Climate

Photo:Damaged Chain Pier, 1896: The Chain Pier was damaged by the storm in 1896 and in this photograph the Palace Pier, which was then under construction, can be seen in the background.

Damaged Chain Pier, 1896: The Chain Pier was damaged by the storm in 1896 and in this photograph the Palace Pier, which was then under construction, can be seen in the background.

Image reproduced with kind permission from Brighton and Hove in Pictures by Brighton and Hove City Council

Photo:Storm at Brighton Marina, 1988: Stormy sea breaking over the Marina sea wall. Photograph Copyright Evening Argus.

Storm at Brighton Marina, 1988: Stormy sea breaking over the Marina sea wall. Photograph Copyright Evening Argus.

Image reproduced with kind permission from Brighton and Hove in Pictures by Brighton and Hove City Council

Meteorological details

Reproduced with permission from the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder, 1990

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

The virtues of Brighton's climate were first specifically expounded in the 1761 guide book of Dr Anthony Relhan where he suggested that the air was healthy and free from perspiration due to the then lack of trees and rivers, and to the town's situation on a bed of absorbent chalk. The healthy bracing air and above average sunshine, with cooling sea breezes in the summer, played a large part in the establishment of the town as a health resort in the late eighteenth century. {2,71-73}
Meteorological figures have been recorded by the corporation since 1877, principally by the water department. Unfortunately, because of vandalism the town's weather station was shut down from April 1981 until August 1983 and has had to be re-sited. In the period from 1958 to 1990 the following mean figures (the most important for the tourist trade) have been recorded (but note that average annual rainfall varies from around 740 mm. by the coast to 1,000 mm. at Ditchling Beacon) {308}:

a) STORMS: Although Brighton generally has a mild climate without extremes, it has long suffered from the severity of occasional gales and storms. On the other hand, ships and cargoes washed up onto the Brighton beaches during storms provided a valuable source of income for the town's wreckers.

The great storm of October 1987 caused damage on a scale which had not been seen for over 250 years. Unsettled weather had prevailed for over a week, and torrential rain over 7-9 October twice caused the New Barn area of Rottingdean to be inundated by up to three feet of mud and slime washed from nearby fields. However the progress of a deepening depression over the Channel took everyone by surprise and in the early hours of Friday 16 October the whole of the south of England was subjected to continuous force ten winds with gusts of up to 113 m.p.h. Thousands of houses suffered considerable structural damage particularly to fences, roofs and chimney pots, and many shop-windows were destroyed. Lorries and cars were overturned on the sea-front and a stone minaret was sent crashing through the ceiling of the recently restored Royal Pavilion Music Room. The situation was made more critical by lengthy electrical power cuts, blocked roads, and the withdrawal of buses and trains. The greatest legacy, however, was the considerable change in the landscape caused by the uprooting of over 2,500 mature urban trees, some 15% of the total, particularly in the Valley Gardens and the town's numerous parks. Since the mid 1970s Brighton Council has operated a strict Dutch Elm disease control policy in the town and the 20,000 or so elm trees were the only large concentration remaining in the country, but overnight the woodland in many areas, which had stood for 150 years or more, was decimated. A succession of severe storms followed just over two years later at the beginning of 1990, especially on 25 January when winds blew up to 104 m.p.h. These caused severe damage to the Undercliff Walk and other sea-defences. {123}

The worst storm in recorded history was probably the Great Channel Storm of 26 November 1703 which is estimated to have killed 8,000 people in England {299}. Over a period of eight hours at Brighton a number of houses were demolished or lost their roofs, the town windmills were flattened, several boats and crews were lost, and the lead was ripped from the roof of the parish church. Less than two years later a storm of only slightly less intensity, on 11 August 1705, again stripped the church roof and buried the remaining tenements of the Lower Town beneath a bank of shingle.

