Feature Article - A brief history of Meteorological observations in Hobart
Contributed by Bureau of Meteorology, Hobart Regional Office
The first fully equipped official meteorological station in Tasmania was established at Hobart Town and regular observations commenced on 1 October 1840.
The British Royal Society requested assistance from the British Government in 1836 in establishing a station and, as a result, a naval expedition under the command of Sir James Clark Ross, in the ships Erebus and Terror, left England in late 1839 and arrived in Hobart Town in August 1840. An observatory was erected on the Domain adjoining the present Government House, and was named the Ross Bank Observatory.
Under Lieutenant (later, Commander) J. H. Kay RN, the naval staff carried out hourly readings of magnetic and meteorological elements. Equipment included a barometer, thermometers and self-recording rain gauges. In April 1853, the observatory became the property of the Colonial Government and Mr Jeffrey, an assistant to Commander Kay, was appointed the first State Meteorologist. Records ceased at the observatory on 31 December 1854.
Mr Francis Abbott, a private citizen of the Colony, then assumed the position of observer at Hobart Town from 1 January 1855 and made observations at a private residence in Murray Street in the city centre. The instruments were exposed in his garden. He continued these readings until June 1880.
A break in the records then occurred until the formation of the State Meteorologic Department in April 1882, when observations were made by Captain J. Shortt until his death in 1892. The site granted to Captain Shortt was that of the present Bureau site in Ellerslie Road, adjacent to the Anglesea Barracks. Upon the death of Captain Shortt, Mr H. C. Kingsmill was appointed Meteorological Observer and later Government Meteorologist. In 1908 meteorological observations became the responsibility of the Commonwealth and in 1911, Mr W. S. Watt succeeded Mr Kingsmill as the first Divisional Meteorologist for Tasmania under the Commonwealth Government.
Observations have been taken at the Anglesea Barracks site regularly from 1882 until the present day. A new building was erected adjacent to the old Bureau in 1966, and this entailed a very slight change of site.
An Automatic Weather Station (AWS) was installed and became operational on 17 August 1992. Manual screen and soil temperatures and rain gauge readings were performed at 0900 and 1500 hours. AWS data used with manual visual data were input for all other observations.
On 19 December 1994, the Bureau’s regional office moved from Ellerslie Road to 111 Macquarie Street. Automatic observations were continued from the Ellerslie Road site via the AWS with manual readings of rainfall, screen and soil thermometers at 0900 hours. Manual input of visual parameters continued from the new regional office location via the AWS PC Manual Console for all synoptic observations.
The present instrument enclosure exposed to a south-easterly direction but is obstructed by buildings on the other sides. The site is on a small knoll some 54 metres above sea level and approximately one kilometre from the city centre.