Stand for temperature gauge at Pleiestiftelsen

Stand for temperature gauge at Pleiestiftelsen. Photo: Bergen City Museum.

Little is known today about the systematic weather observations made at several of the leprosy hospitals in Bergen, including at Pleiestiftelsen. To this day, you can still see the thermometer and hygrometer stand outside the window on the first floor, on the west side of the south wing, just outside the rooms the doctors occupied from 1895. 

An account by Nicolai Ordahl, who was employed as a cup setter at Pleiestiftelsen as a 17-year-old in 1898, describes the daily routine. The weather observation was the first thing you did in the morning. In the stand outside the window there was a thermometer for measuring the temperature and a hygrometer for measuring humidity. All measurements were written down on a piece of paper, together with the wind direction. To measure this, the doctor’s assistants had to go outside and look up at Mount Fløyen, where there was a weather vane large enough to be seen from the city. The notes with the weather observations were handed through a hatch in the wall of the offices of the newspaper Bergens Tidende, which reported the measurements daily.

The National Archives in Bergen have observational weather records for the period 1900–1905. They report the barometer reading, temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind speed and direction, and whether it was cloudy or clear.

Weather observation records from Pleiestiftelsen 1900-1905. Regional State Archives of Bergen.
Weather observation records from Pleiestiftelsen 1900-1905.
Regional State Archives of Bergen.

Weather observations were also made at Lungegård Hospital as far back as 1850. 

In the weather observation records from Pleiestiftelsen, a small note has been pasted from one of the Bergen newspapers describing the amount of precipitation in 1900:

Note from newspaper, found in weather observation Protocol. Regional State Archives of Bergen.

Bergen’s precipitation in 1900,
according to the meteorological records of Pleiestiftelsen No. 1 – was quite significant; in fact, it was
January              149.4 mm, 21 Days of rain
February            44.45  10   
March               96.1       16
April                  130.4 17
May                  104.5 14
June                   9.8          7
July                    39.4 18
August             148.5 18
September    325.0       22
October          334.8 20
November     203.4 17
December      431.0 23

On many of the days of rain, precipitation fell in large quantities, most intense and heaviest on 9th December, when it rained 70.5 mm. Compared with one single day in the previous year – 1899 – the amount of rainfall is nevertheless not among the largest recorded; for on 15th March 1899, the amount of rain recorded was 116.0 mm, when it rained constantly for the whole 24 hours of the day with a wind direction of gentle E at 8 o’clock in the morning, of moderate N at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and gentle NW in the evening. This is the largest amount of rain observed at Pleiestiftelsen Meteorological Station.
Old people tell us, however, that in their youth it rained just as heavily and just as much in a single day.

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