The history of Weather Glass.

Admiral Fitzroy was commander of HMS Beagle and participated in the Darwin Expedition from 1834 – 1836. During the expedition the instrumentation included several chronometers as well as barometers, which FitzRoy used to weather forecasting. One of the types of barometers was The Weather Glass which was Fitzroy’s own invention. By observing the liquid he could forecast whether there would be rain or clear weather.

Admiral Fitzroy was appointed as Chief of a new department to deal with the collection of weather data at sea in 1854. His new title was Meteorological Statist to the board of Trade, and he had a staff of three. This was also the forerunner of the modern Meteorological office as we know today.

To collect data he arranged for captains of ships to provide information with Fitzroy’s chosen test instruments, this included The Weather Glass. He began to work on strategies to make weather information more widely available for the safety of shipping and fishermen. He directed the design and distribution of The Weather Glass, then known as the Fitzroy’s storm barometers, which on his recommendation was fixed in every port to be available to crews for consultation before setting out to sea. These barometers are still visible at many small fishing communities and fishing harbors today.

These barometers became popular and are still in production today.

In 1859 there was a terrible storm, which caused the loss of the Royal Charter. This inspired Fitzroy to develop charts to allow predictions to be made, which he called “forecasting the weather”. He established 15 stations to use the new telegraph to transmit to him daily reports of weather at set times, and the first daily weather forecasts were published in The Times in 1860.

During Fitzroy’s historical voyage on the Darwin expedition, he carefully documented how the storm glass would predict the weather:

  • If the liquid in the glass is clear, the weather will be bright and clear
  • If the liquid is cloudy, the weather will be cloudy as well, perhaps with precipitation.
  • If there are small dots in the liquid, humid or foggy weather can be expected.
  • A cloudy glass with small stars indicates thunderstorms
  • If the liquid contains small stars on a sunny winter day, then snow is coming.
  • If there are large flakes throughout the liquid, it will be overcast in temperate seasons or snowy in the winter.
  • If there are crystals at the bottom, this indicates frost.
  • If there are threads near the top, it will be windy.
Admiral Robert Fitzroy
Admiral Robert Fitzroy
HMS Beagle
HMS Beagle

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