Weather the Weather recreates weather conditions of the same day but of past and future years. The work highlights what today's weather was like back in the 1800's or what tomorrow's may feel like in 2080, when today's children are elderly. The weather conditions being recreated are site specific to the work's location. In this case, the work's first showing will be in London (UK) and as part of Being Human Festival: New Worlds 2020.
The weather being replicated not only references scientific data but also cultural works that have influenced and been influenced by the very act of experiencing weather. Four years have been selected to reflect upon how weather's cultural construct has been understood socially and politically in London. Three of these years are set in the past: 1816, 1904 & 1990 with a final year, 2080, venturing into the future.
Weather the Weather went live on:
12th November 2020
10:30 - 12:30 : 1816
13:30 - 15:30 : 1904
13th November 2020
10:30 - 12:30 : 1990
13:30 - 15:30 : 2080
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"Spring advanced rapidly; the weather became fine and the skies cloudless. It surprised me that what before was desert and gloomy should now bloom with the most beautiful flowers and verdure."
"Vivid flashes of lightning dazzled my eyes, illuminating the lake, making it appear like a vast sheet of fire; then for an instant everything seemed of a pitchy darkness, until the eye recovered itself from the preceding flash."
Records speak of villagers surviving on boiled nettles, as harvests failed as a consequence of the explosion.
disruption in Europe. At the time, it was also believed that poor weather was a direct cause of disease with typhus epidemics on the surge in southeast Europe and cholera in Bengal.
The impact of these lived experiences of weather can be traced in what are notable English literature names like Mary Shelley, Byron and Charles Dickens. The latter creating a cultural imaginary of ‘snow’ filled winters which meteorological data across England points to as being rare.
1816 is a glimpse into a distant, yet recent, world where localised weather events had deep impacts on entire ecosystems, at a local and global scale. As Gillen D’Arcy Wood says, “Tambora is a case study in the fragile interdependence of human and natural systems.” A window to a time that, highlights the value of adaptability.
Referred to as ‘the year without summer’ 1816 displayed one of the most extreme weather conditions that Europe has experienced in recent history. In April of 1815, a stratovolcano called Tambora located in the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia, began the largest and most explosive activity recorded in human history. The explosion, heard over 2,000 kilometers away, created darkness for over 600 kilometers, covered the skies with volcanic ash rains for days on end and led to widespread human & wildlife devastation in Sumatra.
The large quantities of sulfur dioxide released into the stratosphere caused agricultural problems worldwide. In the Northern Hemisphere this translated to failed harvests, livestock deaths and the worst famine of the 19th century. Tree-ring reconstructions show that 1816's 'summer', from April to September, was unusually cool & wet, most particularly over Britain.
The wet and cold weather was considered to be deeply threatening, both due to the threat of famine and hence social
Mary Shelley's experience of weather permeates 'Frankenstein', 1818
The Lake, Petworth: Sunset, Fighting Bucks, J.M.W. Turner, 1829
25 February 1816
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation ; and all hearts
Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons ; cities were consumed,
And men were gather'd round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other's face
"Diseases, so far as regards a popular view of them may be divided into two classes - those which are dependent upon atmospherical changes
The present is a season of the year, in which those diseases, the offspring of cold and moisture, are usually prevalent
The contagious diseases of children, also, have, in no inconsiderable degree, been influenced by the state of the weather."
The eruption also led to spectacular sunsets reflected in some of the landscapes J.M. W. Turner depicted. Scientist Christos Zerefos published a paper linking Turner's choice of colours (warm, hazy, charged hues), with the presence of volcanic ash and dust found in the atmosphere.
Handwritten copy & printed version of Lord Byron's Darkness.
Written at Geneva during 1816, Princeton University Library.
“The causes that drive so many of us out of England in the winter time are so familiar that they need not be set forth at large. They are akin to the instinct that regularly impels our feathered migrants to seek more genial skies when the temperature falls, and the cold weather is at hand. We imitate the birds in our flight.”
November 26th, 1904, Winter Migrations, The Lady’s Newspaper
April 4 1904
The Morning Post, The Awakening
April 4 1904
The Morning Post, The Awakening
Accounts of weather in England also start to be linked to a form of nationalism and in this case, as a way of defining the 'englishness' of an Anglo-Saxon person.
"The birth and decay of nature around us, repeated year by year, must impress us a healthy sentiment; and it is probable that we owe our more vigorous sense of duty to these conditions of life. “I never mind the weather,” says the study Anglo-Saxon, after his cheerful habit. But he is in error: the weather has made him what he is, and each revolving season he swings to it.
Spitalfields' soup kitchen in Brune Street, 1900
“It is clouding up.
It must be going to rain.”
This is a remark you may hear constantly, and few people seem to realise that the one thing is by no means a consequence of the other. (...) it is absurd to imagine that because clouds become visible in the sky there are therefore going to discharge their contents upon our head.
(...) some clouds are actually prophets of fine weather."
A stratus cloud
January 5 1904
The Daily News,
Page for the Home: The Household
December 17 1904
The Queen, The Lady’s Newspaper
The Conservatory in Winter
"Special care is needed at this time
- when sunshine is too often
conspicuous by its absence,
and frost reigns at night-
to keep our plants
in health and beauty."
"Until one has assisted
at a soup kitchen oneself,
it is impossible to realise
what winter means for the poor."
“The slight percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere may by the advances of industry be changed to a noticeable degree in the course of a few centuries.”
Quotes by Arrhenius and the lab set-up thought to have led to his conclusions on linking carbon dioxide to climate.
Compared to 1816, this period shows a strong understanding of health and weather from a techno-scientific point of view throughout England. Weather is no longer something to be feared but a phenomena that can be understood, controlled and enjoyed. London newspapers regularly publish extensive advice on how to enjoy weather: from tips for plant’s survival when sunshine is absent, to tips and recommendations on the most favourable weather for ice skating on a frozen river Thames.
Across Europe, weather also begins to be thought of as an interconnected long-term system. It was during this time, over a hundred years ago, that one of the founders of the science of physical chemistry, Svante Arrhenius, developed a series of experiments that demonstrated the effects that changing carbon dioxide concentrations could have on global climate.
“The percentage of carbonic acid in the air must be increasing at a constant rate as long as the consumption of coal, petroleum etc. is maintained at its present figure, and at a still more rapid rate if this consumption should continue to increase as it does now”
Image of 'Burns day storm' that shook the UK on 25 January 1990
On Burn's Night a hurricane hit Northern Europe causing 47 casualties in the UK. Although 1990 was chosen as a baseline weather scenario, no hurricanes have been recorded to hit the UK since.
"Pupils pray for rain.,Their new pond has dried up and the play fields are cracking up."
South Yorkshire Police grapple with the pickets outside the Doncaster NCB headquarters, March 1984. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Weather data for 1990 is extensive, below a daily mean of the temperature recorded at Greenwich, London
choice of 1990 as a baseline year as many of Britain’s coal mines had closed during the 1990s, meaning that emissions had already reduced.
What does it mean then to think of 1990 as ‘normal’ weather? People living in the UK in 1990 were generally shielded from the negative effects of weather, largely due to the advancements in technology and health that 150 years of fossil-fuel dependent development had brought. Newspaper articles from London in 1990 show weather was not necessarily 'normal', with heatwaves, droughts and a hurricane hitting the British Isle.
A key moment in the political history of weather and climate. 1990 is the year agreed at the first United National Framework Convention on Climate Change ‘Conference of Parties’ as the baseline year for carbon dioxide emissions. This was subsequently put into legislation with the Kyoto Protocol, which set national emissions targets in relation to 1990. This year, therefore, represented what ‘normal’ climatic conditions should feel like.
The selection of 1990 was, however, entirely politically motivated. A global recession occurred in the early 90s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This meant that both the former Soviet Union and European Union (containing former East Germany) strongly argued for a 1990 baseline, as reducing emissions was already a likely scenario due to a decline in production rates across all industries. The UK also supported the
September 13, 1990
The Observer, Kenton and Kingsbury, Community News
A heatwave was recorded in March, the warmest temperature
for the month in 19 years.
March 22, 1990
August 15 1990, Gazette Newspaper
An appeal to the public to 'give nature a hand' after a storm damaged a nature reserve. The Gazette now includes a double page spread that is titled "A weekly look at the environment."
The Pixies, Stormy weather 1990
August 30, 1990
The Fall, British people in hot weather, 1990
11 November 2019
View of a flooded village in Doncaster, Fishlake, in South Yorkshire
Image: Tom Maddick/Swns
Share your weather memories at
Covid-19’s lockdown has disrupted work-routines and leisure-activities. Yet, according to studies of recent years, people across the UK spend the majority of their daytime indoors regardless. This translates to a loss of knowledge on two fronts: at a sensorial level, missing out on observational cues of that which surrounds us, but also on a generational one: where weather knowledge is no longer transferred from generation to generation. If you could choose to share a weather memory with future generations what would it be?
Whilst there is no real limit to models - climate models could theoretically produce projections infinitely into the future - 2080 is the furthest projection being modelled by the UK Met Office’s Climate Projections. This year therefore apparently represents the limit at which the UK’s national weather service can imagine into the future at this time. And, although 2080 is perhaps too distant for some of us, those growing up and being born today are likely to experience the weather in 60 years time. What would it be like, therefore, to experience the projected weather of a year so far beyond imagination yet within some of our futures?
There are many imaginaries of future weather nowadays; from apocalyptic visions to geo-engineered scenarios. Data suggests that it will be warmer but will the weather be considered a threat, a discomfort, or something that people are entirely shielded from and barely notice?
"It's not raining in London, Kent or Sussex, but our radar says otherwise. The radar is actually picking up a swarm of flying ants across the southeast."
July 18 2020
Map showing swarm of ants that a weather radar confused with rainfall.
Screenshot of a smartphone screen showing Accuweather's update using the devices location to provide users with hyperlocal weather.
"Only routes with walk legs of 5 minutes or less are included, ensuring you reach destination with minimal exposure to the elements."
Transport apps provide alternative routes to avoid weather.
Screenshots of Citymapper, 2020
To help us assess Weather the Weather's impact and improve the showing of the work in the future, we would be grateful if you could take a few moments to fill in an online feedback survey. This survey should take less than 5 minutes and you could win £100 online shopping voucher by entering the prize draw. The survey is confidential and your answers will be kept completely anonymous.
Weather the weather is a collaboration between artist Inés Cámara Leret, Dr George Adamson and Dr Tamsin Edwards as well as the team at JB Thornes LabDr Francis O'Shea, Dr Bruce Main and Dr Kate Old, who have generously supported the development of the work.
The work was developed during the King's artist in residence programme supported by Culture, the Geography Department and the JBT Lab at King's College London. The first showing of the work is part of the Being Human festival, the UK’s only national festival of the humanities, taking place 12–22 November. Led by the School of Advanced Study,University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. For further information please see beinghumanfestival.org
To get in touch with us please email: weathertheweather2020 (at) gmail (dot) com