Weather station returns to summit of Ben Nevis after 113 years without data

9 November 2017

A group of NERC scientists scaled the UK's highest mountain this week to install a weather station that will record conditions on the summit for the first time in 113 years.

NERC scientists installing weather station on Ben Nevis

The expedition is the latest stage of Operation Weather Rescue: Ben Nevis, which launched in September 2017 and appealed to the public to help digitise two million 'lost' weather measurements taken by a group of Victorian volunteers known as the 'Weathermen of Ben Nevis' by hand, every hour on the hour, each day of the year, from 1883 to 1904. Since September, over 3,500 volunteers have digitised over 1·25 million weather observations.

Dr Barbara Brooks and her team from the NERC National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), joined by guides from the John Muir Trust, installed the temporary, automatic weather station to record wind speed and direction, pressure, temperature, precipitation and humidity on the summit of Ben Nevis for the first time since 1904, when the Victorian observatory staffed by volunteer weathermen closed its door for the last time.

The group left Fort William at 07:30, reaching the summit at 12:30. Installation of the new weather station, the Vaisala WXT536, took 1·5 hours. The weather station relies on the 3G coverage at the peak of Ben Nevis to transmit weather data back to NCAS, and from next week the data will be available for the public to view in real time on the NCAS website.

Dr Brooks hopes that the new, temporary weather station will produce comprehensive weather data that can be compared to the Victorian records. The team aims to have initial comparisons on show at NERC's free interactive showcase event, UnEarthed, at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, 17-19 November.

Dr Brooks said:

This is a temporary weather station, which for four weeks will do the same work as the Victorian weathermen all those years ago. Thankfully, technology has moved on so there's no need for our team to be stationed on the summit over the winter months. Having access to Ben Nevis's records through Operation Weather Rescue means we will be able to start making comparisons, looking for any patterns and better understand the conditions on our mountain tops. If we can prove that the technology works and the data is robust, we're hopeful this could lead to a new, permanent weather station on the summit, which would be invaluable for meteorologists.

Julia Maddock, NERC UnEarthed Director, says:

We want to give everyone the chance to be part of the science we do and have been thrilled at the public response to Operation Weather Rescue: Ben Nevis. We will be sharing our discoveries at UnEarthed this month, along with new data from the temporary weather station, which is incredibly exciting.

Operation Weather Rescue: Ben Nevis is led by NERC-funded climate scientist Professor Ed Hawkins, of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and the University of Reading.

Professor Hawkins said:

Operation Weather Rescue: Ben Nevis will fill gaps in our knowledge and provide a baseline from which we can measure any changes to the weather today. Unearthing this type of data feeds into the bigger picture; helping international researchers understand climatic changes and make better forecasts for the future. The Ben Nevis weather data will tell us more about extreme rainfall which is thought to be becoming more common in the UK.

Dr Hermione Cockburn, Scientific Director at Dynamic Earth, added:

We're incredibly excited to welcome NERC to Dynamic Earth for this fantastic event, and can't wait to see the results of Operation Weather Rescue: Ben Nevis.

To join Operation Weather Rescue: Ben Nevis and help us complete our mission by digitising 'lost' data of temperatures, pressure, rainfall, sunshine, cloudiness, wind strength and wind direction, visit the Weather Rescue website - external link and follow the instructions in the tutorial.

Tweet about your involvement using #UnEarthed2017 and #WeatherRescue.

For more information, and to sign up to email updates on UnEarthed, visit the UnEarthed website - external link.

Further information

Mary Goodchild
NERC News & Media Officer
01793 411939
07710 147485


1. UnEarthed. Explore the world at your feet
Our environment shapes our lives - and how we live shapes our environment. We at NERC, want to give the Scottish public the chance to see our world-class science up close. During our free interactive showcase UnEarthed at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh (17-19  November 2017), families and adults can explore the tools used to make science happen and see the extraordinary work of our scientists.

Can't wait for November? Join us on Operation Weather Rescue to recover weather measurements made on Ben Nevis more than a hundred years ago. Visit the UnEarthed website for event details and more about the amazing environmental science at your feet. Find us on Facebook - external link - and Tweet @NERCscience - external link - using #UnEarthed2017.

2. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £330 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

3. Five-star visitor attraction Dynamic Earth is the only attraction in the UK solely dedicated to the story of planet Earth.

Dynamic Earth
Holyrood Road
0131 550 7800

4. The National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) is a world leader in atmospheric science, a multi-million pound research centre, funded by the NERC. NCAS carries out research in climate science, atmospheric composition and air quality, physics of the atmosphere (including hazardous and extreme weather) and provides the UK community with state-of-the-art technologies for observing and modelling the atmosphere, including a world-leading research aircraft. By its very nature, atmospheric science research is multidisciplinary, and NCAS works to bring together scientists from a range of core disciplines such as physics, chemistry and mathematics and using state-of-the-art technologies for observing and modelling the atmosphere. NCAS provides scientific facilities for researchers right across the UK to enable excellent atmospheric science on a national scale. These include a world-leading research aircraft, a ground-based instrumentation pool, access to computer models and facilities for storing and accessing data. In a nutshell, NCAS provide the UK academic community and NERC with national capability in atmospheric science.