Help Save Five Hundred Years Of Weather Observations

Collegio Romano in the 19th Century
Collegio Romano in the 19th Century

The prestigious collection of hundreds of years of weather observations, historical books and meteorological instruments from the Collegio Romano in Rome is at risk of being dispersed for good. Please sign the appeal to prevent such a disaster: (in the signature section: “Nome”=First name; “Cognome”=Family name; “richiesto”=Mandatory field)


A few days ago I have received the following letter via e-mail (translated and adapted in English from the original in Italian):

Dear friends,

It is with great sadness that I am forwarding the attached letter – press release by the staff at the Research Unit for Applied Meteorology and Climatology in Agriculture (in Italian: CRA-CMA), the direct descendant of the first Italian National Weather Station inaugurated in 1876 and headquartered at the Collegio Romano from 1879 (in an area previously occupied by the Meteorological Observatory built in 1782 by Abbot Giuseppe Calandrelli (the first to apply gravitational theory to cometary atmospheres)). I hope that those who have taken this decision will go back on it, at least reconsider this meteorological site, by declaring its historical importance for Italian meteorology. That would mean leaving untouched its Library, Historical Archives and the Museum of Ancient Meteorological and Seismographic Instruments, as well as the historic Calandrelli Observatory. The Library is at present unique in Italy, after the closure, in the 1990s, of the Air Force Weather Service Library.

Calandrelli Observatory
Calandrelli Observatory

The accompanying “press release” says the threatened closure is due to forced savings at the CRA, even if those same savings are pretty much doubtful (premises are free of rent, and the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has pledged to pay all CRA-CMA costs).

Signatures against the disappearance of the historical collections of CRA-CMA are being collected since Oct 2, but the hoped-for 5,000-signatory target is still far away. There is also a Facebook group (in Italian) where to show one’s support.

More details about CRA-CMA from the “press release”: the library, known as “Central Italian Meteorological Library”, boasts more than 40,000 rare and valuable Italian and foreign texts of meteorology and geophysics, some dating back to the 1500s; the area has played host to famous scientists who have made the history of meteorology (Galileo Galilei, Father Angelo Secchi, Enrico Fermi). There is also a collection of highly-valued rare and prestigious historical seismographic and meteorological instruments.

CRA-CMA still manages a network of weather stations located throughout the country. The historical archive of weather data is of unique importance (with six million data points for each observed weather variable) and is one of the few in the world with multi-centennial meteorological and climate data series. “Such data are key for the undertaking of climate studies aimed at land use, agrometeorology, renewable energy sources and energy saving. “To this day, CRA-CMA’s Rome Meteorological Observatory’s unbroken series of centuries of weather reporting remains of paramount importance for the study of climate changes in the city“.

As it happens, CRA-CMA’s Curator Dr Franca Mangianti is no rabid AGWer (time will tell if that’s got anything to do with the threatened closure):

Q: You take care of more than a century of continuous weather observations, recorded year after year in the “bulletins”. What can you tell us about climate change? Are we really going towards a catastrophe?

A: Actually, regarding the “global warming” issues, our data tell us that the temperature in Rome has increased 0.8C during a hundred years, i.e. less than a degree. That’s very little really. Historically Earth has seen long cold and warm periods (we are talking about years and sometimes centuries). Over the past twenty years, for example, we have experienced a warmer period and it is therefore quite normal that temperatures have slightly increased. This does not mean that temperatures will go up forever. Indeed, it is very likely that in a few years they will start going down again. Unfortunately a kind of excessive alarmism bases itself on the application of mathematical models to meteorological data, without including a proper analysis of the past. About rainfall, however, the last century has certainly seen a decrease. In Rome, it rains now far less than in the past and this better be considered before embarking into exaggerated alarms, for example, about future floods of the river Tiber. With rains like we get nowadays, and the protections built on Garibaldi’s inspiration, you can be sure that the Tiber in Rome will not overflow again.

An interesting article among the scientific literature that has come out of CRA-CMA:

M. Colacino and A. Lavagnini, Evidence of the urban heat island in Rome by climatological analyses, Theoretical and Applied Climatology, Volume 31, Numbers 1-2, 87-97, DOI: 10.1007/BF02311344

The analysis of air temperature data covering a period of 12 years (1964-1975) in a meteorological station network situated in the low Tiber Valley, shows clearly the effect of the heat urban island due to the city of Rome. This effect occurs with different intensity according to the seasons and to minimum and maximum temperatures.

And lest anybody thinks Exxon and the Koch brothers have been busy taking over a meteorological station in Rome:

Andrea Toreti and Franco Desiato, Changes in temperature extremes over Italy in the last 44 years, International Journal of Climatology, Volume 28, Issue 6, pages 733–745, May 2008, DOI: 10.1002/joc.1576

Changes in temperature extremes over Italy from 1961 to 2004 were evaluated on the basis of minimum and maximum temperatures measured by 49 synoptic stations uniformly distributed over the country. A set of extreme temperature indices of the Commission for Climatology/Climate Variability and Predictability (CCl/CLIVAR) Working Group on Climate Change Detection was calculated and statistically analysed in order to detect the presence of trends and quantify the variations of the indices for different time periods. Most of the indices, averaged over all stations, show a cooling trend until the end of the 1970s followed by a more pronounced warming trend in the last 25 years. The net variation of the indices reflects an increase in the extremes of the temperature distribution. Among the most significant results, an average increase of 12.3 summer days and 12.4 tropical nights in the overall 44 years are estimated. No significant differences between northern, central and southern Italy are found for most indices, indicating that the trends originate from large-scale climate features; however, the largest increase of tropical nights is observed at coastal stations. Copyright © 2007 Royal Meteorological Society

Please do sign, and ask people to sign, the online petition to save CRA-CMA.

Part of the Library at Collegio Romano
Part of the Library at Collegio Romano