Recording the British Weather

Explore the range of weather instruments used to record the British Weather

Radio Sonde and Pressure Instruments by Met OfficeMet Office

Radiosondes and instruments for recording pressure

Some of the instruments used for taking observations in the upper atmosphere and taking pressure at ground level.

Marine Open-scale Barograph by Met OfficeMet Office

Marine Open-scale Barograph

The marine open-scale barograph records pressure readings. A clockwork mechanism rotates a replaceable chart and a pressure sensor moves the pen. While it is not a precision instrument it does provide a graphical record of pressure fluctuations with the times that they occur.

Precision Aneroid Barometer Mk2 (1984) by Met OfficeMet Office

Precision Aneroid Barometer Mk2

An easily portable barometer. This records pressure more precisely using an electronic measuring system. 

Radiosonde Mk 2b (1975/1975) by Met OfficeMet Office

Radiosonde Mk 2b

Radiosonde with 6 cup anemometer for measuring wind and instruments for recording temperature, pressure and humidity. Designed by the Met Office it is made largely from silver cardboard with metal sensors arranged around the body. 

Radiosonde Mk 3 (1999/1999) by Met OfficeMet Office

Radiosonde Mk 3

This was the last radio-sonde designed and made by the Met Office. Mark 3 sondes were in use between the mid 1970s and early 1990s. This was the last sonde to use a mechanical switching system to swap between different sensors. 

Radiosonde RS41-SG by Met OfficeMet Office

Radiosonde RS41-SG

These radio-sondes use tiny electronic sensors and a GPS system to send observations back to earth. 

Rainfall and Temperature and Humidity Instruments by Met OfficeMet Office

Rainfall, Temperature and Humidity Instruments

Some of the instruments used for recording precipitation, temperature and humidity.

Hair Hygrometer by Met OfficeMet Office

Hair Hygrograph


A human or horse hair in the cage absorbs moisture and changes length with changes in humidity, causing the pen to move up or down against the chart. The clockwork drum rotates once per week. These instruments have a metal body with a cage to protect the hair at one end. 

Whirling Psychrometer by Met OfficeMet Office

Whirling Psychrometer

A psychrometer, consists of two mercury thermometers mounted in a frame and measures dry and wet bulb temperature. This portable example was rotated by the observer to make sure the thermometers were well ventilated. Humidity can be calculated from the temperatures recorded. 

Bi Metallic Thermograph Mk 3 by Met OfficeMet Office

Bi Metallic Thermograph Mk 3


Bi-metallic Thermograph consisting of metal body with bimetallic coil in cage at one end. The Bi-metallic coil twists as temperature changes causing the pen to move up or down against the chart. The clockwork drum rotates once per week.

Tilting Bucket Rain Gauge by Met OfficeMet Office

Tilting Bucket Rain Gauge

An instrument for recording rainfall amounts. Rain falls into the gauge at the top and fills the bucket. Once the bucket is full it tips. Each time the bucket tips it records an exact amount of rainfall.

Copper Rain Gauge by Met OfficeMet Office

Copper Rain gauge

An instrument for recording precipitation (rain, hail, drizzle and snowfall) amounts. These instruments funnel water into a container which is then poured into a measuring cylinder and recorded by an observer. 

Wind and Upper Air Instruments by Met OfficeMet Office

Wind and Upper Air Instruments

Some of the instruments used for recording wind and for taking upper air measurements.

Pilot Balloon Theodolite Mark IV (1944) by Met OfficeMet Office

Pilot Balloon Theodolite Mark IV


A manual instrument used by an observer to measure the height of a weather balloon using a telescope system. 

Portable Alidade Mk 1 by Met OfficeMet Office

Portable Alidade Mk 1

Hand held portable metal alidade for measuring height of clouds in feet. An alidade consists of a sight bar with a revolving aluminium plate upon which is engraved the scale for deriving elevation. At night it is used with a searchlight to illuminate the clouds.

Wind Direction Dial Mk 4J (1992) by Met OfficeMet Office

Wind Direction Dial Mk 4J

Wind direction dial for displaying wind direction recorded by a wind vane. 

The wind vane itself would be on a mast at a standard height of 10 metres.

Mark 4A Anemometer Cup section by Met OfficeMet Office

Mark 4A Anemometer Cup section

Anemometer cup section for recording the strength of wind. The faster the cups rotate, the stronger the wind. 

The cup section would be on a mast at a standard height of 10 metres.

Hand Held Aneomometer (1950/1970) by Met OfficeMet Office

Anemometer, Hand Held

A hand held anemometer works in a similar way to a large anemometer. The faster the cups rotate the stronger the wind. Hand held instruments allow observers to measure the wind speed at any height and location. 

Temperature and Sunshine instruments by Met OfficeMet Office

Temperature and Sunshine instruments

Some of the instruments used for recording temperature in marine environments and sunshine at land stations.

Campbell Sunshine Recorder Wooden Bowl by Met OfficeMet Office

Campbell Sunshine Recorder

First constructed by John Frances Campbell in 1853 using a wooden bowl within which a water filled sphere was placed. A ribbon was attached to the inside or the bowl was painted with black oil paint or varnish which was burnt by the rays of the sun.

Campbell-Stokes Sunshine Recorder Mk II (1943) by Met OfficeMet Office

Campbell-Stokes Sunshine Recorder Mk II

Sir Gabriel Stokes modified the original Campbell sunshine recorder of 1853 and in 1879 produced the first Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder which used solid glass globes.

The rays of the sun burn holes on to cards from which sunshine duration can then be derived.

Kipp and Zonen Pyranometer Model CM11 by Met OfficeMet Office

Kipp and Zonen Pyranometer Model CM11

This device is an electrical means of measuring brightness. An agreed critera enables this brightness measure to be converted to a value for the amount of sunshine in a day.

Canvas Sea Temperature Bucket by Met OfficeMet Office

Canvas Sea Temperature Bucket

Solid walled canvas bucket with 'trap door' type system in the lid for taking a sample of sea water from which the sea temperature can then be recorded. Modern sea temperature buckets now have rubberised walls. 

Open Stevenson Screen with Thermometers by Met OfficeMet Office

Marine temperature screen

The marine thermometer screen is designed mainly for use on board ship.

The screen can house a pair of mercury-in-glass thermometers, electrical resistance thermometers or both.

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