Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England

Crystal Ball


The sun is shining, hooray, how long it will last who can say

.Crystal ball

Let me gaze into my crystal ball; I don’t imagine this instrument is called a crystal ball, but a quick poke about on the ‘tinternet’ didn’t find me it’s scientific name, its a device for measuring the number of hours of sunshine, I found it in the grounds of Chatsworth house, next to the Stevenson screen.

As an indicator of how damp the atmosphere has been around here of late, and I can’t ever recall it happening before, our bedroom and bathroom doors wont close properly  (the wood has swollen) and the  jug of dried poppy heads at the top of the stairs has started to go moldy. We resist the temptation to put the heating on to dry the place out a bit,( it’s not cold just damp) the fact that the last delivery of heating oil was at a rate of 60p a litre (the lowest we have ever paid was .08p a litre) is incentive enough to leave it switched off.

The field has been cut today

Author: uphilldowndale

Watching the rhythm of rural life, from the top of a hill in northern England. Having spent most of my life avoiding writing, I now need to do it! I am no domestic goddess, but if I were expecting visitors to my home, I would whisk round with the duster and plump up the cushions and generally make the place look presentable. I hope that by putting my words where others may see them it will encourage me to ‘tidy up and push the Hoover around’ my writing. On the other hand I may just be adding to the compost heap. Only time will tell! Pull up a chair, sit yourself down, I’ll put the kettle on.

15 thoughts on “Crystal Ball

  1. It’s a sunshine recorder, most likely a “Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder” though there are other varieties. They are very expensive and I /so/ want one.

    For the benefit of those who wish to know this kind of thing, the glass sphere focuses sunlight onto a card which is slid into the frame, carefully lined up. A new card is put in each day. The card indicates time on it and different cards or card positions are used for different latitudes and times of year. Summer cards are longer than winter cards, for example (no point in wasting paper by making the card longer than required.) The focussed light burns a black mark or a complete hole in the card when it is (sufficiently) sunny. Because the position of the sun in the sky changes over the course of the day, the position of the focus moves along the card, so the card then indicates when it was sunny and, very crudely, based on the amount of burning, how sunny.

    These days, on automatic weather stations, radiometers recording the actual amount of incoming solar radiation are used. We record a much greater range of information about the radiation such as the difference between direct and diffuse or in-shadow radiation, different frequency ranges and the like.

    But the old methods are still important, because all the long term data were measured the old ways, and we use this data to understand long term variations. We use some of the old methods alongside the automated modern systems as a long term cross-check, to make sure we understand any changes in the data record due to introducing new instrumentation.

    Plus, what meteorologist doesn’t like referring to the old “crystal ball”?

  2. Cool photo, Uhhd, and very interesting information about how it is used, Aendr.

  3. Yes thanks Aendr. All i know is its been a cracking day. 85 miles on my bike.
    I cycled back frm Lincoln past Southwell Minster and took some nice pictures whilst sitting in the gardens eating my mars bars
    I wouldnt mind a crystal ball myself.

  4. Thanks aendr, that was just the sort of info I was looking for 🙂

  5. Hope the hay finally comes good! Hay and straw of any quantity and quality will be a real problem this year.

  6. I showed your picture to MrDd who said “What a beautiful heliograph” – and he is right – but you must have been underneath as I cannot see your reflection!
    With the weather this year I am really pleased not to have horses any more – hay would be impossibly expensive.

  7. It is very beautiful, I would like it in my garden.
    I stood straight in front of it to take the shot, so I am in the reflection, not sure what is growing out of my right shoulder though

  8. Ah, now I see you! You were lost in the panoramic view.

  9. Yet another lovely photo! If I had less trees overhanging the house I’d definitely want on in the garden!
    Hope you can dry out soon. Soon be time for central heating and warm fires. Speaking of which I went and got a new chainsaw at the weekend. Just because I’m in the suburbs of D.C. doesn’t mean that I don’t have to do a bit of work to heat the house. “No pain, no flame” as we say when swinging the splitting axe!

  10. You are braver than me… I’ve already had the heat on a couple of times. I can’t stand the cold.

  11. V. glad to hear the grass got cut. Farmers here in the south (well, east), were frantically haymaking every time a few nice days popped up in June and july, for fear that there wouldn’t be any more. Too true, alas. We stayed on a farm in Borrowdale last weekend (home to some fell runners, in fact) and they were having real problems.

  12. Hi Auntie Jane and Viking
    the grass seems to be drying nicely, not sure what it will made into….

  13. I have never seen such a thing. I love how it photographs, and I love what it does and how it does it. (Thanks Aendr.)

    Would so love to be able to see results of this from my speck of land. We’ve had decent weather since mid-June, though the summer was short, and now the trees are beginning to turn, lots of fog too.

    Not too anxious for snow to fly, though – I’m thinking I probably will have a 3-4 week wait for a hint of the white stuff. Though it’s upposed to be worse than our record snow of last year – I think about 120 inches it was.

  14. Just had to look up that weather gizmo – to see how much one would cost. It’s a beauty, but I’ll rolling on the floor thinking how much I cannot afford such a thing. The link says it was a popular item though – unexpectedly sold out. Some people obviously have money to burn…


  15. Ooohhhh, £1000, that’s a serious amount of money, I suppose that’s the contrast between a scientific instrument and a beautiful paper weight.
    Mr Uhdd wanted to put a barograph on our wedding list, till we looked at the price, again a cool £1000
    (this seemed a good time to remind him he wasn’t marrying into money!)
    We have a digital weather station, but it’s not as beautiful as the barograph or a sunshine recorder

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