Even as far back as 1892, station siting was a concern

Former California State Climatologist Jim Goodridge sent this along yesterday. This interesting letter from 1892 is a letter from Sergeant James A. Barwick to cooperative weather observers in California. He was concerned about the station siting and exposure conditions and wanted full reports back. The US Army Signal Corp was the original impetus for the US Weather Bureau, now NOAA, hence the reason this is coming from a  sergeant rather than a bureaucrat.

Here’s the cover:

And here is the letter, note the point by point concern over station conditions.

Reader “vigilantfish” provides this transcripton:

US Dept of Agr. Weather Bureau

Sacramento California

October 28, 1892

To all Voluntary observers throughout California,

Gentlemen:

I am instructed by the Chief of the Weather Bureau to ask you the following questions in reference to Instrument Shelter

viz. – 1st Have you an Instrument Shelter that is in actual use, and in which your thermometers are exposed.

2nd: Describe the Kind of Shelter: Is it made of lattice work, four sides latticed and has it the regulation double roof.

3rd Is it exposed on the roof of a building; fastened to a window, or side of a house, or is it located above a grass plat (flat(?)).

4th What is the elevation of the shelter above the roof or ground.

5th Is the shelter supported on 4 posts.

6th Will it not be practicable to have such shelter removed to some open (unreadable) piece of added ground, where the air can circulate freely through it; having the instruments in the shelter face the North, The bottom of the shelter to be about 4 ½ feet above the ground, which would bring the thermometers to about 5 ½ feet above ground, or at the height of the eye of the observer without the sues of steps or platform.

An early answer is most respectfully asked for from every observer.

Very Respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

James A Barwick Observer Weather Bureau and Director California Weather Service.

=============================================================

Note no questions about asphalt, concrete, and the like since those had not become in common use yet.

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Lovely. No progress, then.

doug s

just another science-denying skeptic…. /sarc

Justthinkin

I sure would like to see the reply he got back!

Third Party

So, was this letter faxed out?
Note that there is no discussion of weather vs. climate

Anthony,
I’ve transcribed it below, but the formatting will be wonky. As a historian I’m used to archival documents. A couple of words defeated me (one might have been erased). I’ve tried to preserve the capitalization and punctuation. Here it is:
US Dept of Agr. Weather Bureau
Sacramento California
October 28, 1892
To all Voluntary observers throughout California,
Gentlemen:
I am instructed by the Chief of the Weather Bureau to ask you the following questions in reference to Instrument Shelter
viz. – 1st Have you an Instrument Shelter that is in actual use, and in which your thermometers are exposed.
2nd: Describe the Kind of Shelter: Is it made of lattice work, four sides latticed and has it the regulation double roof.
3rd Is it exposed on the roof of a building; fastened to a window, or side of a house, or is it located above a grass plat (flat(?)).
4th What is the elevation of the shelter above the roof or ground.
5th Is the shelter supported on 4 posts.
6th Will it not be practicable to have such shelter removed to some open (unreadable) piece of added ground, where the air can circulate freely through it; having the instruments in the shelter face the North, The bottom of the shelter to be about 4 ½ feet above the ground, which would bring the thermometers to about 5 ½ feet above ground, or at the height of the eye of the observer without the sues of steps or platform.
An early answer is most respectfully asked for from every observer.
Very Respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
James A Barwick Observer Weather Bureau and Director California Weather Service.

Mark

A few unknowns, but here’s a quick transcript, minus all the “your obdt servant” stuff:
U.S. Dept of Agr. Weather Bureau
Sacramento California October 28 1892
To all Voluntary observers throughout California
Gentlemen:= I am instructed by the chief of the Weather Bureau to ask you the following questions in reference to instrument shelters ????
1st Have you an instrument shelter that is in actual use, and in which your thermometers are enclosed.
2nd Describe the kind of shelter: is it made of lattice work [wood?], four sides latticed and has it the regulation double roof.
3rd Is it exposed on the roof of a building; fastened to a window, or side of a house, or is it located above a grass flat.
4th What is the elevation of the shelter above the roof, or above ground.
5th Is the shelter supported on 4 ????.
6th Will it not be practicable to have such shelter removed to ??? often ??? piece of ??? ground: where the air can circulate freely through it; having the instruments in the shelter face the North, the bottom of the shelter to be about 4 1/2 feet above the ground, which ??? bring the thermometers to about 5 1/2 feet above ground, or at the height of the eye of the observer, without the use of steps or platform.
An early answer is most respectfully asked for from each observer

