A very British obsession

The weather is a British obsession —and our response over the centuries to snow, floods, droughts, heatwaves and storms provides a rich insight into the lives of people and how communities evolve.

Drawing on historical records and personal recollections, the £1m British Climate Histories project, led by Professor Georgina Endfield from the School of Geography, is hoping to explore how and why response to weather events has become part of our cultural fabric.

Professor Endfield, in collaboration with experts from the universities of Liverpool, Aberystwyth and Glasgow, will be turning the clock back to the 1700s to trace how perceptions of risk, vulnerability and efforts to improve our resilience to extreme weather events have changed over time.

Professor Endfield said: “Through narrative, folklore, myth, legend and poetry — all these different kinds of media — we can learn a lot about what is happening to our weather and how we are affected by and respond to  extreme weather events.”

Beginning with an exploration of historical archives — such as testimonies, amateur observations and diaries — researchers will then move onto instrumental weather records and oral histories. They will be talking to communities in selected case study areas to find out how extreme weather events are remembered and the way they become embedded in the fabric of communities.

The case study areas will be:

north, west and southwest Wales, specifically isolated rural communities, small coastal communities, upland farming areas at risk from flooding, drought and extreme winters.

  • Areas of East Anglia coast and northwest Scotland that have been identified as being at risk of flooding and storm events.
  • central England in areas considered to be vulnerable to flooding, water scarcity and drought
  • southwest England in places projected to suffer most acutely from storm events, flooding and heatwaves.
  • Funding comes from the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past theme.

The team is hoping to create a public database of memories so people can tap into what has happened in their local community and how their lives may have changed as a result.

The work will be completed in conjunction with the Royal Geographical Society (with the IBG), the Met Office (ACRE initiative based at the Hadley Centre) and English Heritage.

      Watch more on the project:
tiny.cc/UoNWeather

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