First let me get this bit pout of the way:

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Barometer and Weather Guide, by Robert Fitzroy

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Title: Barometer and Weather Guide

Author: Robert Fitzroy

Release Date: December 19, 2007 [EBook #23921]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Robin Monks, Stephen Blundell and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
book was produced from scanned images of public domain material from the Google Print project.)

That didn't hurt, did it?



  1. PREFACE.Many persons have advocated placing barometers at exposed fishing villages; and the Board of Trade has sanctioned the principle of some assistance by Government to a limited extent, depending on the necessity of each case, and other contingencies, such as the care, publicity, and setting of the barometers. It was thought advisable to substitute a few words on the scales of these instruments in place of those usually engraved (which are not the most suitable), and to compile brief and plain information respecting the use of weather-glasses. [The term Weather Glass refers to barometers here. But FitzRoy was also interested in the behaviour of semi-soluble crystals (camphor in alcohol/water with some additional salts added to increase the effect.) These served to alert the observer to Blocking Highs and Lows, decades before both Bjerkenes and thus the theory of "weather fronts" was even born.] The following pages were prepared; but only the first few were intended particularly for this purpose. After writing these, it was suggested that some remarks might be added for the benefit of many persons, especially young officers at sea, and the suggestion was complied with; yet not so as to diminish the portability of this compilation, or increase its price. These remarks, derived from the combined observation, study, and personal experience of various individuals, are in accordance, generally, with the results obtained by eminent philosophers. [The study of weather not being a science as yet. In fact the collection of weather data depended solely on the benevolence of moneyed scholars with an interest in the philosophy as an hobby.] The works of Humboldt, Herschel, Dové, Sabine, Reid, Redfield, Espy, and others, are appealed to in confirmation of this statement. [Redfield had just discovered that winds are examples of vortices. What meterology would do with this information remained to be seen. At his death, nobody had any idea how FitZroy had made his forecasts and the bulletins he alone prepared had to cease for a few years.] To obviate any charge of undue haste, or an insufficiently considered plan (which may be fairly brought against many novelties) the following testimony to the first published suggestion of such a measure is submitted. [If you come up with a good idea -in no matter what area, unless you can profit from it honestly, it is liable to sink in calm water and be lost without trace. This is exceptionally true with a more fitting hypothesis for an observation that you can't prove and is already covered by a far more well known but obviously incorrect one.] In the First Report of the Committee on Shipwrecks (1843), at pages 1, 2, 3, the following evidence was printed by order of the House of Commons.

    "I think that the neglect of the use of the barometer has led to the loss of many ships.
    From a want of attention to the barometer, they have either closed the land (if at sea), or have put to sea (being in harbour in safety) at improper times.

    In consequence of such want of precaution the ships have been lost, owing to bad weather coming on suddenly. This might have been avoided had proper attention been paid to that very simple instrument.

    While alluding to the use of barometers, I may remark, that if such weather-glasses were put in charge of the Coast-guard, at the principal stations round the coast, so placed as to allow any one passing by to look at them, they might be the means, not only of preventing ships from going to sea just before bad weather was coming on, but of preventing the great losses of life which take place every year on our coasts (particularly in the Orkney Islands and on the coasts of Scotland and Ireland), owing to fishing vessels and boats going to sea when bad weather is impending.

    No bad weather ever comes on our coasts without timely warning being given by the barometer. The oldest seamen are often deceived by the look of the weather, but there is no instance on record of very bad weather, such as would have involved loss of life to the extent we have heard of in several years, having come on without the barometer having given timely warning.

    By the very small expense of an establishment of barometers, so placed as to be accessible to any fishermen, boatmen, or others on the coasts, much loss of life, as well as loss of boats, and even shipping, might be prevented.

    "What state of the barometer indicates danger?

    It varies in different climates according to the range.

    [IOW, YMMV.]

    The range is small between the tropics [it varies only slightly about 1016 millibars except in hurricanes] but very large in the higher latitudes.
    In our climate the range is usually about two inches. [29 to 31 inches, thus I presume 30 inches is about 1016 millibars?]

    The barometer falling considerably below its average height is at once an indication that some considerable change is going to take place, and when it falls low, as for instance (in our climate) to near 29 inches, or below 29 inches, a gale is certain to follow.

    [No mention is made of the barometer rising exceedingly high and thus producing Blocking Highs. Such weather is no concern to the safety of boat crews.

    He didn't know anything about the relationship of anticyclones with earthquakes. Despite my best efforts very few do down to this day.

    How could he know about anticyclones, the meaning of circular winds was still a relatively new phenomenon. Circulating non winds would be unlikely to have suspected in the era this booklet was prepared.]

    "Are the Committee to understand that you are of opinion that every ship ought to have a barometer on board?

    I think that every ship ought to have either a barometer or sympiesometer, which is an efficient substitute for a barometer.

    [A sympiesometer uses hydrogen instead of a vacuum and oil instead of mercury. It had to be compared with a thermometer when reading it as expansion and contraction due to heat altered the accuracy of the scale.]

    "Does the barometer show a sudden change of wind as well as the coming on of bad weather?
    Supposing a gale of wind is blowing, and you are sailing with a fair wind, does the barometer show any change of wind?


