How not to measure temperature part 72: Italian Style

People send me things, its always interesting to see what comes in the inbox daily:

Dear Mr. Watts,

I have followed your blog and surface station project with great interest. On a recent trip to Italy, I found myself in a city park in  central Milan and a weather station caught my eye. I have attached a  couple of photos along with a map showing its location. The station is  attached to a lab which is part of a greenhouse in gardens. Upon seeing  the installation I just had to snap some photos to share!

Keep up the great work.

Jeff Kalt
San Francisco

Here’s what Jeff sent me, a series of successively wider views of a weather station in Milan, at the Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli (public gardens). Here is more info on the place as well as an interactive Google Map. Milan’s Public Gardens extend for around 16 hectares / 40 acres and it is the largest city park in Milan.  The building is the Palazzo Dugnale, housing the Greenhouse Laboratories, part of the Milan Natural Science Centre.

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Click for a larger interactive map image

Click for larger interactive map image

Interesting thing to note here, is that this is a high-end weather station, costing several thousand dollars, with precision insturmentation, and apparently a datalogger. Though I’ve been unable to find any data online from this weather station. I suspect the weather station was installed by the museum there for monitoring the greenhouse lab.

Pity they couldn’t put it in the middle of the park for better exposure, away from the building and walkways, but instead chose to tuck it next to the building and green awning, which I’m sure contribute to higher daytime highs and higher nighttime lows.

It just goes to show that while you can strive for the best in instrumentation, a poor choice of placement brings the instruments down to K-Mart thermometer quality levels. Mamma Mia!

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44 thoughts on “How not to measure temperature part 72: Italian Style

  1. We ran into an enclosure in Konstanz Germany recently. Surrounded by concrete and maybe 30 feet from the lake on one side and 20 feet from a harbor. I thought they were supposed to be away from bodies of water?

    Are European sites worthwhile to document?

    REPLY: yes they are – Anthony

  2. Ed,

    Certainly worth recording but of course it may have a specific purpose related to the lake, in which case its location may be sensible, and may NOT be part of any network supplying direct wider area data for global interpretation.

    But without checking, who would know?

  3. ER, you ran into an enclosure…???

    Were you running, or in a running car; if so, was the accident fatal? Isn’t it a bit careless of you to run into a weatherstation, these things cost money, you know.

    OK Enough with the humor. Seriously, if you are in Europe and can monitor sites, that will be excellent. It’s rather difficult in Canada as distances are so great, it would become a full time job, just on the travel. Within a day’s drive, I have the National Research Center site and one in Brockville. Is it worth me doing these?

  4. Illustrative example of what happens when budgetary constraints drive the train and are used to determine instrument placement.

  5. Kalt said:

    Upon seeing the installation I just had to snap some photos to share!

    Mr. Kalt’s jumping ability significantly exceeds mine. Nice selection. I just hope the data is only being used for the adjoining greenhouse…and for weather needs.

  6. GP has a good point. If this is really a weather station and is not part of a climate data recording network, then there is practically no reason to be upset. “Backyard weather stations” are excellent tools available to meteorologists when fine-tuning forecasts and also serve as a great way to confirm forecasts after the fact.

    REPLY: Mr. Rothenberg, nobody’s upset, the point here is that siting doesn’t seem to be considered. Significant money (probably public money) was spent on a quality weather station with quality instruments, but there appears to have been no consideration given to siting to minimize the chances of bias. In this placement, there will be temperature bias, wind bias, and precipitation bias, all due to the building and awning. This location is greenhouse laboratory, so you’d think there would be people there capable of noting the potential for such biases.

    This lack of consideration of siting seems to happen a lot, as the surfacestations project has shown, it is rampant in the US climate network. The point of this entry is that it happens elsewhere under other circumstances. -Anthony

  7. GP has a good point. If this is really a weather station and is not part of a climate data recording network, then there is practically no reason to be upset. “Backyard weather stations” are excellent tools available to meteorologists when fine-tuning forecasts and also serve as a great way to confirm forecasts after the fact.

    But wouldn’t it be better to get weather data way from buildings where it would be more useful? I would think the building proximity would give false wind speed readings, and might even mess with the amount of rain hitting the rain gauge.

  8. counters (18:39:59) : “Backyard weather stations” are excellent tools available to meteorologists when fine-tuning forecasts and also serve as a great way to confirm forecasts after the fact.

    Would you please give an example for using the data from this site?

  9. On a blacktop
    On a rooftop
    On a hot spot
    In a parking lot
    And they’re all in little boxes
    And they all look just the same . . .

  10. I don’t know for other countries but in France, all up to date stations used in the climate databases are at airports who are, like anywhere else are invaded by huge parking lots years after years. The only French rural station used for climatology is Mont-Aigoual (a superb mountain station manned by Meteo France for weather forecasts) but its data after mid 1990 are absent from global climate databases !

