Medieval Weather Forecast for 2015: Observations and Predictions

By Dr Anne Lawrence

The History Department wishes to thank Dr Roger Brugge, of the National Centre for Earth Observation, who has very kindly provided records, data and statistics which make the following suggested Prediction possible. Dr Brugge’s information shows that the daily average period of sunshine in late December and early January is about 1.6 hours, and he suggests that anything above 3.2 hours of sunshine could be taken as significant for our purposes. For wind speed, the daily average would be about 2 m/s, so a windy day would experience 4 m/s or more. As anyone who spent Christmas in Reading will know, there were no thunderstorms, so that element can be ruled out.

Applying these criteria, the following results emerge:

Christmas Day was strikingly sunny, with no less than 5 hours of recorded sunshine. Days 4 and 5 were even more impressive, with 5.1 hours each; and Day 9 saw 5.3 hours. All other days were at or below average.

No day achieved the full status of being unusually windy – although Day 8 (New Year’s Day) saw an average speed of 3.6 m/s. Here the scientist and the historian differ. Dr Brugge rules this day out, since it did not reach the actual criterion; but Dr Lawrence (who went out for a walk in Reading that day) persists in thinking there were some strong gusts of wind and that these should be taken into account.

The Prediction for Reading in 2015 (for which Dr Lawrence takes full responsibility!) is therefore:

That the year will be happy and fortunate; and that hidden or unexpected wealth will be discovered;

that conditions will produce an abundance of flowers and fruit; and that they will also be very good for birds.

There is however a risk (due to the wind on Jan 1) of short periods of unseasonably wet and cold weather.

06-01-2015Springtime in Reading?

Reading Ms 2087 f4v (image copyright)



Expert comment from those who know about the conditions which produce abundant flowers and fruit would be gratefully received. However, an amateur suggestion is that spring will be warm and fine, and that summer will see a balance of sunshine and rain. In medieval theory, a time of particular importance for birds was the period from mid-February to mid-March; it might therefore be suggested that these weeks will be especially favourable.

Dr Brugge has kindly looked at data for previous years in Reading, and notes that the first five weeks of the winter have been generally mild, with near-normal rainfall, and that current forecasts for the next fortnight expect this to continue. The data for Reading suggests that such a winter is likely to be followed by a mild spring, with near-normal amounts of rain. Full graphs of current conditions for Reading can be found at

The outlook for Reading, at least for the next few months, thus seems good according to both modern science and medieval prognostics!

The less good news concerns the gusts of wind on Jan. 1. If these were (rather unscientifically) taken into account, then the medieval prediction would be that conditions will be unhealthy for the elderly. This might suggest that the cold and wetness which characterised both winter and old age in medieval theory would be featured to some extent (perhaps in short bursts) in the coming year. However, the positive predictions are very much stronger, and the good fortune is for everyone, whatever their age!


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