Welsh Almanacs: Extreme Weather among History’s Extraordinary Events

This is just one page which has been digitised by The Snows of Yesteryear project in order to research extreme weather in Wales.  The whole collection, which includes almanacs, diaries and various other manuscripts, can be viewed on Flickr (click on the right of your screen).

John Harris 1790 Almanac Carmarthen/Caerfyrddin (National Library of Wales / Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru)

This page, entitled ‘Register of various extraordinary events’, comes from an almanac for the year 1790 compiled by John Harris and printed in Carmarthen (from the National Library of Wales’ archives). The first extraordinary event listed is that it was 5894 years since God created the world which, from the year of printing (1790AD), sets the creation of the world at  4104BC. Among the following events, Harris included many natural phenomena:

4141 years since the water deluge [i.e. flood] [=2351BC]

170 years since there was an earthquake in Britain [=1620AD]

104 years since there was a large and terrible shooting star [=1686AD]

75 years since there was great darkness on the sun [i.e. a solar eclipse] at 9 in the morning [=1715AD]

74 years since the northern lights started [=1716AD]

71 years since there was light like a shaft [or column] of fire [=1719AD]

51 years since there was a great frost, which started on December 24 [=1739AD]

35 years since Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake [=1755AD]

21 years since a large shooting star appeared in the morning [=1769AD]

15 years since there was an earthquake in England and Wales [=1775AD]

The events in bold are indicative of heavy precipitation and low temperatures, considered to be meteorological events. However, the definition of ‘meteorology’ is:

1. The branch of science that deals with atmospheric phenomena and processes, esp. with a view to forecasting the weather.

2. The character of a particular region as regards weather, atmospheric phenomena, etc. (OED, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/117496?redirectedFrom=meteorology#footerWrapper).

Historically, this full definition was embraced to a greater extent than in more recent years. As such, all atmospheric phenomena on this list – the 1686AD and 1769AD shooting stars, 1715AD solar eclipse, 1716AD northern lights and the 1719AD shaft of fire – were considered to be ‘meteorological events’ at the time of printing this Almanac.

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