HaroldW

Here’s a transcription, with a couple of words missing which I couldn’t quite make out.
U.S.Dept. of Agr. Weather Bureau
Sacramento, California October 28,1892
To all Voluntary observers throughout California,
Gentlemen:
I am instructed by the Chief of the Weather Bureau to ask you the following questions in reference to Instrument Shelter viz.
1st Have you an Instrument Shelter that is in actual use, and in which your thermometers are exposed.
2nd Describe the kind of shelter: Is it made of lattice work, four sides latticed and has it the regulation double roof.
3rd Is it exposed on the roof of a building; fastened to a window, or side of a house, or is it located above a grass plat.
4th What is the elevation of the shelter above the roof or above ground.
5th Is the shelter supported on 4 posts.
6th Will it not be practicable to have [??] such shelter removed to some open [??] piece of sodded ground, where the air can circulate freely through it, having the instruments in the shelter face the North, the bottom of the shelter to be about 4 1/2 feet above the ground, which would bring the thermometer to about 5 1/2 feet above ground, or at the height of the eye of the observer without the use of steps or platform.
An early answer is most respectfully asked for from each observer
Very Respectfully
Your Obedient Servant
James A. Barwick Observer Weather Bureau & Director California Weather Service

John in L du B

U.S. Dept. of Agr. Weather Bureau
Sacremento California October 28 1892
To all Voluntary Observers throughout California
Gentlemen:= I am instructed by the Chief of the Weather Bureau to ask you the following questions in reference to Instrument Shelter viz-
1st Have you an Instrument Shelter that is in actual use, and in which your thermometers are exoposed.
2nd Describe the kind of shelter; is it made of lattice work, four sides latticed and has it the regulation double roof.
3rd is it exposed on the roof of a building, fastened to a window, or side of a house, or is it located above a grass flat.
4th What is the elevation of the shelter above the roof or above the ground.
5th Is the shelter supported on four posts.
6th Will it not be practical to have such shelter removed to some open space piece of sodded ground, where the air can circulate freely through it having the instrument in the shelter face the North, the bottom of the shelter to be about 4 1/2 feet above the ground, which would bring the thermometers to about 5 1/2 feet above ground, or at the height of the eye of the observer, without the use of steps or platform.
An early answer is most respectfully asked for from each observer
Very Respectfully
Your obedient servant
James A. Barwick Observer Weather Bureau & Director California Weather Service.
Kept his spelling and punctuation.

George V

What’s remarkable to me is that the representative of the Weather Bureau of the Army Signal Corps for the entire State of California holds the rank of Sergeant. Today it would probably require a Lt. Colonel, at least!
George V.

PJB

open area piece of sodded ground

It went out via Morse Code.

Chris Aarneson

TRANSCRIPT of “barwick_letter_10-28-18921”
U. S. Dept of Agr. Weather Bureau
Sacramento California October 28 1892
To all Voluntary Observers throughout California
Gentlemen: =
I am instructed by the Chief of the Weather Bureau to ask you the
following questions in reference to Instrument Shelters
Vis =
_1st_ Have you an Instrument Shelter
that is in actual use, and in which your
thermometers are exposed.
_2nd_ Describe the kind of shelter: Is it made of
lattice work, four sides latticed and has it the
regulation double roof.
_3rd_ Is it exposed on the roof of a building; fastened
to a window, or side of a house, or is it located
above a grass flat.
_4th_ What is the elevation of the shelter above the roof,
or above the ground.
_5th_ Is the shelter supported on 4 posts.
_6th_ Will it not be practicable to have such
shelter removed to some open sided piece of
sodded ground; where the air can circulate freely
through it; having the instruments in the shelter
face the North; The bottom of the shelter to be
about 4 1/2 feet above the ground, which would bring
the thermometers to about 5 1/2 feet above ground, or
at the height of the eye of the observer, without
the use of steps or platform.
An early answer is most respectfully
asked for from each observer
Very Respectfully
Your Obedient Servant
James A. Barwick Observer Weather
Bureau & Director California Weather Service

Richard Keen

I am amused by the need to translate handwriting into html. Someday this post will be a Rosetta Stone to help translate other handwritten documents, such as the U.S. Constitution.

