An Introduction to the Meteorological Station in Manchester, England

The Whitworth Meteorological Observatory in Manchester, England, has a tradition dating back to the 19th century. Now, it is a completely automated, cutting-edge meteorological observatory on the campus of The University of Manchester.

New Meteorological Station in Manchester, England

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet - Meteorology

The new observatory on the university roof in Manchester.

The observatory on the university roof in Manchester.

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet - Meteorology

The observatory is run by the university’s School of Earth Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences and is also a part of the Centre for Atmospheric Science.

Standard meteorological parameters, such as temperature and humidity, wind, pressure, precipitation, solar radiation, cloud height and visibility, are constantly evaluated and the data is made publicly available in real-time through the internet.

The current observatory was built in 2010 as a replacement for the original observatory, which was established in August 1892 and was located in Whitworth Park.

Sir Joseph Whitworth’s legacy provided funding for this observatory, which established and maintained the original observatory as a source of data for educational, scientific and public interest until its demise in 1958.

A Little History

The late Sir Joseph Whitworth’s Residuary Legatees, the Manchester Whitworth Institute, and Owens College (later The Victoria University of Manchester, which merged with UMIST in 2004 to form The University of Manchester) provided an endowment agreement in 1893 for the maintenance of the “Meteorological Observatory in Whitworth Park,” which had been in operation since August 1892.

This observatory was intended to be a source of scientific and popular interest, as well as a source of education.

The University provided weather data from the Whitworth Observatory to the Guardian newspaper for daily and weekly weather reports for Manchester residents. The Met Office was also notified of the same.

Unfortunately, due to extensive vandalism in the park where it was located, the observatory fell into disrepair and burned down in 1958.

The endowment had been taken over by Victoria University of Manchester, which decided to capitalize the funds until the observatory’s future could be determined.

The shares in the fund, as well as any unspent funds, were agreed to be transferred to the School of Earth Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences in 2003 because they “do work relevant to the purposes listed in the original 1893 Agreement.”

The rise of urbanization, as well as concerns about the climatic and health effects of pollution from the city, has highlighted the need for high-quality meteorological data in urban areas.

In 2009, it was deemed an appropriate time to revisit the original legacy and its goals, so an observatory was built to provide data for both scientific research on the urban environment and climate issues within growing cities, as well as public dissemination.

Location

Rather than setting up the observatory in a park or anywhere on at street level, it was decided to place it on the roof. While this was partly due to security concerns, the measurements will not be obscured by surrounding buildings or otherwise influenced by local effects of the urban landscape due to their rooftop location.

On the University of Manchester’s South Campus, the observatory is located on the roof of the George Kenyon Building (N 53.467374, W 2.232006, Alt 43 m). The George Kenyon Building is the tallest structure in the area, standing at 49 m in height.

Equipment

When designing the current observatory, the decision was made to use the most modern and highest-quality instrumentation that could be found within the project’s budget.

An ultrasonic anemometer for wind measurements, laser ceilometer for cloud height measurements, laser disdrometer for precipitation measurements, and digital sensors for humidity, temperature and pressure are among the instruments.

The observatory’s website provides the complete list of the instruments used as well as their specifications.

The solar radiation instruments supplied by Kipp & Zonen are of particular interest. A pair of Kipp & Zonen CMP11 pyranometers, one of which was equipped with a Kipp & Zonen CM121B shadow ring, were installed.

This setup allows for the measurement of both global and indirect (diffuse) solar radiation, from which sunshine hours and direct solar radiation can be calculated.

While installing a solar tracker to measure direct and indirect solar radiation would have been preferable, it was not possible within the budget constraints, so the shadow ring was chosen as the next best option.

While regular adjustments are required (it was found that weekly adjustments are sufficient), the adjustments are simple and no other maintenance is required.

Usage

Scientific research projects concentrating on urban climatology and air quality have used data from the observatory. The data is also used to support a variety of projects by postgraduate and undergraduate research students from across the university.

The plots of solar radiation data from the Whitworth Observatory reveal the contrast between an overcast Manchester day on March 20th, 2015, and full sunshine on June 4th, 2013.

The impact of the solar eclipse can be seen on the plot starting on March 20th, with a significant drop in radiation between 9 AM and 10 AM.

New Meteorological Station in Manchester, England

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet - Meteorology

Solar radiation data is frequently used in student projects to analyze the potential for electricity generation from photovoltaics. It is also used by a huge commercial provider of domestic solar panels to analyze the operational efficacy of their installations.

Pyranometer and shadow ring.

Kipp & Zonen CMP11 Pyranometer with shadow ring.

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet - Meteorology

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by OTT HydroMet - Meteorology.

For more information on this source, please visit OTT HydroMet - Meteorology.

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