    Another anecdote of climate “science” : in the recent BBC’s “the climate wars” (see it on video.google), Ian Stewart, the series’ host was proud to present a “great” station meticulously managed by a Jesuit monastery : Stonyhurst. It is supposed to be the gold standard for the climate network: data back to the mid 1950, rural & no urban heat island problems, no method or location change.
    And here the joke: if you look in the “global” temperature database (GISS or GHCN), data from Stonyhurst stop short in… 1969. It would take just 20 s to check it at the GISS’s web site, but do you think the BBC guys would be interested to do such mundane things? NO.

  11. I imagine placement is often determined by the fear of generating an uproar, by digging a ditch to lay a cable in. In this case the ditch would mess up gardens, lawns, and need to cut through pavement. I’ve noted, in other cases, laying a cable would involve crossing state highways, and so forth.

    Cordless technology would avoid these problems, but then you would face an uproar by those who would object to this gizmo standing in a park. (Of course, if you put a bronze plaque at the base, and called it art, the same people might stand around it and look thoughtful.)

  12. Demesure (01:48:51)
    Ian Stewart is a resident mathematician for New Scientist. Think about that !

  13. Typo in my previous post : “data back to the mid 1950” should read “data back to the mid 1800s”

  14. Cookeville,
    As you certainly have realised, I’m just saying all that nice equipment ends up just being a big waste of taxpayer money! The data it delivers is utterly useless, and the equipment eventually just rusts away.

    If these GISS bozos ran a farm, they’d buy Catepillar heavy equipment just to cultivate the vegetable garden near the house. Flaming wasters of OUR money they are.

  15. Burke & Hare (03:19:19)

    Yes, M. White is correct. Iain (note Scots spelling) Stewart is a geologist at Plymouth.

  16. This looks like one of the network of monitoring stations set up by the EU to “Improve weather forecasting” across the European Union. Driving through the countryside you see them everywhere, especially on the edges of roads and at junctions.

  17. Probably the station is not much use for getting objective weather data. But it looks like an ideal site for gauging the “greenhouse effect”.

  18. The Finnish Meteorological Institute publishes some pictures of our weather stations on their website. The photography is not up to the standards at surfacestations.org, but they might be worth looking at. Most are from rural(ish) locations, but it is hard to tell without aerial shots from satellites. The coordinates are there, in case someone has the time: http://www.fmi.fi/saa/havainto_93.html

  19. P.S. Here’s some more identification data for the Finnish stations listed in my previous comment: http://www.fmi.fi/weather/stations_36.html – looking at the photos again, I was actually surprised at how many of the stations are on rooftops, near buildings or at airports.

    REPLY: Thanks Matti. Do you think you could drop an email to Finnish Met Institute and ask if they have higher resolution photos somewhere? – Anthony

  20. garron (19:26:33) :counters (18:39:59) : “Backyard weather stations” are excellent tools available to meteorologists when fine-tuning forecasts and also serve as a great way to confirm forecasts after the fact.”
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    counters?

    Here on WUWT, you own a “statement of fact –” the basis for which, eludes me.

    It is my perception that data from this station is tainted by incalculable biases and is of little value.

    You say otherwise. Please educate me.

  21. Caleb (02:03:04) ” :. . . . . an uproar by those who would object to this gizmo standing in a park. :. . . . . ”
    ” :. . . . .
    The government will not impose in this situation but will in so many others. Oh well.

    Frankly, i am being to see urban data as an insignificant subset which should be excluded from global calculation.

  22. Careful dudes, don’t be jumping to no conclusions right now.

    If (and only if) the thermometer is intended to monitor the building’s external temperature (to control, say, the heating in the greenhouse which prevents frost damage to the plants there) then it’s in exactly the correct position. It does look rather over-engineered for just that, though.

    Nice touch to put it next to what looks like the chimney of the very heating system that probably depends on its numbers. Would produce a lovely closed loop cycle of “it’s cold outside – put the heating on….Oh, no, turn it off, it’s not any more….wait…”

    Certainly the sequenced data from it would be of no use whatsoever if published.

  23. Sorry, Martin, but you don’t put a thermometer to measure greenhouse temps OUTSIDE the greenhouse. Serves no purpose. I’ve worked in and been to many greenhouses, the thermostats to detect and control temperature are always inside…

  24. I think that people should get some information before judging about the “Italian style”!
    The weather station is part of an educational centre called BioLab that is part of the Natural History Museum of Milan (not Milan Natural Science Centre!), where I work as a curator. It is near the building (Palazzo Dugnani, not Dugnale!) because it must be visible to the students and preserved inside an area managed by the museum.
    The station was given by a sponsor some years ago and it is used to explain the principles of climatology and air pollution to primary and secondary school students. It is not in an enclosure, but on open air.
    We don’t use it to monitor the greenhouse, because it is not a greenhouse no more, but a laboratory, where we also explain evolutionary processes, comparative anatomy, and other subjects related to biology.

    As you can see, nothing concerning European monitoring network, goverment impositions, Versace threads, and other bullshit stuff.
    Mamma Mia!

