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Tap Your Barometer In Celebration Of 150 Years

Issued at 02:33pm 17-Nov-2003

Tap Your Barometer in Celebration of 150 Years.

Next time you tap a barometer, take note of the weather-words written around the face. In these words there is a kiwi connection and a link to the original conference for international cooperation in meteorology held in Brussels in 1853.

"The kiwi connection comes from Robert FitzRoy", commented MetService Weather Ambassador, Bob McDavitt. "He was New Zealand's second Governor from 1843 to 1845. After the first ever international meteorological conference was held in Brussels in 1853, he was employed by the British Board of Trade to follow up on the conference recommendations."

There had been a spate of shipwrecks on Europe's Atlantic coast during the 1840s and early 1850s. FitzRoy was employed as a "statist" or data-gather, but also set up 24 coastal reporting stations to use electric telegraph to report barometer readings to his office at Lloyds in London. He wrote a manual of 50 pages which set out clearly all that was then known about using barometers. It contained some rhyming advice which he may have come across when he was Captain of the "Beagle" and took Charles Darwin to the Galapagos Islands in the 1830s. For example: "When rise begins after low, squalls expect and clear blow, and long foretold long last, short notice soon past".

The weather-words that are now written around the face of many aneroid barometers give a very brief summary of FitzRoy's manual. Although these words only give a rough idea of the changing weather, they do remind us that there has been international cooperation in meteorology for the past 150 years.

To celebrate this occasion, a special conference is being opened today in Brussels by Professor G.O.P Obasi, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization. More information about this conference can be obtained from the


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