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Revision and necessary correction of the long-term temperature series of Hohenpeissenberg, 1781–2006

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An Erratum to this article was published on 29 April 2010

An Erratum to this article was published on 29 April 2010


Having been in use at Hohenpeissenberg from 1781–1841, the Palatina thermometer was found to suffer from a positive bias of 0.5°R (or 0.63°C) as discovered by Lamont following a re-calibration made in 1842. The main reason was due to the composition of the glass used during the early instrumental period. Glass of this period tended to contract over many years due to thermal aftereffects, resulting in a gradual rise of the freezing point position in consequence of the shrinking bulb forming the mercury reservoir. While the problem of the gradually rising zero point was recognised relatively early, the reason was attributed to wrong causes. Around 1880, scientists recognised that the chemical composition of glass might be responsible for the drift of the zero point. New glass types were developed which were free from such effects. Although these facts became known, no correction was applied to the Hohenpeissenberg temperature series when in 1981, the complete 200-year series was published. Most probably this bias is also relevant for other stations, at least those of the network of the Societas Meteorologica Palatina that were supplied with thermometers manufactured in Mannheim. Another problem originates from the different observing times for the period 1879–1900, which were set to 0800, 1400 and 2000 hours instead of 0700, 1400 and 2100 hours before and afterwards. In addition, a new formula to calculate the daily mean was established resulting in the temperature being too low by 0.5°C in that period. The overall trend changes after application of the two necessary corrections. There remain two biases that cannot be quantified without a major detailed study being made: (1) At the start of the observations, the window of the observation room was always kept “open during dry weather”. It is not known how long this practice was remained in use. (2) Lamont also employed an easily melting glass to construct his thermometers which in use between 1841 and 1878. An analysis of the glass composition seems to be necessary to find out whether it also suffered from a rising freezing point. Lamont replaced the Hohenpeissenberg thermometer in 1842 by a new instrument produced in his own workshop. One still existing Lamont thermometer, but not that one of Hohenpeissenberg, was re-calibrated and the zero point found to have lowered by −1.4°C. Since the opposite drift had been expected and the original Lamont-type Hohenpeissenberg thermometer is no longer available, no correction is justified for the period in which this thermometer was in use.

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  1. Manufacturer of the clock was Gegenreiner from Augsburg.

  2. Handwritten report in Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, MK 40453, fol. ad 22.

  3. Archive of the Academy of Sciences Munich: VIII 163a, fol. 160–162.

  4. Bayerische Hauptstaatsarchiv: MK40453.

  5. Lamont’s letter from 8 January 1843, Archive of Hohenpeissenberg.

  6. Archive of the Academy of Sciences (Beilagen zu den Protokollen 2 February 1842).


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This work was supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Science Foundation) under grant Wi-622/5-1 which is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to P. Winkler.

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Winkler, P. Revision and necessary correction of the long-term temperature series of Hohenpeissenberg, 1781–2006. Theor Appl Climatol 98, 259–268 (2009).

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