Friday, 28 October 2011

News - Sunny Jim the weather king (Nottinghamshire)

UNSEASONABLY warm autumns, flash-flooding and violent storms may seem like modern phenomena – but a Notts researcher has proved that unusual weather is nothing new.

Retired meteorologist Jim Rothwell, 80, has spent more than 20 years collating climate data. His information dates back to 56 BC and includes logs on severe storms, flowers blooming at Christmas and an ice floe so severe it destroyed a bridge on the River Trent.

Mr Rothwell said: "People talk about things like last winter being the coldest in 130 years, but really it's not unusual.

"We have always had extremes, dating back to when Julius Caesar was in Britain, when the records start, so it's not as quirky as people think.

"In the short term people notice these things, but if you look at it on a wider scale it has all happened before."

The data includes cold, wet weather in August 1357, when wolves were seen in Sherwood Forest, and a thunderstorm on July 17 which, along with a tornado and large hail, destroyed Lenton and Wilford and killed five people.

Mr Rothwell has long been fascinated by weather. He said: "I'm a retired weather forecaster and I worked for the Met Office for 38 years. I've always had a feel for climatology."

He became interested in the shifts in weather at an early age. "My interest started during the war in 1940,'' said Mr Rothwell.

"There were no forecasts then because they were secret, and they would have given the Germans information they could use against us.

"I went to bed one night as a little boy, and then when I woke up there was six inches of snow. It was like magic and I wanted to understand it better."

From 1990, he has spent a few hours every day creating reports on the weather from 56 BC to the current day.

He donated the reports, called the Central England Weather Series, to Nottinghamshire County Council's archive services in 2008, but still works on them now.

His sources include council and university archives, weather reports from the Middle Ages, newspaper reports and history books.

His work as a meteorologist has even taken him to the set of a James Bond film, when he was an advisor for 1965 film Thunderball, which was filmed at RAF Waddington. "I worked as an advisor, because they needed good, Caribbean weather and wanted to know when that would happen.

"It was only five minutes of film, but it took us a week of waiting for the right moment.

"Unfortunately I didn't see any Bond girls."

Mr Rothwell continues with his work, spotting the trends in weather. He said: "For me, something like a storm in October is unusual. But the weather has always had extremes."

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