Late 19th Century photographic evidence of the Stevenson Screen in Australian meteorology

I notice over at
Luke comments: June 13, 2010 at 4:39 am
[El Gordo remarks about temperatures pre 1900 being higher but gee if we’re into UHI issues – those data were recorded in a Glaisher stand. That’s why.]
Not so Luke.
Luke is repeating the standard BoM excuse to avoid facing the facts that many Australian stations recorded a warm period in the late 19th Century – the BoM (and Luke) claim that these warm temperatures were recorded in an older style open thermometer stand (often a Glaisher stand in Australia).
Sadly for the BoM and Luke, Colonial historical records from the late 1800’s are increasingly revealing that the Stevenson screen was in widespread use. That is not to say that older exposures were completely done away with, of course not – but for high order stations the Stevenson screen was being introduced from the 1880’s. See my scanned 1995 4 page paper from the International Journal of Climatology, Vol. 15. In that I reviewed proceedings from Intercolonial Conferences that touched on meteorological subjects. In the early 1990’s I was only able to find the one photograph – from the Darwin Post Office yard in 1890 – which showed a Stevenson screen pre 1900 (see my scanned page 233).
Now thanks to correspondents who have kindly sent me information – I am aware that various Australian archives and libraries – both State and Commonwealth – have searchable online collections of photographs and newspapers from the colonial period. Just a few examples now.
Melbourne 1879 – from Museum Victoria.

Another lucky preservation from Tasmanian Archives from ~1900 Hobart, St George’s Terrace, Battery Point, circa 1900 damaged – person is Leventhorpe Hall.

Here is an extract from The West Australian Wednesday 25 October 1899 page 4 – The meteorological report for 1898, prepared by Mr. W. E. Cooke.
from The West Australian 25 Oct 1899
A Stevenson screen at Kings Park Perth WA –

can be seen in this 1899 photograph.
From remote far north Colonial Queensland comes this 1896 photo of a Stevenson screen at Musgrave telegraph station
Musgrave - Stevenson screen 1896
For larger image ex National Archives of Australia.
Added 16 June after readers start finding online examples of pre-1900 Stevenson screens for themselves.
I have a few photographs from the Brisbane Meterological Observatory – Wickham Tce. Clement Wragge was appointed Govt. Meteorologist there in 1887.
This scene sent to me as hard copy from the State Library of Queensland as “View from Windmill looking east” – ca 1890 – three Stevenson screens can be see in the Observatory yard.
3 Stevenson screens 1890 Brisbane
This scene from sent to me from the State Library of Queensland is from their Hartshorn Family Photographs – and is I believe the first location of Wragge’s Stevenson screens which is on the opposite side of the Observatory to the above photograph.

The Stevenson screens were I think moved to the opposite side of the building and several photos turn up in searches – some showing telephone poles and increased tree plantings in the Terrace.
Such as this scene cropped from a larger photograph.
3 Stevenson screens at a later date
If you search the Queensland Library site you will find more images – such as this later circa 1900 view photograph with instruments on the windmill side of the Observatory.
Links to my published papers on the introduction of the Stevenson Screen to Australia – and related papers all available now in pdf versions.

13 thoughts on “Late 19th Century photographic evidence of the Stevenson Screen in Australian meteorology”

  1. Thanks for all that effort MarcH. I am surprised the ABC have published the article critical of the “Great Butterfly Study”.

  2. Interesting article at
    Guest post by Ed Thurstan of Sydney, Australia

    This study shows that the NOAA maintained GHCN V2 database contains errors in calculating a Mean temperature from a Maximum and a Minimum. 144 years of data from 36 Australian stations are affected.

    Means are published when the underlying Maximums and/or Minimums have been rejected.

    I note there’s a full list of the affected stations available on request

    Warwick you might like to make a comment

  3. Thanks for the heads up Val – a great read – 40’s in November without 200 yrs of UHI expansion !! Shades of 2009. I wonder what happened to the rain data ?

  4. Great find from Ken Stewart on the National Library of Australia Trove website of digitised historic newspapers. A reference to a Stevenson Screen at Springsure in Queensland in a Rockhampton newspaper 1895.

    Morning Bulletin 19 February 1895:
    As three little boys were wending their way home yesterday from school they noticed what appeared to them a rather mysterious erection in the Post Office yard. After careful scrutiny one of them sought to enlighten his companions by saying that it was a pigeonbox. ” Go on, you silly,” said boy No. 2,”it’s a beehive.” “What are you giving us ?” asked boy No. 3, ” it’s a meat safe.”Your correspondent would venture his opinion and call it a “feeling-soother” Mr.Storey, the postmaster, will tell you that it is only a Stevenson’s Screen, the orthodox floor for hanging a thermometer required to show the true shade temperature. Many people have grumbled when they saw that Springsure was “breaking the record” for the highest register of heat, and affirmed that it was on account of the position of the ther-mometer. We shall now, however, have no cause of complaint. I hope after a week’s trial with the old and new positions, to be able to show whether or not the complaints were groundless.
    Springsure, 16th February, 1895.

    Thanks Ken – Clement Wragge who was Govt Meteorologist in Queensland from 1887 was an enthusiastic installer of Stevenson Screens.

  5. Another argument against the BoM’s refusal to use the pre-1910, is that the Central England Temperature data set dates back to 1759. Although the reliability and accuracy of some of the data is open to question, it is a record giving a good indication of the weather and until at least mid-19th century without Stevenson screens being used. It is time the BoM was told to use this data to tell the true story of our Australian weather and climate. A few degrees error up or down means very little. Most of the time there were newspaper and other records which bolster the story.

    There was a ‘complaint’ some time back of one station had regular missing data. When the set was examined Sundays were missing. The Post Office, where the instruments were located, was not opened on Sunday. In some towns some one would go to the P.O. and take the readings, possibly without having to open up the building.

  6. Re the Stevenson screen issue Paul – if you go here –
    Look for –
    1996 Nicholls, N., R. Tapp, K. Burrows, and D. Richards. Historical thermometer exposures in Australia. Int. J. Climatology, 16, 705-710.
    – can be downloaded

    Quotes the Adelaide experiment comparing Stevenson screen exposures with Glaisher stand which ran from 1887-1948 and found the Stevenson screen was only about 0.2 degree cooler on an annual mean temperature basis.
    I say just make the adjustment and use the extra decades of our climate history

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