We have studied the magnetic properties of the Co/Cu(110) system at 300K, using the magneto-optic Kerr effect. After a given deposition of Co in the thickness range 5ML<dCo<40ML, the M-H loop is observed to evolve continuously in time until the magnetic easy axis has switched 90° from the  to [1–10] direction. We attribute this behaviour to the reversal in sign of the effective in-plane uniaxial anisotropy constant, due to the adsorption of submonolayer quantities of a residual gas from the UHV environment. STM images reveal the growth of elongated Co island structures preferentially oriented along the  direction providing ‘step like’ edge sites for gas adsorption. We find the easy axis can be switched back to the  direction by depositing a submonolayer Cu overlayer, and that for relatively thick Co films (>15ML) the Cu overlayer can cause the magnetisation to take up intermediate angles. We analyse this behaviour using a simple model of the effective anisotropy energies.