Department of Meteorology Atmospheric Observatory

Meteorological observations have been made almost continuously at the University of Reading (known until 1926 as University College) since 1901. Although records for some of the earlier years have been lost, an almost complete daily record of many elements can be assembled from January 1908 to date.

The weather station has occupied two major sites - from 1901 to 1967 on the London Road campus and then at the Whiteknights campus since January 1968 (and at the current site since 1 January 1970). The Atmospheric Observatory has been a centre for atmospheric measurements, micrometeorological research and meteorological observations since 1968. More details of the London Road sites and records are given in One Hundred Years of Reading Weather by Roger Brugge and Stephen Burt, published in 2015; these pages give more details of the current Atmospheric Observatory site together with details of instruments currently and recently in use.

Manual observations continue to be made 365 days per year. Since 1918, the observations have been the responsibility of just five principal observers. Today most of the observations are made by the current principal observer, Mike Stroud, one of the technician team within the Department of Meteorology. Mike is assisted by a small team of mostly volunteer ‘deputy observers’ who stand in for occasional weekday and weekend duties.

The photograph above shows the Reading Atmospheric Observatory (as the whole site became known in 2006) as at April 2015. Photograph Copyright (C) Stephen Burt

Site details

Location 51.44136°N, 0.93807°W, National Grid Reference (41) 739 719, altitude 66 m above MSL

Per standard practice, this is the location of the standard raingauge, located towards the western edge of the observatory enclosure.


Over the standard 30 year average period 1981-2010, the mean temperature at the Observatory site was 10.6 °C (mean daily maximum 14.5 °C, mean daily minimum 6.7 °C). The coldest month of the year is January (mean temperature 4.8 °C) and the warmest July (mean temperature 17.6 °C). Since climatological records commenced in 1908, the lowest observed air temperature has been -14.5 °C (on 14 January 1982) and the highest 36.4 °C (on 10 August 2003).

The annual average precipitation is 634 mm, falling on 154 days per year. The driest period of the year is late winter to early spring (February average 41 mm) and the wettest autumn (October average 72 mm), but with wide variations from year to year. The wettest day, calendar month and calendar year on the record since 1901 are, respectively, 76 mm (on 22 September 1992), 180 mm (October 1903) and 961 mm (in 1903). Snow can be expected to fall on 11 days in a typical year, with the ground snow-covered on six mornings. The greatest observed snow depth since records of this element began in 1950 has been 31 cm, on 3 January 1963. Thunderstorms occur on around nine days per annum, most frequently during the summer half-year.

The mean annual cloud cover at 0900 GMT is 72%, and the average annual sunshine duration 1522 hours, about 34% of the possible duration of daylight at this latitude. Contrary perhaps to perceived wisdom, sunshine is recorded on twice as many days per year (just over 300) as measurable rainfall (154).

Atmospheric Observatory tours

The Department of Meteorology offers free public tours of the Atmospheric Observatory during the summer. For more information, dates and to register for a tour, please see the Observatory home pages.


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