Climatic Research Unit : Data

Monthly Composite Rainfall Series for the UK and Ireland

As a result of extensive work on the construction of long rainfall records in the UK in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Jones, 1980, 1981, 1983 and Tabony, 1980) numerous long-term and homogenous records of monthly precipitation totals have been developed within the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and also the Met Office, principally for the UK but additionally for a number of locations in the Republic of Ireland. Many sites were developed by Dick Tabony at the Met Office in the late 1970s. A copy available within CRU of the report of this work (Tabony, 1980) has been scanned and made available in the references below. Using these series as a base, more extensive networks were developed within CRU in order to reconstruct monthly riverflow values back to at least 1865 for 15 catchments across England and Wales. These riverflow reconstructions are available at together with the areal catchment precipitation totals, also back to 1865.

The riverflow reconstruction work has been documented in a number of reports to the Environment Agency (and one of its predecessors the National Rivers Authority) which together with the Natural Environment Research Council have funded these studies (Jones, 1984; Jones and Lister, 1995, 1997, 1998; Jones et al., 2004, 2006). These papers and reports give the number of rain gauges used through time for each catchment, and also extensively illustrate the effectiveness of this approach to riverflow reconstruction. Only the longest precipitation series are given on this page. Considerably more series were digitized in these projects from the 10-year rainfall books which are available within the Met Office Archives in Exeter. More details about the 10-year rainfall books and their use are given in Appendix F of von Christierson et al. (2009).

The homogenized precipitation series have also been extensively used in the development of ‘national’ precipitation series for the ‘countries’ within the UK (Wigley et al., 1984; Wigley and Jones, 1987; Gregory et al., 1991; Jones and Conway, 1997; Jones et al., 1997 and Alexander and Jones, 2001).

Documentation about the construction of many of the individual series is included in some of the publications, particularly Tabony (1980) and Jones (1983) and scanned copies of these two publications are reproduced here. Four of the long Irish series are discussed in Briffa (1984). As the data have come from a number of different projects, the formats and background information vary a little. Two data files are the same format and include (1) long monthly precipitation series for the UK and (2) long monthly precipitation series for the Republic of Ireland. The third file (3) contains additional series for the UK, some of which are repeated from (1).

Format of Files (1) and (2)

Header line giving

  1. Identifier, which is either an approximate or the true WMO identifier for the station. Numbers which are negative or numbers that do not end in a double zero are approximate WMO identifiers

  2. Latitude and Longitude values in hundredths of a degree. Negative values for longitude are degrees W. As an example for Bude 5083 and -455 means 50.83N and 4.55W.

  3. Elevation in m is the number right before the station name.

  4. Station Name normally for the last location of the homogenized record.

  5. Country name and the first and last year of the record.

After the header, the monthly totals for each month of each year follow in units of mm*10 with -10 being a missing code value. In these files the annual total has not been calculated.

Format of File (3)

To use stations in this file an additional file giving the name of each station in sequence is needed. In this additional file, the station name is followed by either (a) the latest Met Office rain gauge number for the site followed by the grid reference and elevation (m) of the last location of the site, or (b) followed by an approximate WMO number followed by the latitude and longitude in degrees and the elevation in m.

In the data file, the first and last year of each record is given. After this header, the monthly totals for each month of each year follow in units of mm*10 with -10 being a missing code value. Annual totals are given for some sites followed by a repeat of the year number but not for every site.


Alexander, L.V. and Jones, P.D., 2001: Updated precipitation series for the United Kingdom. Atmospheric Science Letters 1, 142150 (doi:10.1006/asle.2001.0025).

Briffa, K.R., 1984: Tree-climate relationships and dendroclimatological reconstruction in the British Isles, Unpublished PhD Thesis from the University of East Anglia.

Gregory, J.M., Jones, P.D. and Wigley, T.M.L., 1991: Precipitation in Britain: An analysis of area-average data updated to 1989. International Journal of Climatology 11, 331-345.

Jones, P.D., 1980: A homogeneous rainfall record for the Cirencester region. Meteorological Magazine 109, 249-258.

Jones, P.D., 1981: A survey of rainfall recording in two regions of the Northern Pennines. Meteorological Magazine 110, 239-252.

Jones, P.D., 1983: Further composite rainfall records for the United Kingdom. Meteorological Magazine 112, 19-27.

Jones, P.D., 1984: Riverflow reconstruction from rainfall data. Journal of Climatology 4, 171-186.

Jones, P.D. and Lister, D., 1995: Extended flow records at key locations in England and Wales (Phase 1). Report to the National Rivers Authority under Project No. 515/2/N & Y, 82pp.

Jones, P.D. and Conway, D., 1997: Precipitation in the British Isles: An analysis of area average data updated to 1995. International Journal of Climatology 17, 427-438.

Jones, P.D., Conway, D. and Briffa, K.R., 1997: Precipitation variability and drought. In Climates of the British Isles: present, past and future

(M. Hulme and E. Barrow, Eds.), Routledge, London, 197-219.

Jones, P.D. and Lister, D., 1997: Extended flow records at key locations in England and Wales (Phase 2). Report to the Environment Agency. R&D Technical Report W25, 106pp.

Jones, P.D. and Lister, D.H., 1998: Riverflow reconstructions and their analysis on 15 catchments over England and Wales. Int. J. Climatol. 18, 999-1013.

Jones,P.D., Lister, D.H. and Kostopoulou, E., 2004: Reconstructed river Flow Series from 1860s to Present: Updating Previously Reconstructed Series to 2002. Environment Agency Research Report SC030242, 65pp.

Jones, P.D., Lister, D.H., Wilby, R.L. and Kostopoulou, E., 2006: Extended riverflow reconstructions for England and Wales 1865-2002. Int. J. Climatol 26, 219-231.

Tabony, R.C., 1980: A set of homogeneous European rainfall series. Met Office Branch Memorandum Number 104, UK Met Office Library, Exeter.

von Christierson B., Hannaford J., Lonsdale K., Parry S., Rance J., Wade S. and Jones P.D. 2009: Impacts of Long Droughts on Water Resources. Environment Agency Science Report SC040068/SR1, Bristol.

Wigley, T.M.L., Lough, J.M. and Jones, P.D., 1984: Spatial patterns of precipitation in England and Wales and a revised, homogeneous England and Wales precipitation series. Journal of Climatology 4, 1-25.

Wigley, T.M.L. and Jones, P.D., 1987: England and Wales precipitation: A discussion of recent changes in variability and an update to 1985. Journal of Climatology 7, 231-246.

Last updated: July 2014, Phil Jones & Colin Harpham

These datasets are made available under the Open Database License.
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Please use the attribution Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia