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Home > Weather In History – 100BC to 499AD

(T: warm/cold events; R: dry/wet events; S: 'stormy' events)

 Date T R S  Description  Ref:
 100BC - 499AD
 55 & 54 BC  Julius Caesar's first invasion of Britain (late summer 55BC) was hampered by persistent, often strong northwest winds, though he did obtain a toe-hold in Kent. This was probably only a recconaisance visit anyway, but a 'storm' some four days after landfall wrecked many boats already drawn up onshore, and also dispersed & damaged (or wrecked) many of the supply vessels coming across the Channel from Gaul (France). After further setbacks, Caesar decided to abandon any further incursion into southern Britain as the 'equinox was near', (i.e. late September). This was sound judgement. The second (and more successful) attempt the following year (summer) was 'weather delayed' (TEC): landing and incursions were most successful, but his support fleet fell victim to a 'violent storm' - about 40 ships were wrecked and others seriously damaged. By late summer / early autumn, it became clear that Caesar had not established sufficient control, and he evacuated the legions to Gaul 'as the equinox was at hand'; even then, the weather played a part in preventing cross-Channel operations. However, the weather did relent sufficiently to allow evacuation.
(You have to ask whether these conditions were 'unusual' - was it simply that the Mediterranean commanders were simply frustrated by 'usual' British / Channel weather as the European monsoon kicked in! - see for example, 1066, or were depression tracks a lot further south than we 'normally' think is the case.)
 AD4  Coloured Rain (usually an indicator of a major volcanic eruption in the weeks before the event); said to have lasted 5 hr.  8, LWH
 AD7 (or 9)  First recorded Thames flood - just what sort of settlement there was along the Thames is not given: it may be that the warming / drying in place since 200BC had by this time encouraged a sizeable settlement (or several) close to a lowering river, so any out of sequence high-rainfall event would lead to such an event. Equally, a storm-surge could have been responsible, and this is suggested by Brooks & Glasspoole as the source of this event. Of course, as we know from modern events, the two often go together: wind-driven surges are made more damaging where high volumes of land-water are cascading downstream against the incoming tide. [ NB: the Thames in the area of what is now central London would have looked nothing like it does today; probably wider (at least twice current width), and shallower, with islets dividing the flow, across which wood/bridge structures would have been set. The Thames would have flooded relatively easily given this topography, especially as it would have been tidal for a considerable distance inland - such flooding would not necessarily have been regarded as a 'disaster' in the modern-day sense of the word. ]  8, LWH
 AD14  River Severn FLOOD: great DAMAGE. (no details as to whether this was purely a RAIN-driven flood, or in combination with with a storm-surge.  LWH
 AD15  GALE & SEA FLOOD along North Sea coast; many roman soldiers DROWNED in northerly GALE.  LWH
 North Sea GALES; roman fleet scattered, many ships lost. [ I wonder if there is confusion here with the event listed as AD15? ]  LWH
 AD18  Possible Severe Gale/storm. (noted as a 'Hurricane' in some references .. no dates given). Much damage at what is now Westminster; (though what was at the site then is not clear: probably no more than a settlement of 'Wattle & Daub' dwellings - albeit with 'high-status' elements given the location. Given the structure of homes at the time, even a 'Severe Gale' would have caused fairly extensive damage, let alone a 'hurricane'!)  8
 AD40  England: STORMS - RAIN, HAIL & "strange lightning" ruined corn.  LWH
(but possibly AD38)
 A notable Thames flood - no details given, but on balance, climatologists think this was due to high rainfall (but see below). Several thousand people were drowned, though it is thought that the figure of 10000 is a gross exaggeration. (However, the Environment Agency has the following entry: " 10,000 people drowned along the East Coast and Thames Estuary", and the note is published in connection with the 1953 East Coast Floods - this implies a tidal/storm-surge.)  8
(extended Winter)
  England: SEVERE WINTER; all rivers & lakes froze from November to April. If this is literally correct, it would indeed be a significantly COLD event.  LWH
 AD60  Britain (& France): Sea FLOODS; great 'STORM' floods.  LWH
 AD67  England: GALE - 'Hurricane' killed many. 15000 houses fell.  LWH
 AD68/69  Britain: RAIN & DROUGHTS (?); famine lasted 2 years with many thousands dying of hunger.  LWH
 AD69  Lightning is supposed to have destroyed part of London - but very tenuous accounts. (only 20 or so years into the Roman period in southern Britain .. )  8
 ~AD80  A severe winter (year not known exactly: it may have been any of the winters between 77 & 84).  8
