Centennial Park Weather Station
Centennial Park, grid ref: E4 on Centennial Parklands Map
About the Weather Station
A rare weather station, recently uncovered in Centennial Park, has been fully restored and opened to the public.
The Centennial Park weather station was part of a network of meteorological stations installed across Australia from the 1860s, yet it is exceptionally rare in type. Built on a square timber frame, its slatted pyramid-shaped roof and lattice sides open at the bottom allowed air to circulate freely while protecting the instruments inside from direct sunlight and wind. Despite its square shape, it was called a Round House weather station.
A little bit of history…
In the early 19th century the scientific community learnt how to measure temperature with greater precision, as the designs of thermometers were refined. Temperatures became an integral part of measuring and recording the weather.
At that time thermometers were often placed in direct sunlight, or on the walls of buildings. It was realised by Thomas Stevenson (1818-1887) - a civil engineer working on lighthouses, and father of Robert Louis Stevenson - that air temperature measurement needed to occur in a space shielded from the sun's radiation, wind and rain. For this purpose he developed in 1864 what is now known as the Stevenson Screen, which is still in wide use.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology was formed in Australia in 1908, after which time the structures of weather stations became more consistent across Australia.
One of the primary goals of the forecasting service at that time was to reduce the number of shipwrecks.
Originally constructed in 1907, the Centennial Park weather station was part of a much larger project to assist the European settlers across Australia to understand and predict the weather. From extreme drought to deadly fogs, floods and storms, the weather has profoundly shaped the development of the Australian colonies and nation. In the years before Federation, scientists took a leading role in thinking of the Australian continent as a united place.
In November 1879, the first inter-colonial conference on astronomy and meteorology was held at Sydney Observatory, and soon after a standardised system for recording weather information and issuing continental weather forecasts and charts was put into place. As a measure of a united approach and the importance of science to national development, when the new Commonwealth of Australia was established in 1901, astronomy and meteorology were specifically defined as Commonwealth responsibilities.
In its early years, one of the main goals of the Bureau of Meteorology’s forecasting service was to reduce the number of shipwrecks. Today these measurements continue to provide valuable evidence to issues such as climate change and other matters of scientific and environmental concern.
Role of the Centennial Park weather station…
From 1907 to 1975 the weather station in Centennial Park recorded the daily maximum and minimum temperatures. The readings were used by the government astronomer, and from 1908 the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, to forecast weather, a matter of vital concern to the young nation of Australia.
By the 1960s the weather station in Centennial Park had badly deteriorated, and it was decided by the Bureau of Meteorology that it would be “cheaper and more satisfactory” to completely rebuild the Round House rather than attempt repairs.
As a result, the current weather station was built in 1967–68. This replica is itself a rare and significant structure as it is one of only two existing replicas of this type of weather station in Australia - the other is within the grounds of the Sydney Observatory.
The weather station was finally decommissioned in 1972 and the remnants were later deposited in the Centennial Park Bird Sanctuary.