Lerwick Observatory

Courtesy of the Ordnance Survey.

When I went looking for the ‘observatory’ in Lerwick I imagined it to be a old Victorian stone building similar to the observatory down at Eskdalemuir. That might have been the case once upon a time but not anymore. The ‘observatory’ is well shielded from the A970 road on a hill (82 metres AMSL) to the southwest of the town by a small estate of houses which have sprung up in recent years. It may well be that the Met Office sold of the site of the old observatory where these new houses are to cover the cost of replacing the old observatory with a new purpose built building, but here I am guessing.

Lerwick Observatory is situated on a ridge of high ground about 2.5 km to the SW of the port of Lerwick. The surrounding countryside is moorland comprising peat bog, heather and rocky outcrops. The observatory is operated by the Met Office as a meteorological station carrying out routine synoptic observations and upper-air measurements. Other work includes detection of thunderstorms, measurement of solar radiation, ozone and atmospheric pollution levels, and chemical sampling. BGS uses Lerwick as a seismological station, recording data from a local three-component seismometer set. Lerwick was established as a meteorological site in 1919 and geomagnetic measurements began in 1922. Responsibility for the magnetic observations passed from the Met Office to BGS in 1968.

British geological Survey

The wind direction has been missing from their SYNOP observation for the best part of a week now and I thought it strange that its taking so long to get it fixed even though the site is home, as far as I know, to the regional technical centre for this part of Scotland. It also seems strange that the AWS system (SAMOS?) doesn’t allow observers, when on duty, to add their own estimated wind direction manually.

Courtesy of Google Street View

I did manage to get a look at the enclosure and anemometer mast at Lerwick thanks to Street View, and it does look a rather bleak and windswept site, which as far as I can see doesn’t even have a sea view even though it’s right next to it. It’s probably a good job I never opted for a posting here, but it must be a great place to view the aurora if local lighting permits. It would also have made a be a great location for the Shetland weather radar that never happened, despite all the oil and gas money generated in this part of the North Sea and it being one of the busiest places for helicopter movements outside Aberdeen. I should imagine that would have been a very handy thing to have during snow showers in winter.

Conspicuous by its absence
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