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Armagh Observatory has recorded our weather since 1795 and it won't stop now


Armagh Observatory

Armagh Observatory

Northern Ireland Tourist Board

Shane Kelly

Shane Kelly


With the BBC's Cecilia Daly

With the BBC's Cecilia Daly


Armagh Observatory

They have continued through famine and two world wars and now staff at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP) are determined their daily weather recordings will not be thwarted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meteorological measurements at the observatory have continued uninterrupted since 1795 and for the past 20 years it has fallen to estates and meteorological officer Shane Kelly to carry out this important task.

Shane (56), a native of Armagh, lives on the site of the now combined observatory and planetarium, which is currently closed to the public.

He has taken daily weather measurements every day of the year for two decades and says nothing, including Covid-19, will cause him to break the observatory's proud record.

"It is a source of pride for everyone at AOP that we have maintained the daily readings uninterrupted for so long," he said.

"It is also important work; the data we collate is fed into the Met Office. It would be a very sad day if Covid-19 brought an end to the daily recordings, but no-one wants to see that happen.

"AOP is closed to the public at present but I live on-site and am observing strict social distancing protocols when taking the readings.

"The manual recordings are hugely important as our digital equipment has gone down a few times. If it wasn't for the manual recordings this important data would have been lost."

While the high tech digital equipment was installed in 2018 by the Department for Communities, the manual recordings have continued alongside the new technology.

Temperature and pressure were recorded from the start; rainfall has been continuously recorded in Armagh since 1836, dry and wet temperatures from 1838, the wind since 1843 and the daily maximum and minimum temperatures from 1844.

A Stevenson Screen was installed in 1865, providing a controlled environment for temperature measurements from this date onwards.

Data from 1853 onwards is held in the Met Office database. Much of the historic data is also held at the Public Record Office going back as far as the 1860s.

Shane said everyone at AOP is determined to play their part to maintain the daily readings.

"Last February I broke my ankle and was unable to do the readings, so everyone rallied around and maintained the unbroken record," he added.

"I am confident we can continue to take the readings safely throughout this pandemic."

Living on the site of the historic observatory, which is set in 14 acres and includes an ancient Armagh woodland, has, Shane confesses, not been the worst place to be in lockdown.

He added: "The planetarium is always busy so it is unusually quiet now that it is closed.

"I am on my own but I can't complain as the nature of the place means it is always very peaceful here."

Scans of the measurements recorded in observer's daily weather log book, going all the way back to 1794, can be obtained from the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium's website at www.climate.armagh.ac.uk.

Belfast Telegraph