Theo Goodwin

It is remarkable that the standards for weather stations have been so greatly weakened. The Sergeant calls for an open space over sodded ground. Sodded ground was expensive in those days, especially in California.
It is remarkable that the technology for weather stations has been improved so little.

clipe

Morse Code
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Rhoda Ramirez

George V: I guess that’s what you’d call “Rank Inflation”.

jorgekafkazar

Instrument shelters viz –
above a grass plat
[plat: n., 1. a plot of ground. 2. a plan or map, as of land. ]
There is a dele symbol between “have” and “such;” the ink has been scraped off with a pen knife or other sharp tool.

Dave Day

That was the first Surface Stations Project.
Nothing much else was done after this until Anthony came along.

Philip Mulholland

Anthony,
This is an interesting exercise you’ve set us.
Here’s my attempt 🙂
U.S. Dept of Agr. Weather Bureau
Sacramento California October 28 1892
To all Voluntary observers throughout California
Gentlemen:=
I am instructed by the Chief of the Weather Bureau to ask you the following questions in reference to Instrument Shelters
Viz-
1st Have you an Instrument Shelter that is in actual use, and in which your thermometers are exposed.
2nd Describe the kind of shelter; Is it made of lattice work, four sides latticed and has it the regulation double roof.
3rd Is it exposed on the roof of a building; fastened to a window, or side of a house, or is it located above a grass plot.
4th What is the elevation of the shelter above the roof or above ground.
5th Is the shelter supported on 4 posts.
6th Will it not be practicable to have ^such shelter removed to some open —- piece of sodded ground where the air can circulate freely through it; having the instruments in the shelter face the North, The bottom of the shelter to be about 4 1/2 feet above the ground , which would bring the thermometers to about 5 1/2 feet above the ground, or at the height of the eye of the observer, without the use of steps or platform.
An early answer is most respectfully asked for from each observer
Very Respectfully
Your obedient servant
James A Barwick Observer Weather Bureau & Director California Weather Services

jack morrow

This same group/Team was still in charge of hurricane updates when the big one hit Galveston TX in around 1900. The problem with our government and some departments is they are making a career out of their position and that was not was supposed to be, You were to serve your term and go home. Davy Crockett tried to make it a career but was not re-elected. He said,” To hell with them-I’ll go to Texas.” Ha!

I’m wondering – in October 28, 1892 was there a specific set of siting criteria or was this the beginning of the creation of the standard?

Philip Mulholland

Plat not Plot
You see what you expect to read.
Very interesting

Ursus Augustus

A sergeant you say! Obviously the great grandfather of all deniers! An officer would instantly have seen that this sort of peasant detail would have no statistical effect on the soothed data and pay it no mind at all. Other ranks are cannon fodder for the professional and intellectual superiority of the officer class. That is how it is with command. That is how it is with Climate Change Scientists.

noaaprogrammer

I believe the partially erased word is “even.” Hence:
“Will it not be practicable to have such shelter removed to some open even piece of added ground, …”

clipe

2nd: Describe the Kind of Shelter: Is it made of lattice work, four sides latticed and has it the regulation double inch.

Brian H

I agree with Philip M.; “plot”, not “plat” or “flat”.
And I think the scraped word was “field”, which he replaced with the more detailed wording.
I note the emphasis on ‘facing north’, to prevent direct sun on the instruments through the slats. Hadn’t come across that before.

Very interesting. Just from the historical aspect.

Gail Combs

This does not surprise me. The Army has been fine tuning its manuals since Roman times. On Roman Military Matters; A 5th Century Training Manual in Organization, Weapons and Tactics, As Practiced by the Roman Legions
Too bad a Sergeant isn’t still in charge.

