Thursday 25 January 2024

Weather Forecasting, 170 years of the Meterological Office - 1 February 2024

Royal Mail celebrates the 170th anniversary of the UK Meteorological Office and the history, science and future of Weather Forecasting with a set of eight stamps.

I am very pleased to see that this issue has proper designs, with distinct elements - and captionsIt would have been difficult to fit the anniversary on the stamps - even more difficult to deal with the questions as to why it was the 170th* anniversary being marked.

Luke Howard, classified clouds in 1803 - Storm barometer of Robert FitzRoy.

Terra Nova Expedition - Marine buoys collecting data

Weather observers preparing for D-Day  -  Radar and Computer assisting forecasting in 1950s

Barbara Edwards, first UK female weather presenter - Supercomputers & satellites assiting forecasting.

Royal Mail's write-up:

For most of human history, people regarded weather as a mysterious force of nature. The wind might blow, the rain might fall or the sun might shine, but it all seemed to happen without a clear pattern. 

For centuries, people relied on folk wisdom or the prognostications of astrologers as they sought to find out what was coming next. But then, about two hundred years ago, in Britain, a bold new scientific discipline began to emerge. It would transform our relationship with the atmosphere, making life safer and more enjoyable. Today, we refer to this discipline as weather forecasting. 

2024 marks 170 years since the foundation of the Met Office in 1854, the UK’s national meteorological service. Since its inception, it has pioneered the science of meteorology and its application. Their experts use a wealth of scientific, technological and operational expertise and work around the clock to provide critical weather services to help us make better decisions, stay safe and thrive in our environment. 

Full descriptions 

2nd Class - Luke Howard, pioneer meteorologist, classified clouds in 1803.
2nd Class - Storm barometer of Robert FitzRoy, founder of the Met Office in 1854
1st Class - Terra Nova Expedition studied extreme weather in 1910–12
1st Class - Marine buoys collect data for the Shipping Forecast, first broadcast in 1924 
£2.00 - Weather observers were vital to the success of the D-Day invasion in 1944 
£2.00 - Radar and computers improved forecasting accuracy from the 1950s
£2.20 - Barbara Edwards became the first British female TV weather presenter in 1974 
£2.20 - Supercomputers and satellites help track the Earth’s weather today

Technical Details

Designed by hat-trick design, the 41 x 30 mm stamps are printed in lithography on gummed paper by Cartor Security Printers in sheets of 30. Perforations 14.5 x 14.

Stamp designs © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2024
Images courtesy of the Met Office and/or © Crown Copyright, Met Office 2024 (with a special thank-you to the Met Office National Meteorological Library and Archive), except where noted: 

2nd Class Luke Howard by John Opie, courtesy of the Royal Meteorological Society © Open Government Licence 2024, Met Office; illustration of cloud formations from On the Modifications of Clouds by Luke Howard, 1803; 

2nd Class Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy’s storm barometer, c.1875; Royal Charter storm synoptic chart, 1859; 

1st Class Antarctic weather balloon research, 1911 © Scott Polar Research Institute/Science Photo Library; page from Terra Nova Expedition weather register, May 1911; 

1st Class ODAS (Ocean Data Acquisition Systems) buoy; Shipping Forecast areas, 1924; 

£2.00 observer taking hourly temperature observations from a Stevenson Screen, 1941; synoptic weather chart showing weather conditions on 6 June 1944; 

£2.00 weather radar system, Lincolnshire © John Birdsall Social Issues Photo Library/Science Photo Library; Met Office radar image showing rainfall intensity during Storm Ciara, 9 February 2020; 

£2.20 photograph of Barbara Edwards with a television forecast map, c.1975 © BBC; 

£2.20 illustration of a Meteosat Third Generation geostationary satellite © European Space Agency, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/Science Photo Library; satellite image showing water vapour in the atmosphere © Crown Copyright, Met Office, data: EUMETSAT.

Product List

Set of 8 stamps, presentation pack, first day cover, stamp cards, (total £58.05), and framed stamp set (£34.99).

* So why 170 years - and why not combine it with the centenary of the first broadcast Shipping Forecast?  Maybe in 5 years time there will be no more stamps - or no more subscribers to Royal Mail's new issue service.


  1. Refreshing to have an issue without Miniature Sheets, Collector's Sheets and all the other Paraphernalia

  2. I agree - it's a well-designed issue with distinctly British things to mark. Hopefully, the full pack will connect the anniversaries (three of them if you count Barbara Edwards's first TV broadcast of Jan 1974).

  3. Nice stamps. I would have like them to revert back to the traditional four stamp issue, when British stamps were worth collecting, but I agree at least none of the other ephemera to get in the way. Rather than £2 it might have been nice to see a 95p - then one could do 1st plus 95p for a postcard (as well obviously as the £2,20 option).

  4. Yes, better than we've come to expect lately, just a shame that the captions are sideways not on the level.

  5. Trelantis. A great set.

    1. Sadly as we live in modern times I have none yet. The first PO I tried, the querulous postmistress heard what I sought and then tried to sell me Machin 2nd class barcode stamps and told me they were the latest and had been delivered on the 1st. The next PO told me that she had not heard of them but they had had a delivery of something so I ought to come back on Tuesday when the postmistress would be in. Third Post Office claimed it was closed but the 2 clerks, who spoke little English, had no idea what a commemorative stamp was but told me to 'look at a website.' Fourth one could not understand that I wanted the new 2nd class stamps and tried to sell me Charles £2.20s...Sub post offices seem never to have commemoratives these days.

    2. It's very much hit and miss. If someone in the subPO is interested in stamps, they will know what's coming, what they have in stock and talk to you about it. My local one always has a couple of sheets of each issue and they remember which customers ask for them - last time I was in I wanted a few £2.20 and the postmistress told me they only had the standard KC3 because the then current issue (Spice Girls) didn't have high values and asked if I wanted to wait a few days until the Weather issue came out.
      On the other hand, I have been to SubPOs in other areas on day of issue and been told "We don't bother ordering because nobody ever asks". Which is probably a descending spiral; if people see commemoratives in the PO, they might be inspired to ask next time; if they don't they may not know there is a new issue unless they've seen a press release.
      Given that many people are more likely to buy stamps in booklets from other outlets and not visit a PO unless they are dealing with parcels - the visibility of commemoratives goes down overall. I'd like to see the return of the mixed booklet - the ones that had 4 definitive and 2 commemorative firsts. Not sure how it would fit with the new sizes, would it have to be 2&2 or 6&2?

    3. Well, I finally got the weather ones today, having been sent unexpectedly west of my usual area. I went from the industrial estate to the Crayford library(!) I asked the postmaster there, who knew of them, and tried to sell me a presentation pack. I told him that I wanted just 2nd NVIs so he delved behind the counter and found the commemoratives and; from what I could infer; none had been sold yet - although they have been out for more than a week - as the sheets all looked complete, so I bought one. Hooray! It would help, though, were there any posters announcing them. I had not been optimistic when I had gone in for my undercover researches for this blog...

  6. Good morning Ian, it is nice to see a referenced and well designed set at long last.

  7. A comment elsewhere, someone in Northern Ireland went to a post office there early February to be told that the Weather Forecasting stamps don't come out until the 28th Feb. They had the stamps in stock but said they couldn't sell them until the 28th.

    1. I wonder what they will do on 20th when the Viking invasion starts?


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