World Stamps

Royal Mail celebrates British meteorology with Feb. 1 set

Feb 14, 2024, 9 AM
Great Britain’s Royal Mail issued a set of eight stamps Feb. 1 to mark the 170th anniversary of the United Kingdom’s national weather service, known as the Met Office. The stamps highlight advances in weather forecasting during the last two centuries.

By David Hartwig

Great Britain’s Royal Mail marks the 170th anniversary of the United Kingdom’s national weather service, known as the Met Office, with a set of eight stamps depicting the history, science and future of weather forecasting. The stamps were issued Feb. 1.

“The British love to talk about the weather,” David Gold, director of external affairs and policy at Royal Mail, said. “It is a national obsession. Whether we are fishermen heading out to sea, farmers planning the harvest, or staycationers worried about losing our tent to the winds, people of all ages want to know whether it will be sunny or wet, hot or cold. These stamps celebrate the people and the science behind the weather forecast.”

The stamps, presented in four se-tenant (side-by-side) pairs, showcase advances in weather forecasting over the last two centuries, from the meteorologist who classified clouds in 1803 to the supercomputers and satellites that help track weather today.

The right side of each stamp includes the silhouette of King Charles III at the top, captions explaining what is pictured at left, and the denomination at the bottom.

Each se-tenant pair includes two stamps with the same service inscription or denomination.

One pair is valued at the second-class rate (currently 75 pence), one at the first-class rate (currently £1.25), one at £2 (the international economy rate for letters up to 100 grams), and one at £2.20 (the international standard rate).

The stamp pairs follow a chronological order, going from second class, first class, £2 to £2.20.

One second-class stamp pictures Luke Howard, a London pharmacist who in 1803 classified clouds using Latin words.

Now, more than two centuries later, we still call clouds by the names Howard devised.

The remaining second-class stamp features the storm barometer of Robert FitzRoy, who founded what is now the Meteorological Office (or Met Office) in 1854.

FitzRoy established a network of observation stations that detected storms approaching the British Isles and disseminated this information using telegraph technology. According to Royal Mail, FitzRoy coined the term “forecast.”

The two first-class stamps portray events that occurred in the early part of the 20th century.

One shows people and a weather balloon from a photograph taken during the 1910-12 Terra Nova expedition to Antarctica led by Robert Falcon Scott. The study of extreme weather was a central feature of the expedition.

The other first-class stamp shows a marine buoy. These buoys collect data for the Shipping Forecast, a weather report for the seas around the British Isles.

The Shipping Forecast bulletins have become a routine part of British radio broadcasts since they began in 1924.

Royal Mail says in the presentation pack for the stamp issue, “Over the years, people would become increasingly familiar with these bulletins, which were transmitted twice a day, each day of the year.” Currently, the Shipping Forecast airs four times a day.

Royal Mail points out how weather forecasts became a component of modern warfare during World War II.

Before the planned date of the D-Day invasion in 1944, a team of meteorologists headed by James Stagg warned military leadership of impending bad weather conditions, leading to the invasion being moved from June 5 to June 6.

A £2 stamp commemorates these meteorologists.

New meteorological tools came into use following World War II. The Met Office began to integrate radar technology in the 1950s, and, in 1959, the office purchased a computer, known by the name of Meteor, that could make 3,000 calculations a second.

The remaining £2 stamp commemorates radar and computers.

A £2.20 stamp marks another milestone in how Britons learned about the weather.

The stamp pictures Barbara Edwards, who in 1974 became Britain’s first female weather presenter on television. Edwards paved the way for other women in meteorology, including her niece, former Canadian weather presenter Claire Martin.

Martin told Royal Mail about her aunt’s impact: ...

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