Truthseeker

clipe – Obviously you have far too much time on your hands …

Have seen much worse handwriting -mainly medicos
note the word sodded
from free dictionary
sod 1 (sd)
n.
1. A section of grass-covered surface soil held together by matted roots; turf.
2. The ground, especially when covered with grass.
tr.v. sod·ded, sod·ding, sods
To cover with sod.
[Middle English, from Middle Low German or Middle Dutch sode.]
Anthony how many surface stations would be knocked out by the requirement to have the instrument shelter be located in “an open even piece of sodded ground”? For a start that would knock out any shelter located over snow covered ground & all the supposed heating in the Arctic.

@Third Party:
So, was this letter faxed out?
At least in theory it could have been. Various forms of facsimile machines are almost as old as the telegraph. By 1860 pantograph-like devices were available for sending handwriting or drawing directly through the telegraph line, and other devices could scan and read an engraved image. True optical fax machines didn’t come along until 1929, though. Appropriately enough, they were used first for weather maps.
http://www.technikum29.de/en/communication/fax

Pablo an ex Pat

I demand that the Sergeant is called at once to DC to testify to exactly why he was interested in accurate measurements !
If he were a TRUE Scientist he would know that accurate measurement is secondary to modeling. What a buffoon.

Jim Goodridge

That wonderful old James Barwick letter was in an old book that I purchased in Beers Book store in Sacramento many years ago. Barwick had a long career keeping track of California weather records. He prepared the 1897 Climate and Crop report which is still published as the monthly Climatological Data from the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC. That series is valued for its historic continuity. Thank you James Barwick

Brian H

Pablo an ex Pat says:
October 26, 2011 at 8:38 pm
I demand that the Sergeant is called at once to DC to testify to exactly why he was interested in accurate measurements !
If he were a TRUE Scientist he would know that accurate measurement is secondary to modeling. What a buffoon*.

*Scroll down to the portrait.

Mike Jowsey

I just love the sign-off. Such admirable humility and gentlemanliness, long lost on the current crop of public servants:

Very Respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
James A Barwick

Hoser

Morse code. Boy Scouts rule!
Sorry about the one-line mess in my previous post. It looked like the line would wrap. %P You can copy and paste elsewhere to play with it (base64).
The text can also be trimmed down to this:
a524c4ed8efb2138835c98e6b002c3dd
Unfortunately, it’s pretty much a one-way transform (an MD5 hash), which makes it perhaps less fun – unless you like puzzles that take a long, long time to solve.

Neil Jones

SNAFU

Philip Mulholland says:
October 26, 2011 at 4:31 pm
Plat not Plot

I agree.
Almost all of the letter “o” has the trailing connector at the top of the letter while the letter “a” has the trailing connector coming from a sweep toward the bottom of the letter.
Look at the word “platform” at the end of the paragraph before the closing.
That’s my two cents.

Brian H says:
October 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm
OK now you owe me a keyboard also you made me wake the wife laughing………too funny wonder how long it will stay there.

Brian H says: October 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm
OK, it’s funny, but given his litigatious nature, I predict it will soon be gone or there will be hell to pay. Oughtta get a screencap while it is still there…..

Kip Hansen

Plat is probably the right word. Though archaic and not used today, it simply means:
plat Noun: A plot of land.

Gil Dewart

Note well that military-meteorological connection again: The National Weather Service started with the Army Signal Corps.

Bill Thomson

Kip I agree, I read this kind of stuff and much worse and older on a regular basis, to the extent I almost didn’t notice it wasn’t type script and I too would go with plat.

An imagined, synthesised, Mannian ‘field’ response from a possibly obtuse observer:
“Sorry to report sir, but your previous correspondence was garbled, therefore, request another attempt at transmittal at which time I will do my best to decipher, decode and digest the contents of same after which which I will proceed with either a reply confirming my reception of any second transmittal attempt, or, I may proceed with yet another request for a transmittal should the second transmittal attempt be garbled en route or in decode, decipher or digestion phases of messaging.”
.

Alexander K

‘Plat’, while archaic, remains in use in Southern England as a part of historic street or place names, e.g. ‘Furze Plat’, ‘Mill Plat’, etc.

Jessie

clipe says: October 26, 2011 at 4:08 pm
Hmm. Did you use this weblink? http://morsecode.scphillips.com/jtranslator.html
It seems remarkably similar to my effort when I inputted Vigilantfish transcription (minus viz.- ).