Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 59.djvu/300

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
290
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
THE BLUE HILL METEOROLOGICAL OBSERVATORY.
By FRANK WALDO.

METEOROLOGY became established on an independent basis about fifty years ago. With the beginning of a systematic study of the atmospheric conditions there arose a demand for more frequent observations than could be made directly, and, as a result, self-registering meteorological instruments came into use. It was speedily found that the exceedingly sensitive and complicated apparatus necessary for furnishing accurate records of the atmospheric conditions required the services of thoroughly trained and skilful persons in its manipulation. Not only this, but proper exposure of the instruments and careful reduction of their records were necessary. In other words, the generally recognized requirements of a good astronomical observatory must be fulfilled in carrying on the work of a meteorological observatory.

It had long been supposed (and unfortunately is still by many) that any one is competent to make meteorological observations who is able to read a barometer scale or hold a measuring stick in a rainfall basin. The importance of having the instruments automatically record their indications became very generally recognized, if we may judge by the number of self-registering instruments constructed and set in operation, although the considerable cost prevented their general introduction. Then it was that the need for this work of well-trained observers began to be felt. Where meteorology was associated with one of the older physical sciences, such as astronomy, the necessary care was given to the meteorograph; but in most cases, after a brief and generally unsatisfactory trial, the self-recording instruments were kept going in only a perfunctory manner or allowed to fall entirely into disuse. While the necessity for meteorological observations continued, and continuous records became more and more imperatively demanded, yet it was not until the true conditions were fully realized and meteorological observatories comparable with those devoted to astronomical research were built, equipped and manned, that anything like satisfactory atmospheric observations were obtained. Nor was it longer deemed sufficient only to keep up the observation of the meteorological elements; the fact was emphasized that the results must be properly worked up and put into such a form as would best serve the purposes for which they were desired.

Observatories of various degrees of excellence and fitness were established at a number of places, but it was reserved for Professor Heinrich