LWH

Thames flood in London. 8

Probably a severe winter across Britain .. usual doubts about dates etc. Severe winter over whole of Europe until March 11th (OS). 1, 8, LWH
990’s H

Extended droughts with regularity: also thought that the summer half-years were warm or very warm more often than not – some notably hot summers. 1

Ireland: Storm flood – tempest (high wind?) submerged island fort in one hour Wicklow. [ The way this is written up suggests that this was a ‘storme surge’ event, rather than necessarily due to heavy rain – though the latter may have played a part.] LWH

Summer cold throughout Europe; severe frost & ice (quite remarkable if true in July as given on this site!) LWH
998 C

Possible severe winter. Thames frozen for five weeks. 8,

1000 – 1099
1020 C

Possible severe winter (London/South). 8

A cold winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1

A cold winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1
1047 C

Reputed to be the worst winter ‘in living memory’. Severe frost & heavy snow. 6, 8

1061 C

Thames frozen for seven weeks. 8
1063 C

Severe winter (London/South). 8
1066: (late summer/autumn):

In AD1066, after a long/dry summer, W/WNW winds prevailed in the Channel all through September. It was, according to TEC/Lamb, only the breaking of this anticyclonic NW’ly (ANW) spell that gave Duke William his chance to cross the Channel on the 7th October 1066 (New Style calendar).

A cold winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1

A severe winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb) 1

Severe winter in Britain. 1, 8
1085 (or 1086) C

Severe winter (London/South). 8
(and / or perhaps 1087)


‘Wet’ year (s): much famine / want & ‘pestilence’ over these 2 years. 1086 was also noted as ‘a very thundery year’, with much flooding & many people killed by lightning. The description may also be applied to 1087, but as always, caution is advised regarding whether both years were similarly afflicted & indeed just how much of the island of Britain was affected: it may be the old problem of the ‘ecclesiastical’ year starting on Lady Day, and events in what we would regard as 1087 in fact being credited to 1086, or, ‘bad’ weather from one year causing problems in the ensuing year, irrespective of the weather conditions. (London/South?) 8
17th October 1091

Violent ‘whirlwind’ (probably a tornado/T8 according to TORRO .. date in some sources 23rd, and best not to stick rigidly to date given the antiquity of the report.) More than 600 houses destroyed, much damage to churches (chronicled well of course), and damage also to the not-long built Tower of London. (Some references also talk about a ‘gale’ which implies a more widespread event – difficult to be precise I would have thought as to what exactly the phenomenon was; 600 houses is a lot of property for a tornado, though not impossible of course.) 7, 8

A very wet year overall (London / SE?). 8
1092/93 C

Severe frost in this winter. English rivers frozen so hard that horsemen and wagons could travel on them. When the thaw came, drifting ice destroyed bridges. (Followed a very wet year – see above.)(London / SE?). 8

A wet year in England. 8
11th November(OS),

A tidal flood affected the R. Thames estuary & adjacent areas of north Kent; it is not known whether London was affected, but according to legend, this inundation was responsible for the formation of the Goodwin Sands. The flooding also affected the Dutch coastal areas, so ‘tidal’ is problematic: I would suspect a wind-driven storm-surge which coincided with a high tide (?spring / exceptional?), and possible excessive autumnal land-water. “Thousands” of deaths reported in areas affected. (I would have thought that if London had been seriously affected, some chronicle of it would have survived?: The 11th century saw a high number of disastrous floods along the English east coast.) 7, 8


Where possible, I have listed the sources above, but remember that these often simply quote others – refer to the original work for a full bibliography.

1. Climate, history and the modern world.
H.H. Lamb

2. Woodlands.
W. Condry

3. The Observer’s Book of Weather.
R. Pearce

4. World Climate from 8000 to 0 B.C.
[ Proceedings of the International Symposium held in 1966 ]
Various contributors
Royal Meteorological Society

5. British floods & droughts.
C.E.P. Brooks & J. Glasspoole

6. The English climate.
H.H. Lamb
English Universities Press

7. The Elements Rage.
F.W. Lane
David & Charles

8. London Weather.
J.H. Brazell
HMSO (Meteorological Office)

9. Contemporary Climatology.
Henderson-Sellers & Robinson
Longman Scientific

10. The climate of the British Isles.
P. B. Wright (Ed: Chandler & Gregory)
Longman Scientific

11. Regional climates of the British Isles.
D. Wheeler and J. Mayes

12. The Bude Canal
Helen Harris & Monica Ellis
David & Charles

13. Weatherwise
Philip Eden
1995 (and updated)

14. The Weather Factor
Erik Durschmied
Hodder & Stoughton

15. Shell Guide to Britain
(ed.) Geoffrey Boumphrey
Ebury Press
1969 (but data checked / amended against later sources)

16. The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History
Colin McEvedy
Penguin Books

17. The Daily Telegraph “Book of the Weather”
Philip Eden

18. “Climate in Everyday Life”
C.E.P. Brooks
Ernest Benn

19. “Encyclopædia Britannica (Multimedia ed.)”
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

20. “The Long Summer”
Brian Fagan
Granta Books

21. “Weather”
Abercromby & Goldie
Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd.

22. “Weather Men”
Bernard Ashley
Allman & Son

23. “Historic Storms of the North Sea, British Isles & NW Europe”
H. H. Lamb
Cambridge University Press
1991 (paperback)

(Source abbreviations:
CEPB = Climate in Everyday life/Brooks;
CET= Central England Temperature series (Met Office / Hadley Centre);
CHMW/Lamb = Climate, history & the modern world/HH Lamb);
CUMB = Chronicle of Magistrates, Cumbrian Genealogy (homepages.Tesco.net/~rolygrigg/);
DWS/MWS= Various Monthly/Daily Weather Summaries (UK Meteorological Office);
EWP= England and Wales Precipitation series (Met Office / Hadley Centre);
GPE = Philip Eden’s articles in the Daily Telegraph & elsewhere;
LW = London Weather/Brazell;
LWH= Landmarks of World History web site (www.phenomena.org.uk/);
RJP = Bob Prichard’s summaries of the 20th century; var.
RMS = Royal Meteorological Society ‘Weather Log’;
TEC = The English Climate/Lamb;
TREF= Web site: http://www.timeref.com
usw = contributors to uk.sci.weather newsgroup);
VOLC= Volcanoes/Decker & Decker; )

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