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Blue Hill
Notes from the Observer's Office *CORRECTION*
Members are Always Welcome
About our Facility
The Green Box
Weather Observations on Nantucket
WINS Girls Visit Museum of Science
Calling Motorola Employees
Blue Hill Observatory Field Trips
About Us
Future Events
Blue Hill Observatory Links
Notes from the Observer's Office
* A correction has been made in this section; the annual mean temperature for 2008 was erroneously reported as 33.2F, which was the mean temperature for the month of December, not for the year 2008. *

  December 2008 ranks 3rd wettest on record with 9.16 inches, and 30.4 inches of snowfall ranks 4th highest on record.

Highest December Precipitation (inches)
 1) 12.60 in 1969
 2) 9.80 in 1992
 3) 9.16 in 2008
 4) 9.01 in 1936
 5) 8.31 in 1996
Highest December Snowfall (inches)
 1) 45.2 in 1945
 2) 39.5 in 1947
 3) 32.0 in 1902
 4) 30.4 in 2008
 5) 29.7 in 2003, 2007

THE YEAR  2008

The mean temperature of 49.4 was the 12th warmest on record and total precipitation of 59.45 inches was 13th wettest.  Both are the highest since 2006. Wind speed of 12.6 mph for 2008 is the lowest on record, continuing the trend of decreasing winds.  Thunderstorm days totaled 37, which ties for third place with 1906, though I'm not convinced the records of thunderstorm days are complete given that all the other high years occurred when observers were here 24 hours.
Blue Hill Observatory Members are Always Welcome

One of the benefits of membership is that you are welcome to visit the Observatory 365 days a year (as long as we have staff here to greet you!). 

We are open to the public for tours on weekends (resuming on Saturday February 14, 2009), but we are closed during the week when we host visits from community and school groups. 

If you are a member and would like to visit during the week, please contact us and we will do our best to welcome you to the Observatory. 

If you are hiking on the hill, and see the CLOSED sign on the door, please knock on the door and we will accommodate your visit whenever possible.

Click HERE to become a member of the Blue Hill Observatory.
About our Facility
The Blue Hill Observatory is a National Historic Landmark.

Our facility on top of Great Blue Hill has many resources, including a History Room and Library, climate archives, computer lab, and a backyard barbecue. 

From the tower roof, you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the Boston skyline, the mountains in central Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and Providence, Rhode Island.

Our gift shop, offering snacks, beverages, and unique gifts, is open to the public on weekends.

Please come visit!
The Green Box
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Blue Hill Observatory P.O. Box 500
Milton, MA 02186

Executive Director Charles Orloff
(508) 776-1879

Program Director
Don McCasland
(617) 696-0562

January 2009
Issue 3
Sky-mail is being resent to you with a correction in the Notes from the Observer's Office box.  The mean temperature for 2008 was incorrectly reported as 33.2 degrees, which was the mean temperature for the month of December, not for the year.  The actual mean temperature for the year was 49.4 degrees F, which ranks 12th warmest on record.  Thanks very much to an attentive reader who noticed this error!
We Appreciate Your Support
We would like to extend our gratitude to all of our members and friends who have responded to the annual appeal mailed last month. If you have not had a chance to send in your contribution (by mail, phone, or online with PayPal), please consider how you can support Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center. 

At a time in history when the world is talking about "change," we are proud to remain unchanged.  We continue to observe the weather here using the same methods, following the same schedule, and in some cases, using the exact same instruments, that have been in use since we opened in 1885.  We would not be able to continue our climate research without your support.  Our thanks go out to you.
Weather Observations on Nantucket
The Blue Hill/Nantucket Connection
By Charles T. Orloff, Executive Director, Blue Hill Observatory

     Fifteen years before Abbott Lawrence Rotch conceived the idea of building a weather observatory on Great Blue Hill, weather observations were being made at The Pacific Club on Nantucket Island. Ironically, that building had originally been constructed by his great-great-grandfather, William Rotch.
     Built in 1775, it was designed as a warehouse for Mr. Rotch's whaling ships: the Beaver, the Bedford, the Dartmouth, and the Eleanor.  The Beaver, the Dartmouth, and their cargo of East India Company tea earned a place in history during the famous "Boston Tea Party" at the beginning of the Revolutionary War.  The building later served as the first U.S. Customs house and as a private club for 24 shipmasters who purchased the building in 1861 and named it The Pacific Club. It was located just at the bottom of Main Street where it is still in existence today.

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The Nantucket Pacific Club Weather Observatory in 1870

     In February 1870 the United States government established the Weather Bureau and began setting up weather stations, with trained observers, in every state in the country. The laying of government telegraph cable and the geographic importance of the island insured that Nantucket would be one of the first New England sites.

