A six decade-love affair with the weather
13:53 11 August 2014
Archant © 2014
A 60-year love affair with the weather shows no sign of abating for Norman Brooks. And you might be surprised about his verdict on the extreme weather we’ve been having this summer. Reporter DAVID BALE met him at his home in Old Costessey.
Name: Norman Brooks
Marital status: Married to Marie Jeanne, two children, two grandchildren
Favourite spot: His back garden
Hobby: amateur meteorologist who keeps records to Met Office standards
Weatherman Norman Brooks has taken about 20,000 readings in his 60 years recording the temperatures.
He has kept all his ledgers and books going back to 1954, when he started, and said he was too “bloody-minded” to start on computers now.
“There was still rationing in Britain back then in 1954,” he said.
Whilst compiling his Weather Watch feature for the Norwich Evening News last month, he said: “I hope I can be forgiven for adding that on June 30 I completed 60 years of continuous twice-daily observations of all elements of the weather.”
The 76-year-old, who has been writing the Weather Watch column in the Evening News for more than a decade, became interested in the weather when he was a boy back in 1947.
It was one of the coldest winters in history, and the drama of it all captured the young lad’s imagination.
“It was so dramatic for a youngster and sparked my interest. The drama of it - the frost and the snow.
“There’s always a drama to the weather. You take the development of a thunderstorm or snow. You get to see the colours of the sky. You can follow the sunrises and sunsets - it’s quite poetic.
“And it grows on you - the more you do it. It’s interesting comparing the seasons.”
Born in London, he was living in Somerset in 1947 when his interest in the weather was piqued.
He started keeping records in 1954 in Bath. When he moved to Wiltshire he continued and he was still doing it when he and his French-born wife Marie Jeanne moved to Old Costessey in the early 1970s.
His arrival coincided with a torrential downpour.
He said: “My great claim to fame is, just when I moved here, on July 31, 1972. 5.46inches of rain fell in just over two hours. It was the heaviest daily rainfall in the British Isles on that specific day.”
The hottest day he has recorded was 34.4C on June 26, 1976. The coldest day was -5.3C on January 12, 1987, while the coldest night was -14.5C on January 28, 1979. All those figures were recorded at his home in Old Costessey.
The lowest temperatures he ever recorded were in Wiltshire, where he was living in 1963, he said.
Keeping weather records for the Met office and media including the Norwich Evening News has meant that someone has always had to take the readings in his garden, at 9am, so when he’s not there someone else has to do it.
His son has taken on the duties previously, but Mr Brooks said he once, unfortunately, smashed one of the expensive Met Office thermometers.
He said: “It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. The Met Office supplied me with the recording equipment in my garden, although I no longer record it for them. You’ve got to be pretty much on the ball.”
Of current weatherman he has a soft spot for Jim Bacon, from the UEA-based Weatherquest.
“He’s one of the old school. He’s a real enthusiast. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.
“When I came to Norwich the climatic research unit was opening at the UEA. I met Professor Hubert Lamb, who was its founder and first director, and I got to know him well. He taught me an awful lot.”
Being a weatherman you got asked a lot about global warming, he said, which required a great deal of tact.
“There has been a certain amount of warming for the last 200 years, but I don’t think it’s catastrophic.
“People talk about the recent floods, but during the second world war, in about 1943, when I lived in the Somerset levels, it was like it then.”
Mr Brooks described the flash floods we experienced last month as “actually very normal” for this time of year.
“What has been very significant for quite a few years is how few thunderstorms there have been,” he said.
“The weather we are now having is more normal than what we have been experiencing in recent years.
“This unsettled weather with a few fine days and then a thunderstorm is a very typical British summer.
“The unusual thing has been the lack of thunder in recent years.”
He added that he thought this weather pattern may continue for a number of years.
“The weather always comes in cycles,” he said.
“It is only a hunch but I think we may have reverted back to normality.
“It may go on for five, six, or seven years. The pendulum has swung the other way back to normality again.”
Mr Brooks said he had no intention of quitting as a weatherman. “While you are still mobile it’s something you can continue to do. Some people continue into their 90s.”
The weather may be his great hobby, but in between he has worked as a librarian in Wiltshire, and for the Ministry of Defence, partly as an administration officer, at Swanton Morley.