Other destructive storms have included 15 December 1806 when much of the Marine Parade cliff top was washed away from Lower Rock Gardens to Royal Crescent; 23 November 1824 when Pool Valley was inundated; 29 November 1836 when the Chain Pier was wrecked; 5 August 1848 when a whirlwind and water-spout passed over the town, scattering bathing machines and uprooting everything in its path; 17 July 1850 when a thunderstorm inundated the Valley Gardens and Pool Valley was flooded to a depth of nearly six feet; 18 January 1881 when a snowstorm produced drifts of up to eight feet in the town; 4 December 1896 when the Chain Pier and Rottingdean Railway were wrecked; June 1910 when an eight-hour thunderstorm produced a state of shock in many people; and 8 December 1967 when continuous heavy snow in the morning brought the whole town to a standstill with drifts several feet deep. {6,8,15,115,123}
The virtues of Brighton's climate were first specifically expounded in the 1761 guide book of Dr Anthony Relhan where he suggested that the air was healthy and free from perspiration due to the then lack of trees and rivers, and to the town's situation on a bed of absorbent chalk. The healthy bracing air and above average sunshine, with cooling sea breezes in the summer, played a large part in the establishment of the town as a health resort in the late eighteenth century. {2,71-73}
Meteorological figures have been recorded by the corporation since 1877, principally by the water department. Unfortunately, because of vandalism the town's weather station was shut down from April 1981 until August 1983 and has had to be re-sited. In the period from 1958 to 1990 the following mean figures (the most important for the tourist trade) have been recorded (but note that average annual rainfall varies from around 740 mm. by the coast to 1,000 mm. at Ditchling Beacon) {308}:

a) STORMS: Although Brighton generally has a mild climate without extremes, it has long suffered from the severity of occasional gales and storms. On the other hand, ships and cargoes washed up onto the Brighton beaches during storms provided a valuable source of income for the town's wreckers.

The great storm of October 1987 caused damage on a scale which had not been seen for over 250 years. Unsettled weather had prevailed for over a week, and torrential rain over 7-9 October twice caused the New Barn area of Rottingdean to be inundated by up to three feet of mud and slime washed from nearby fields. However the progress of a deepening depression over the Channel took everyone by surprise and in the early hours of Friday 16 October the whole of the south of England was subjected to continuous force ten winds with gusts of up to 113 m.p.h. Thousands of houses suffered considerable structural damage particularly to fences, roofs and chimney pots, and many shop-windows were destroyed. Lorries and cars were overturned on the sea-front and a stone minaret was sent crashing through the ceiling of the recently restored Royal Pavilion Music Room. The situation was made more critical by lengthy electrical power cuts, blocked roads, and the withdrawal of buses and trains. The greatest legacy, however, was the considerable change in the landscape caused by the uprooting of over 2,500 mature urban trees, some 15% of the total, particularly in the Valley Gardens and the town's numerous parks. Since the mid 1970s Brighton Council has operated a strict Dutch Elm disease control policy in the town and the 20,000 or so elm trees were the only large concentration remaining in the country, but overnight the woodland in many areas, which had stood for 150 years or more, was decimated. A succession of severe storms followed just over two years later at the beginning of 1990, especially on 25 January when winds blew up to 104 m.p.h. These caused severe damage to the Undercliff Walk and other sea-defences. {123}

The worst storm in recorded history was probably the Great Channel Storm of 26 November 1703 which is estimated to have killed 8,000 people in England {299}. Over a period of eight hours at Brighton a number of houses were demolished or lost their roofs, the town windmills were flattened, several boats and crews were lost, and the lead was ripped from the roof of the parish church. Less than two years later a storm of only slightly less intensity, on 11 August 1705, again stripped the church roof and buried the remaining tenements of the Lower Town beneath a bank of shingle.

Other destructive storms have included 15 December 1806 when much of the Marine Parade cliff top was washed away from Lower Rock Gardens to Royal Crescent; 23 November 1824 when Pool Valley was inundated; 29 November 1836 when the Chain Pier was wrecked; 5 August 1848 when a whirlwind and water-spout passed over the town, scattering bathing machines and uprooting everything in its path; 17 July 1850 when a thunderstorm inundated the Valley Gardens and Pool Valley was flooded to a depth of nearly six feet; 18 January 1881 when a snowstorm produced drifts of up to eight feet in the town; 4 December 1896 when the Chain Pier and Rottingdean Railway were wrecked; June 1910 when an eight-hour thunderstorm produced a state of shock in many people; and 8 December 1967 when continuous heavy snow in the morning brought the whole town to a standstill with drifts several feet deep. {6,8,15,115,123}

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

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