The Elegance Of The Weather Map

Photo from my Motorola RAZR cameraphone

27 Oct ’06, 9.02pm EDT

Originally uploaded by Geoff Fox.

Cousin Michael was helping a friend. A little research please (which I tried hard to avoid). What was it like in New York Harbor on the morning of November 10, 1928?

First, the good news. Though New York City’s readings come from Belvedere Castle, on the west side of Central Park, near Tavern on the Green, in the 20s the observatory was The Battery – Manhattan’s most southern point.

The bad news is, most of this old, handwritten weather is squirreled away in difficult to find places. NOAA’s repository is one of the most unfriendly, difficult to use web sites I deal with. No – mark that. The most difficult. And it’s a pay site. What about my taxes? Didn’t I pay already?

Tonight, with a few open minutes, I took a look to see if there was an easier way. There is, with the Daily Weather Maps series. There’s a viewer to download, but it’s mostly nice and easy and the maps go back to 1871.

I downloaded the map Michael wanted, which is posted to the right. It’s really elegant in its simplicity and utility. In that pre-computer, non-Internet era, it’s amazing.

If you close your eyes you can see men with green eye shades and sleeve garters using their French curves to draw the isobars (lines of equal barometric pressure).

I don’t know when the map was actually published. With phone costs as high as they were I would guess observations weren’t being transmitted on an hourly basis. Still, it’s great it’s still here, to archive that one day eighty some odd years ago.

Oh – New York was under high pressure, but it was cloudy with a light northwesterly breeze. The temperature at 8:00 AM was in the mid-30&#176s, where it had been 24 hours earlier.