History of Weather at Carleton

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The current weather project is a continuation of more than one hundred years of data-taking at Carleton.



The Physics and Astronomy program at Carleton began under the leadership of William Wallace Payne hired as the first professor of 'Mathematics and Natural Philosophy' in 1871. Through his influence he was able to expand the program so that it gained the college national recognition. This expansion included the construction of the first astronomical observatory in Minnesota, and the creation of a time service that sent signals to the entire western half of the nation in the early 20th century.



To learn more about Payne, the time service, and the history of astronomy at Carleton go to the Goodsell Observatory homepage.

Reporting the weather became one of the observatory's important functions in 1881 when a U.S. signal station was placed there. The U.S. Signal Corps was the branch of the government assigned to moniter weather , so in November of 1881 under the direction of Payne, the college began taking weather data for them.

William Wallace Payne




The weather information was also sent to local newspapers, and printed under Carleton's name as the only accurate source of local weather information. In 1883 William Payne was made director of the newly organized state weather service and the headquarters were established at Carleton (though they were moved to St. Paul in 1886, and the service was discontinued in 1889.)

However, led by Payne and his collegues (most notably Herbert Cooper Wilson), Carleton kept taking weather data. It was taken three times a day through 1895, twice a day from 1895-1923 and once a day from 1923-1986. Since then, the advent of computers has made it possible to collect data more often. The current configuration (organized by Doug Foxgrover, current head of the project) takes temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, rain, solar radiation, and wind data once every minute. This data is stored in a database, and accessable through Carleton's weather page.



Some examples of our old data. Click for a full sized image.


Oct. 26, 1884

Nov. 20-25, 1899

Aug. 31-Sept. 13, 1925


It is our intention to enter all of the old data into the same database so that it may become just as accessable as the data taken in more recent years. When this is completed, it will be possible to observe long term weather trends for the entire 20th century.