  25. Jeff – Agreed, point taken. My comment was masked by my weak attempt at humour.

    Stefano – Thank you for taking the trouble to clarify the reasoning behind the siting.

  26. Comment on How not to measure temperature part 72: Italian Style by Stefano Scali
    from Comments for Watts Up With That? by Stefano Scali

    Your report is good news. It still remains an excellent example of how not to — “‘do it.” :)

    We have “American styles” of how not to “do it” all over the place.

    Have you ever dinned American Italian? I spent about fours based out of Naples. Most Americans have no clue as to the wonders of real Italian.

  27. Dear Mr Watts, I’ve been reading your blog since a long time and I’ve used pretty often the information you leave on it on our blog http://www.climatemonitor.it.
    This is a clear example of what should not be done, but you might be right, those instruments have been installed to monitor the garden climate. The problem is that one of these days we will see the Director of the museum on television or on a newspaper, telling us that the temps are dramatically riseing in Milan, thanks to their expensive monitoring. It would not be the first time.
    Thanks for the great job you do with this blog.
    Guido Guidi.

    REPLY: Guido, thank you for the kind words. – Anthony

  28. Have you ever dinned American Italian? I spent about fours based out of Naples. Most Americans have no clue as to the wonders of real Italian.

    That would seem to be the fault of Italian Americans who open restaurants failing to adequately represent the reality.

    As to the placement of the weather station. I still don’t see how getting possibly invalid data due to the building proximity is useful. Why not place another identical station in the middle of the park according to “accepted” siting standards and see if a difference develops between the two.

  29. Demesure (03:31:29) :

    Typo in my previous post : “data back to the mid 1950″ should read “data back to the mid 1800s”

    Did you note that he also did not make any back reference to it? Just mentioned it was there!

    Dave E.

  30. Jeff Alberts (11:32:58) :

    That would seem to be the fault of Italian Americans who open restaurants failing to adequately represent the reality.

    That and, significant differences in food processing practices, farming and so on.

    As to the placement of the weather station. I still don’t see how getting possibly invalid data due to the building proximity is useful. Why not place another identical station in the middle of the park according to “accepted” siting standards and see if a difference develops between the two.

    If the second station is properly placed and installed, we can be confident in our assumptions regarding differences and accuracy. I don’t know why anyone would question this and, I am unclear as to your objective.

  31. Guido Guidi – Maybe you did not pay attention to my post: we are NOT doing a climate monitoring and the director will not appear on newspapers or television to talk about it. It is simply a didactic instrument and it is not expensive for the community, because it was a gift given by a patron.

    Jeff Alberts – We cannot place another station in the middle of the park because the park is not under our control and management, so this would be really expensive for the municipality.

  32. Stefano Scali – I did not pay attention to your post, becouse I simply didn’t know that you wrote something about this matter. But anyway, I do apologize if you felt yourself and the museum itself somewhat offendend by my comment. This discussion, at least for my little contribution, is on the strange habit to put weather stations in wrong places. Since I know that the data of your station are not in any official database, as a gift, you can obviously make exactly what you want with it. At the same time my words about the possibility to make a public use of those data were simply an example of something that happens pretty often. Since this is not the case, it remains simply what it was, a joke on a serious (speaking about climate) problem.
    Guido Guidi

  33. Dr. Scali: it’s a great chance to improve the education of the BioLab students by organizing a workshop on what is wrong with the present siting, and what solutions could be implemented to improve the reliability of the Palazzo Dugnani weather station!

    Una buona opportunita’, tutto sommato, per approfittare delle circostanze e arricchire l’educazione degli studenti del BioLab, organizzando un gruppo di lavoro su cosa c’e’ di sbagliato nell’attuale locazione della stazione meteo di Palazzo Dugnani, e per trovare soluzioni che possano migliorare l’attendibilita’ delle letture!

  34. If the second station is properly placed and installed, we can be confident in our assumptions regarding differences and accuracy. I don’t know why anyone would question this and, I am unclear as to your objective.

    I was merely saying that having the monitoring equipment so close to the building would most likely not give them accurate results, unless the goal was to measure the effects of the building on local climate.

  35. Guido Guidi,
    since you work for the meteorological service of the Italian air force and the weather stations your military institution manage (along with the civil air traffic controll) feed the italian part of the global climate monitor, I would ask if you can provide surfacestations the photos of circa 100 stations of the Italian network.

    I do think that most of those stations are well sited, but a few example are quite bad and I have got some pictures of them.

  36. Dr. Scali: I am glad to hear that you were able to accept the gift of a fine weatherstation, *and* be able to place it in an easily visible location so it could be used in your teaching.

    And to the rest of you: Remember to keep in mind that when something looks foolish, it often is foolish, but sometimes there’s a very good and rational reason which you are simply not privy to….

    REPLY: Point taken, how about showing us your weather station at the University of Vermont? – Anthony

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