Surfacestation, Santon Downham

Posted: April 8, 2013 by tchannon in Analysis, Surfacestation


Santon Downham, Suffolk, believed Forestry Commission site, station is probable replacement for RAF/USAF Lakenheath airbase (was 9km SW).

52.459127 0.671120, Bing maps image, Google maps image
Altitude 7 metres (Google)

[updated before publishing]

Estimated Class 3, fails class two on 20% hardstanding withn 30 metres, plus buildings same.

Estimated Class 4, fails class 3 on 12.9% hardstanding within 10 metres, WMO limit 10%. This is a change shown by Bing maps post 2007 Google image, new roadway.

UHI, slight local, otherwise typical inland East Anglia.

After writing this minor site article I decided to add a Microsoft maps image since that is popular with some readers. This revealed the site has changed post the 2007 Google image. Site change is rarely for the better.

Given the projection using the Microsoft image for estimation would be very difficult so I have estimated the location of a new roadway on the Google image.


Left image (c)Google, right image (c)Microsoft

Above, I’ve roughly mangled the two images to visually comparable.

We thank the two respective companies, Google and Microsoft and their providers as stated in the project main document for non-commercial public interest usage. Images are available via a web browser or Google Earth.

This met site is one of many alternate networks used by the Met Office.

It came to my attention when cited as the hottest in the UK 7th April 2013, 11.3C, a very minor issue but a look to see if there is a local reason is usually worth the effort, although I rarely bother writing these up.

In this case a more formal station not far away reveals the likely reason. The weather at the moment is strange, at the end of a long fight over winter blocking conditions.

The winds have been from the east or northeast for weeks bringing icy blasts. It was a cool sunny day. The wind went unstable and swung round to the south and dropped a little around the middle of the day.


Click chart for full size (200k). I’ve put a red arrow showing roughly the site location. The high is about to lose it’s identity, otherwise there is little notable. (visit the following where charts timed either side are available)

Archived charts are kindly provided by

I am presuming this explains a minor heat spike as heated air came in at this site from the hardstanding and sun warmed objects stored. Note though the Google image is dated 2007, site might be significantly different today.

WMO Class 3 is marked < 1C error

WMO Class 4 is marked < 2C error and I guess this is much smaller. Of no great significance. Lakenheath if typical of operational bases would have been poor when operational.

I note that this is yet another site with a met enclosure where the Stevenson screen is up against the south fence instead of the common sense in the middle of the short grass, the intent of an enclosure. (unless I have mistaken what is the screen, middle south side is common)


Has now appeared as coldest night (I don’t check every day on these day figures)

24 hours ending 2200 on 21 Apr 2013:
UK Highest max 0900-2100 15.5 °C Holbeach
Lowest max 0900-2100 7.3 °C Sennybridge
Lowest min 2100-0900 -4.2 °C Santon Downham
Highest rainfall 2100-2100 27.0 mm Achnagart
Sunniest 2100-2100 11.3 hours Manston
Last updated: 0002 on Mon 22 Apr 2013


Post is part of Talkshop Surfacestations project (top menu).

Article by Tim Channon, co-moderator.

  1. dave ward says:

    I often visit the picnic area about 2/3rds of a mile to the SE. As this village is right in the middle of Thetford forest, most of which is mature conifers grown for commercial timber, it can be a proper sun trap. Here in Norwich we’ve had miserable easterlies for weeks, but I’ll wager that those effects won’t be as noticeable at Santon Downham. I don’t think there is any way of getting a closer look at the screen from public land – whether the FC would be happy for a visitor to access the the site I’m not sure. I could always make a phone call…

  2. tchannon says:

    Jealous, looks a pleasant place on a sunny day.

    It’s a minor site Dave, not synoptic nor normally cited. I expect the Met Office view it as typical of the area, which it will be but not if the record is joined with Lakeheath. Quite possibly the more important record from their point of view is rainfall.

    Even if you asked it is a whole different matter getting permission for access to take photographs which will be published. I have some critical photos of sites which I cannot use for various reasons. What then, I know but I can’t show the evidence.

    Sadly there have been problems with gauges being stolen, brasswork, so now plastic is common. Tampering generally is problematic, all stupidity with side effects such as leading to secretive behaviour.

  3. tchannon says:

    Minor update on post. Coldest night.

  4. dave ward says:

    This might be of interest:

    I’m fairly certain that the station is located where I’ve indicated on this screenshot from Google Earth:
    Co-ordinates to help: 52°40’42.36″ N 1°16’44.65″ E
    [mod edit: link to Bing maps –Tim]

    If so, it’s a reasonable distance from the main runway – however, Gas Rig helicopters use the nearby taxiway for practice, so there is the risk of extra heat in Northerly wind conditions.

  5. tchannon says:

    You are correct. Located that one recently but did not do an article.

    It’s actually a recent station. Should be fine apart from any UHI from the nearby urban area, Norwich is very close to the south

    Google does not have recent enough images, Microsoft do but it is awkward doing accurate ellipses on the MS inclined projection.

    Here we are
    24 hours ending 2200 on 24 Apr 2013:
    UK Highest max 0900-2100 21.4 °C Norwich Airport
    Lowest max 0900-2100 8.1 °C Fair Isle
    Lowest min 2100-0900 2.5 °C Loch Glascarnoch
    Highest rainfall 2100-2100 16.4 mm Dunstaffnage
    Sunniest 2100-2100 9.1 hours Kirkwall
    Last updated: 0002 on Thu 25 Apr 2013

    I’ve not been doing many stations for various reasons, including not wanting to deluge the blog with low interest content as far as most readers are concerned.

  6. tchannon says:

    And figuring again

    24 hours ending 2200 on 28 Apr 2013:
    UK Highest max 0900-2100 14.9 °C Gringley On The Hill
    Lowest max 0900-2100 6.4 °C Dalwhinnie
    Lowest min 2100-0900 -3.9 °C Santon Downham
    Highest rainfall 2100-2100 15.6 mm Cluanie Inn
    Sunniest 2100-2100 12.2 hours Herstmonceux
    Last updated: 0001 on Mon 29 Apr 2013

  7. tchannon says:

    24 hours ending 2200 on 3 May 2013:
    UKHighest max 0900-2100 20.8 °C St James Park
    Lowest max 0900-2100 4.5 °C Cluanie Inn
    Lowest min 2100-0900 -2.6 °C Santon Downham
    Highest rainfall 2100-2100 47.2 mm Tyndrum
    Sunniest 2100-2100 13.9 hours Wattisham
    Last updated: 0001 on Sat 4 May 2013