     The United States Signal Corps was given the responsibility of connecting the cable and setting up and manning the first weather station on Nantucket. Chosen for the site of the new office and observatory was one of the most historic buildings on the island, The Pacific Club.
     Sergeant Benjamin A. Blundon was the first official in charge, and, in addition to observations taken from the roof of the Pacific Club, reports of observations from Sankaty and Surfside were received several times a day. This complete report of observations from Nantucket was telegraphed to the mainland headquarters three times a day. In addition, weather flags were flown from the top of the building and could be seen from all areas of the harbor.
     In 1904 a new weather station was built on Orange Street where it was operated by George E. Grimes for 44 years. He was "a little bit of a man," his daughter recalled, who at least once a week would "scamper to the top of the 85 foot tower in back of the building whistling all the way." He would then bring down the anemometer cups, wash the salt off, and "place them in the oven to dry them off."
     For the next 18 years the newly-built Nantucket weather station at the airport continued to monitor the weather 24 hours a day. Staffed with nine meteorologists, observations were taken on the hour and half hour with upper air soundings by balloon-lifted radiosondes made twice a day. In the late 1950s weather radar was added to the site making it one of the most modern weather stations in New England.
     By the late 1960s, problems with the site were becoming apparent. Staffing had become an issue, and they had trouble keeping the modern equipment serviced and a steady supply of helium on the island. In 1970 the Nantucket station was closed, moved to Chatham, and the long history of continuous weather observing came to an end.
     Today, weather observations are still taken at the airport between 6 AM and 10 PM and backed up by the Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) 24 hours a day. With its humble beginnings in William Rotch's warehouse, Nantucket continues to keep a watchful eye on the weather.
WINS Girls Visit the Museum of Science in Boston
WINS logoThe Women in Natural Science (WINS) program is an educational initiative of the Blue Hill Observatory geared toward middle- and high-school-aged girls from Boston and surrounding communities.  WINS seeks to inspire girls to learn about math, science, and technology using a natural science curriculum and "hands-on minds-on" learning experiences. 

During school vacation week in December, a group of WINS girls from the Galvin Middle School in Canton went to the Museum of Science in Boston.  We visited the WeatherWise exhibit where we saw a full-size replica of a Blue Hill box kite, we saw indoor lightning bolts created by worlds largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator, and we met some scaly creatures at the live animal presentation. 

If your school, church, or community group would like to participate in the WINS program, please contact
Stephanie Radner by phone: (617) 696-0562 or email:  WINS programs make great after-school or weekend activities for girl scout troops, Big/Little Sister groups, Campfire girls, or any other youth organizations with programs for girls.
Calling Motorola employees!
We need your help!

Blue Hill Observatory is applying to the Motorola Foundation for a grant to support our educational programs.  We need letters of support from
Motorola employees in this area that will accompany our proposal.  If you or someone you know is part of the Motorola family, we would greatly appreciate your letter of support. For more information, please contact Executive Director Charles T. Orloff by phone: (508) 776-1879 or email:

Blue Hill Observatory Field Trips
blue hill logoTeachers and Parents: time is running out for spring 2009 field trips!

Field trip bookings for April, May, and June 2009 have been very brisk, and many mornings are already filled.  Please remember that you can schedule events and educational programs at Blue Hill Observatory any time of the year, seven days a week, dawn to dusk.  If you are planning to have your class, scout group, or family participate in one of our many educational programs, please contact Don McCasland as soon as possible.  He can be reached by phone: (617) 696-0562 or email:
From the Observatory Store
Bag, hats, mug
Support the Observatory and Stimulate the Economy

The Blue Hill Observatory gift shop has a great selection of domestic and environmentally conscious products including books, kites, weather instruments, and clothing. We can email you a list of almost everything we have in stock. We have and can get a wide range of merchandise for educators, students, weather enthusiasts, nature lovers, environmentalists, ecologists, and anyone.

You can arrange to visit the gift shop by appointment 7 days a week, and we resume regular weekend hours on February 14, 2009.  For more information, to get a product list, place an order, or schedule a visit to the gift shop, please contact Don McCasland by phone: (617) 696-0562 or email:

Observatory members get a 10% discount on all purchases. We have several special combo discounts and other incentives. Your purchases help support all the programs and activities at Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center.
Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center
Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory, located at the top of a scenic mountain range south of Boston, is a unique American institution. Founded in 1885 by Abbott Lawrence Rotch as a private scientific center for the study and measurement of the atmosphere, it was the site of many pioneering weather experiments and discoveries. The earliest kite soundings of the atmosphere in North America in the 1890s and the development of the radiosonde in the 1930s occurred at this historic site.

Today, the Observatory is a National Historic Landmark and remains committed to continuing its extensive, uninterrupted climate record with traditional methods and instruments. The recently established Science Center expands this mission by enhancing public understanding of atmospheric science.

We are grateful for the generous support of members, friends, and corporations who make it possible to continue our benchmark climate observations and educational outreach programs.  Please contact Charles Orloff by phone: (508) 776-1879 or email: if you would like to make a donation to the Observatory.
Future Events
Saturday February 14, 2009 and Sunday February 15, 2009
Regular weekend tours and gift shop hours resume.
10 AM - 4 PM
Observatory Tours:  $3/adult, $1.50/youth

Monday February 16, 2009
President's Day Kite Fly and special kite tours of the Observatory. 
Hours: 10AM - 4 PM
Kite Tours: $5/adult, $3/youth
Build and decorate your own kite for just $5.  We have a great selection of ready to fly kites from $3 to custom kites over $2000, and everything in between.

Monday April 20, 2009
Patriot's Day Kite Fly and special kite tours of the Observatory.
Hours: 10AM - 4 PM
Kite Tours: $5/adult, $3/youth
Build and decorate your own kite for just $5.   

April is National Kite Month.  BHOSC will be participating in most events.  For a full list of events, please check the NKM website:

Saturday May 16, 2009  *note date change from last mailing

Annual Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center Spring Open House.
Hours: 10AM - 4 PM
Admission is free.  There will be many activities throughout the day, including crafts, kite building, self-guided tours, and more.  Check the BHO Events page for updates:    

Monday May 25, 2009
Memorial Day Kite Fly and special kite tours of the
Hours: 10AM - 4PM
Kite Tours: $5/adults, $3/youth
Build and decorate your own kite for just $5.

The gift shop, educational programs, and tours of the Observatory are
available by appointment almost every day of the year.  Please call
ahead (617-696-0562) if there are questionable weather conditions.
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Blue Hill Observatory | P. O. Box 500 | Milton | MA | 02186