    "Supposing the wind was at West-north-west and it shifted suddenly to West-south-west, would the barometer indicate that?

    It requires some practice to be able to say exactly what is likely to take place after a change in the barometer; but the principal point for a seaman is, that no violent wind will blow without the barometer giving warning.

    [Thus ut remained true long after the age of Light, that god would do nothing without informing his prophets first.]

    He may not know exactly from what quarter the wind will come, but no strong wind will come on without warning being given.

    [The direction a storm comes in on depends which side of the vortex you happen to be at the time. It's pretty obvious now but this was cutting edge stuff in the 1850's.]

    "You recommend that at the Coast-guard stations there should be a barometer, by means of which people would know when a violent wind was coming on; but as it would not indicate the quarter from which it was coming, would you have the merchant ship always remain in port till the barometer showed fine weather?

    Being accustomed to the barometer on our coast, one could tell from what quarter the wind would probably come by the height of the barometer, taken in connexion with its previous height, and the state of the weather, and the strength of winds that had prevailed before.

    Taking the state of the barometer in connexion with the appearance of the weather one could make a satisfactory conclusion as to the quarter from which any violent wind would come. And the barometer, after very little practice, can be used by any man.

    [In Britain if the cloud activity is to the south or west it will pass you by. If it is to the east or north -watch out. (Matthew Chapter 16.)]

    There is no difficulty in using it sufficiently to know that danger is coming on; and if danger is coming on, a man refrains, of course, from exposing himself to it; the quarter from which the wind comes being of minor consequence.

    "With a North-easterly wind, in this part of the world, the barometer stands, on an average, about half an inch higher than with the same strength of wind from the South-westward.

    All over the world there is a similar difference proportionate to the range of the mercury for which allowance should always be made in considering the height of the barometer."

    [The South wind corresponds to our North wind in the Southern Hemisphere.
    Easterly and Westerly winds remain the same.]

    In the first Number of Meteorological Papers, published by the Board of Trade, 1857, is the following passage respecting the use of weather-glasses:

    "The variety of interesting and useful, if not always important, subjects included within the range of meteorology, is not perhaps sufficiently realized in the minds of active participators in the world's stirring work. Irrespective of any scientific object, how much utility is there to all classes in what is commonly called 'weather wisdom'? In our variable climate, with a maritime population, numbers of small vessels, and especially fishing boats, how much life and property is risked unnecessarily by every unforeseen storm? Even animals, birds, and insects have a presaging instinct, perhaps a bodily feeling, that warns them; but man often neglects his perceptive and reasoning powers; neither himself observes, nor attends to the observations of others, unless special inclination or circumstances stimulate attention to the subject. [What man is going to admit to a mental disfunction when there is a storm looming?In what society are aged and sick people considered an asset? Such people are natural barometers. They might be considered insightful if the nerve endings were those of a soldier or an hunter under duress. It's the stuff of fiction that those who take to wearing outrageous clothing and concentrate on their bodily functions are Comic Heroes in both senses of the word. Not least because they are always depicted as not having the ability to dress themselves, never mind having fashionable dress sense. Who would want to admit to being a bit like that?] Agriculturists, [Ah! Yes, well… I was thinking more in terms of cruise ship captains.] It is true, Farmers use weather-glasses: the sportsman knows their value for indicating a good or bad scenting day; but the coasting vessel puts to sea, the Shetland fisherman casts his nets, without the benefit of such a monitor, and perhaps without the weather wisdom which only a few possess, and cannot transfer to others. "Difficult as it is to foretell weather accurately, much useful foresight may be acquired by combining the indications of instruments (such as the barometer, thermometer, and hygrometer) with atmospheric appearances. What is more varying than the aspect of the sky? Colour, tint of clouds, their soft or hard look, their outline, size, height, direction, all vary rapidly, yet each is significant. There is a peculiar aspect of the clouds before and during westerly winds which differs from that which they have previous to and during easterly winds, which is one only of the many curious facts connected with the differing natures of easterly and westerly currents of air throughout the world, which remain unchanged, whether they blow from sea to land, or the reverse. [Not counting local land and sea breezes of hot climates.]

    "Perhaps some of those who make much use of instruments rather undervalue popular knowledge, and are reluctant to admit that a 'wise saw' may be valuable as well as a 'modern instance;' while less informed persons who use weather-glasses unskilfully too often draw from them erroneous conclusions, and then blame the barometer.

    "Not only are reliable weather-glasses required at the smaller outlying ports and fishing places, but plain, easily intelligible directions for using them should be accessible to the seafaring population, so that the masters of small vessels, and fishermen, might be forewarned of coming changes in time to prepare for them, and thus become instrumental in saving much property and many lives."

    June 1858. *** This is the unofficial foundation of the world's Meteorological Offices. Without preamble and at great personal expense, FitZroy did what he could to lessen the effect of storms on the lives of women and children all along the coasts of Britain. For this effort he has largely been forgotten.

  2. I see Opera still has the same codee problem. I thought they had cured that with the latest edition of the browser.At least Iam not getting non existent crashes now.

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