While setting up an exhibition of our work for the Parco Arte Vivente (PAV) in Turin, Ryan and I had the opportunity to meet Italian Weatherman Lucas Mercalli and visit the Moncalieri Observatory with him. Dr. Mercalli directs the observatory through his association with the Società Meteorologica Italiana.
The Moncalieri site serves as both a museum of ancient meteorological instrumentation and a place of working weather and climate monitoring. While the observatory was officially founded in 1859 by Father Francesco Denza, weather monitoring at the site has been undertaken in various forms since at least the 18th century. While he was a pioneer in creating weather monitoring instruments, Denza’s most important contribution to modern meteorology was his establishment of a weather monitoring network, linking 254 places around the world with Moncalieri at the center. This was exciting for me since it provides additional historical background to the ideas in the Social Media Workgroup’s Hello, Weather! open access network, a part of which will be on display at PAV.
This historical instrument uses a spherical lens to direct the sun to burn a piece of paper along a horizontal axis. If the time is sunny, the paper leaves a visible burn in a position relative to the sun, if cloudy there is no burn. The burned paper is then analyzed to provide a record of daily solar radiation.