Unique collection of Ardnamurchan weather data is ‘invaluable’

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The subject of climate change is high on the agenda for governments across the world, just weeks after COP26 and the weather has long been a topic of conversation for all of us, with comments on what’s happening today and what’s forecast for tomorrow often discussed, writes Nic Goddard.

The difference between idle chit chat and real knowledge and understanding though
comes from scientists recording and studying weather over a long period of time.

Strontian-based Professor Eric McVicar who lectures international audiences on the
effects of climate change on the people and ecology of the Arctic, was recently gifted a
unique database of weather recordings from the Ardnamurchan peninsula going back
more than 30 years.

The recordings are the work of retired woodsman, John Sidebottom, who lives in Salen,
near Acharacle.

Mr Sidebottom has taken daily readings of rainfall and temperature as well as noting wind direction and other weather features since the 1980s.

What makes these unique records so invaluable for scientific purposes is that all of the
measurements were taken with the same thermometer and rain gauge giving a constant
degree of accuracy only achieved by using the same instruments.

These meticulously maintained meteorological measurements were previously simply
for Mr Sidebottom’s own records but a period of recent ill health prompted him to
consider what would become of his treasured archives and he contacted his long-time
friend, Professor McVicar, to give them to him.

Professor McVicar explained: ‘I have known John since the 1990s but was totally unaware of these beautifully hand-written records.

‘Data like this is invaluable to scientists and for this reason I have contacted colleagues at the University of the Highlands and Islands who are now seeking funding for a PhD student to analyse the data.

‘Hopefully, we will soon be able to use John’s work to graphically chart the changes in both temperature and rainfall to illustrate the climatic changes since the 1980s here on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula.’

He added: ‘One cannot over emphasise the importance of such data. John Sidebottom is what can only be described as a ‘True Citizen Scientist’ and an inspiration to us all.’