HC Deb 15 February 1867 vol 185 cc401-2

asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether the Storm Signals, as hitherto practised by the late Admiral Fitzroy, are to be continued; and, if so, in what manner, and by whom; if to be discontinued, whether it would not be prudent previously to invite the Chambers of Commerce of the Kingdom to express their opinion on the subject; and, whether the valuable and instructive Meteorological Report which had appeared daily in The Times and some other papers will be continued; and whether observations from the Paris, Brussels, and St. Petersburg Observatories could not be added to it?


I will explain the position in which this question stands. After the late Admiral Fitzroy's death, an inquiry took place into the whole system of the Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade, as of course it was necessary to make some provision for supplying his place. A committee was appointed, consisting of a representative of the Royal Society, a representative of the Hydrographical Department of the Admiralty, and a representative of the Board of Trade. That committee reported fully on the whole subject, and their report was to the effect that the observations which were originally intended to be made, in order that they might form a foundation for a scientific system of meteorology, had been of late years to a great extent discontinued, and that more attention had been given to storm signals and weather forecasts than to the perfection of those observations. The committee recommended that for the future more attention should be paid to the collection of information than heretofore, and, consequently a larger Vote will be proposed, the greater part of which will be spent on observations such as were originally contemplated. They also proposed that the management of the work should be transferred to a scientific committee appointed by the Royal Society, and such a committee had been appointed, and would have placed at its disposal all the information at present possessed by the Board of Trade. As soon as the matter had. been placed in the hands of the Royal Society they informed the Government that they were not prepared to continue the storm signals, as they rested upon a mere hypothetical basis, and of course, if they were not prepared to prophesy, the Board of Trade could not be expected to do so. Information would be collected and reported by telegraph to stations throughout the kingdom, and such information would be given in time to enable any place where there was a disposition to make use of signals, the opportunity of forecasting the weather for themselves. Since the hon. and gallant Gentleman gave notice of his Question, I have received from General Sabine, the chairman of the committee appointed by the Royal Society, a note with reference to this subject. He says— The usefulness of the present stations from which telegraphic communications are daily received is under consideration, but the final selection of the stations is in the hands of the committee, who are of opinion that no advantage would be gained by receiving communications from Paris, Brussels, and St. Petersburg. These stations are not on the sea-coast, and telegrams from the last-mentioned station would not be received in time for publication in the daily papers. This is the case with Skuddesnœs, Helder, and Corunna. The committee already receive six telegrams from the coasts of the Continent; and none have been discontinued since the department has been in their hands. They are not prepared at present to recommend any additional expense to be incurred on this head. Great advantage would no doubt be derived from having the communications referred to.