 AD89  England(?); COLOURED RAIN - "blood rain" for 3 days. [ Implies a major volcanic event somewhere.]  LWH
 AD107  Britain: RAIN - heavy for 9 months, then FAMINE.  LWH
 AD134  Possible severe winter. Thames noted as being frozen over for two months. (However, rid your mind of the Thames as it is today - it would have been a meandering, much wider & perhaps slower moving affair in London than now).  8, LWH
 AD139  Drought (possible). Thames dried up for two days !? (see notes elsewhere about the character of the Thames .. not impossible).  8, LWH
late 1st & through 2nd Century AD  By the end of the 1st Century or early 2nd Century AD, a high frequency of anticyclonic types, with weaker (and/or less 'focussed') jet: the Polar vortex probably warmer (or less intense).  1
 AD153  Possible severe winter. Chroniclers (Roman I guess by this time) say a 'severe frost' for nearly three months. Makes you wonder if they were comparing with Italian conditions - severe winters may have been 'normal' for this time in the Celtic/Roman lowlands of 'England'. Again, Thames noted as being 'frozen over'.  8, LWH
 AD173  Possible severe winter. 'Frost for three months' (London/South - probably across England more widely).  8, LWH
 AD214  FLOOD - River Trent overflowed 20 miles wide each side.  LWH
 AD220  Possible severe winter. Severe frost lasting for 5 (!) months (London/South & possibly more widely across England).  8, LWH
 AD233  Scotland - RAIN for 7 months (presumably excessive) - FAMINE followed.  LWH
 AD234  Canterbury (Kent) - GALE / date not known / STORM blew down 200 houses. Given this effect, the storm must have affected a greater area of at least the SE of England.  LWH
 AD245  Lincolnshire - SEA FLOOD - 1000's acres lost permanently to the sea.  LWH
 AD249  England - COLOURED RAIN - 'blood rains' in many places; 'bloody sword' after sunset.  LWH
 AD250  Possible severe winter. Tidal R. Thames frozen for 9 weeks (some sources say 5 weeks). One of the earliest recorded instances - presumably Roman tax (or similar) rolls. However, there is considerable doubt about the exact year, some quote 230, others 250 - 252.  8
 AD253  Possible severe gale / storm. 900 houses blown down in London.  8
 AD270 - 300  Several 'sea incursions' in the southern North Sea: implies storm surges of some sort - probably the first signs of the climate change at the end of the Romano-Celtic 'benign' era.  1
 AD277  Possible severe gale/storm. Several people killed (in London?)  8
 Possible severe winter. Most rivers in Britain frozen for nine weeks (some references have only 6 weeks, though even this smaller figure would have been significant); date uncertain. (Must have been a major event if the phrase "most rivers in Britain" is an accurate description (Roman Britain?) - a severe winter indeed!)  8, LWH
 A severe winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb)  1
 AD324  England: coloured rain - 'rain of blood' for 6 hours in Somerset.  LWH
 Possible severe winter. Most rivers frozen for six weeks. Deep snow in Wales. ( However, year may be 359. )  8, LWH
 Britain: SNOW - up to 15 feet deep lay 6 weeks.  LWH
 AD349  England: gale - 420 houses fell, Carlisle. Many killed.  LWH
 AD353  " A great flood in Cheshire, 5000 persons and an innumerable quantity of cattle perished." (origin in doubt).  x
 A severe winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb); In Scotland, the frost thought to have been 'continuous' for 14 weeks. There may be some confusion with the winter of 329 (see above).  1,
 AD362  Drought (possible). London Weather says ... "severe drought".  8
 AD374  Drought (possible).  8
 AD400 - 440  Frequent storminess in the North Sea: English Channel coastal changes. About this time, there may have been a sudden cooling, or weather pattern change.  1
 A COLD winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb)  1
 Winter: AD 406/407  Possibly a SEVERE WINTER, at least in near 'western Europe': 'Germanic' tribes apparently crossed a frozen Rhine at Mainz on the last day of 406 to invade former Roman provinces in Gaul / France. Implies bitterly cold, easterly regime for some time beforehand, which must have impacted some part of these islands.  16
 A SEVERE winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb)  1
 A COLD winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb)  1
 AD436  Ireland: A 'huge' SNOW.  LWH
 AD439  Several chroniclers refer to a famine in 439 and some state that it was a year of DROUGHT.  8
 Britain: DROUGHT then FAMINE.  LWH
 A SEVERE winter. (Easton, in CHMW/Lamb)  1
 AD470  Scotland: RAIN - 10 months.   LWH
 AD474  Possible severe winter. Four months with 'great' snow.  8, LWH
 AD479  Possible FLOOD in (and around) London, but considerable doubts surround this, both as to date and details of the event. Given that the text mentions 'extending 10 miles above & below London', this tends to suggest a Thames-based flood, possibly a tidal-surge aggravated by high inland RAINFALL, but this is highly speculative.  8


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