A Short History of COL

Early Days

COL has been publishing monthly reports of the weather for over 45 years, and has around 400 members consisting of amateur meteorologists from all walks of life (and quite a few professionals too), many of whom also maintain their own weather records. You can download an A4 flyer in PDF giving brief details about COL here.

COL can trace its beginnings back to June 1950, when the Royal Meteorological Society's journal Weather carried a letter from an enthusiastic teenage amateur meteorologist from Lancashire, Tom Suttie, enquiring about the possibility of setting up an amateur organisation for the exchange of data. Although there were several responses, no-one felt able to take on the responsibility of organising such a scheme, and Tom felt he was too young to do so.

Old COL logo

The old COL logo

Successful Launch

The idea fizzled out until 19 years later, when in 1969 Leicestershire meteorologist Eric Bonser was looking through some old copies of Weather, saw the June 1950 letter and wrote to Tom asking if anything had become of the original idea. Tom and Eric struck up a friendship, and after several meetings sounded out interest by placing a second ad in Weather. There was plenty of response to the idea of exchanging a monthly bulletin of weather data, and COL's first bulletin covered the weather of May 1970.

Despite the passage of time since then, a good number of the original observers continue to make and contribute their observations to COL today. From day one, COL's main tangible product has been its Monthly Bulletin, normally published around the 20th of the following month, when the previous month's weather is still fresh in the mind.

Since 1993, when the Met Office ceased the publication of its own Monthly Weather Report, the COL Bulletin has been the only source of a comprehensive weather summary for the UK and Ireland.

COL Today

Our Chairman, Stephen Burt, joined COL as a teenager in 1973, and became its second Editor while still at school! COL is much more than a monthly weather stats magazine. Thousands of people make weather records in this country, many in suburban back gardens. Most find their observations and their interest enhanced by sharing and comparing their records with others, whether they be in the next town or on the other side of the world. Our members come from all ages, occupations and walks of life, and all share a common interest. For many, the main benefit of membership is being part of a network of like-minded individuals, and being able to share their interests.

You don't have to keep your own weather records to be a member of COL – an interest in weather is all that is required.

If you have a question about meteorology, climate or even a particular weather event, the COL membership represents a vast body of knowledge and experience in all areas of practical meteorology. Whether you've just bought, or perhaps been given, a new electronic weather station and are looking for help and guidance in setting it up and getting the best out of it, or have been making your own weather records with traditional raingauge and Stevenson screen for many years and are wondering how best to get all your records onto a computer, there are members who can help. We have a lively letters page in each bulletin, and regular regional meetings too."

In September 2011, COL published a professionally-produced 450-page book containing comprehensive weather averages and extremes for almost 250 of its members sites – the first organisation in the world to publish printed climate averages for the new 30 year standard period of 1981-2010.

Joining COL

Having recently published its 500th monthly bulletin, the next milestone is the 50th anniversary in 2020. COL may be now into its forties, but we have plenty of other ideas to keep the organisation fresh and relevant in today's world. We are always keen to welcome new members, from nine to ninety. Whether you have an old Six's thermometer on a north wall, or thousands of pounds worth of sophisticated computer-controlled sensors, whether you are recently retired or just starting junior school, whether you are a professional meteorologist or just 'interested in the weather', get in touch and see what we have to offer! You can join online.

Get in touch

For more details, browse the website, or contact COL's membership secretary, John Goulding, 2 Bridge Court, Normanby, Middlesbrough TS6 0LJ.