Telegraphic meteorological correspondence in the Papal States

"Posizione geografica delle principali stazioni"
Giornale delle strade ferrate, 29 agosto 1857, pp. 158-160, [p. 159]
320 x 250 mm
Casanatense Library, Rome

The historical news currently available legitimise the assertion that Father Secchi was the first in the world to realize, in 1855, in the territory of the papal State, a systematic service of forecasts and early warning of storms. It is the first model of forecast service and weather alert of modern type, prototype of today’s meteorological services. The project of the service realized by Secchi was inspired by the proposal of Urbain Leverrier in France and by an idea of Caterina Fabbri Scarpellini,astronomer and meteorologist of the Observatory of the Campidoglio, and it was based on the methods of observation and analysis of weather suggested by Matthew Fontaine Maury, the scientist at U. S. Naval Observatory in Washington who introduced Secchi to dynamic meteorology (Figure 1).
The service was conceived as a daily telegraphic correspondence between Rome (Collegio Romano) and the stations of Ancona and Bologna (later also Ferrara). The four stations daily communicated the recorded data of the meteorological observations at synchronous times. At theof the Roman College Observatory, headquarters of the new service, Secchi himself formulated storm warnings concerning the entire papal territory, promptly communicated to the other three stations of the observational network, where they were then analyzed to make local forecasts. The data were also regularly published in the local newspapers (Figures 2a-b).
Although the Pontifical Meteorological Service, after about a shine, unexpectedly ceased its work, it is due to its founder and to the high service made by the electric telegraphy, that a new branch of the sciences of the atmosphere developed: the synoptic meteorology (from the Greek words syn = together and opsis = vision). By means of the general time charts (Isobars, isoipses and isothermals), the time is analysed on vast areas of the Earth’s surface, in order to foresee its evolution in time. The daily isobaric and isothermic papers of the Roman College Observatory are therefore the “inspiratory model” of modern synoptic maps on the ground.

Maria Carmen Beltrano, CREA-AA