An often appearing name in the BBC news as the hottest place in the country is Gravesend but the true location of the Met Office thermometer is a mystery. By chance I followed up today and discovered a new snippet of information.
Note: this is not a formal international climatic station but the data is distributed around the world, such as station 8 hour data.
Above is from Google Earth, reader DP looked via MS Bing and a web browser, good view here. (opens in new window)
“2003: Britain swelters in record heat
Britain has recorded its hottest day ever as the temperature soared to 38.1C (100.6F) in Gravesend, Kent.
The record has actually been broken twice today. The first place to beat the previous record of 37.1C (98.8F), set in Cheltenham in 1990, was Heathrow Airport where the temperature earlier today registered 37.9C (100.2F).
Then an even higher temperature was recorded in Kent, making today the hottest day since records began about 130 years ago in 1875.”
[NOTE: THIS SITE HAS EXISTED SINCE 1995 AND IS ONLY JUST IN KENT]
A few years ago I spent some time with others finding stations. Gravesend was one of those mystery stations, couldn’t find it.
Some time ago during very detailed web search I came across a reference to this station on a UK weather discussion group. Someone had asked if anyone knew the station location? The few replies mostly said we don’t know but one said he thought it was co-located at a a Port of London transmitter site some distance from Gravesend.
I eventually via Google/MS imaging found a white box but no sign of other instruments, no standard issue Met Office site. Met Office have lots of odd minor sites, mostly rain gauges. (suspect it is thousands all told)
I marked it as unconfirmed but it worried me.
Few days ago a brief search produced an incidental reference to this station from a Met Office help file to do with their paid for access to data. The Met Office (to be fair same elsewhere in the world) are rarely capable of getting lat/long accurate, checked many where I know the answer, none are accurate.
Location id=”3784″ latitude=”51.464″ longitude=”0.314″ name=”Gravesend-Broadness”
This is 187 metres from my best guess. Doesn’t prove it, still looks a strange place to put a Stevenson screen but is logical, government land, power and comms present. I doubt the transmitter generates much heat, is marine comms.
Is there UHI?
This is a superficially rural area, a very strange location so lets start looking at how strange.
The yellow pin is my guess of the screen location and the target is the Met Office location. If this is correct it is unusually accurate suggesting they are updating the information.
This is east of London, is the tidal lower Thames close to the estuary. It is going to be permanently humid, including any effect from the elevation of the temperature of the Thames, heat from London.
Industrial activity is obvious as is close dense residential.
Go towards London (left) and within 5 km is the non-motorway section of the M25 London orbital “motorway”, blue on the map. This is 8 lanes all told with queues a lot of the time, is a toll road. Queen Elizabeth bridge southbound and the Dartford tunnel northbound. Both expel heat into the air, a bridge and ventilated tunnel. South side to the left of that see the bright circles? Heavy oil storage tanks, river pontoon for fuel delivery tankers. Next across is the RWE Littlebrook power station. Being oil is probably not run continuously, about 1.4GW output and has additional gas turbine generator sets. This will eject circa 2GW of waste heat, up prevailing wind. RWE web page on station, head photo is looking east toward bridge and weather station.
Next to the left is a wee and poo plant, also tends to be warm stuff. I expect the sludge is tankered into the outer estuary for disposal. (used to be the case)
Little Reach Sewage Treatment plant, run by Thames Water. Photo looking west, can see the edge of the power station.
Is that all?
Just off the right of the previous image, north side of the river is… another power station. Top of image here is the electricity output site.
RWE Tilbury Power station, coal fired, hence the pontoon for delivery and black stuff but the RWE web page says the site is being converted. Looks like another 2 to 3GW of waste heat, east winter winds or blocking highs have this one upwind. I notice the RWE photo doesn’t want to show much.
Converting to biomass? I bet the conversion efficiency is lower than conventional fuels, therefore even more waste heat.
There are other power stations a little further away, at least two major ones to the east. (there because of the river, coal delivery)
All this sparkery, I’ve not reached the end yet.
So what is that? Met site is top right. Four piles at the base, is a large power grid pylon, can look bizarre from an aircraft (these are aerial photos, not satellite).
Electricity transmission is not 100% efficient, the lines get hot, are a compromise. Actual lines are aluminium with a steel core. The alignment, this is a river crossing.
Other side are several sites
One of the “farms”. There are underground high voltage cables and river crossings as well.
Street view on that road
All? Ho ho.
A major electric rail tunnel (high speed to channel I think) passes 750m to the south-west (with tunnel ventilation outlets). There is another line to the south, another north side of river.
I repeat, this is not an international climatic station.
Record UK temperature for October set at 29.9C
It just goes on and on try this search gravesend hottest site:bbc.co.uk
However The Met Office are today more serious about matters and point out this
“Gravesend-Broadness (Kent) 38.1 New station record, but data records only back to 1995.” — http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/interesting/aug03maxtemps.html
Which puts a much better context on things. Note the BBC item I quoted near the top of the whole article… not true because it conflates Kent record with a station which did not exist in 1875. There again who told the BBC about the temperatures? This is pushing honesty in my view past breaking point, barely in Kent either.
Look at the map, this station would more sensibly be named Tilbury which is much closer than Gravesend, one snag though from the Met Office point of view, is in Essex, not Kent, both are near as dammit to Middlesex (London).
So is this station stupid hot? I doubt it but slightly elevated over a more rational siting outside of frenetic human areas.
Synodic data, look for “SMUK43 EGRR” where EGRR is Exeter, ie. Met Office. Example is CODE FM 12-IX SYNOP format. Is an AWS so there isn’t much data.
Hand decode of a data line, dodgy one, should be for 16th August 2012
PDF of codes atmo.tamu.edu/class/atmo251/LandSynopticCode.pdf
03784 46/// /2012 10223 20136 30149 40153 51004 91150=
03 is UK, 784 the WMO ID used.
Can’t figure date/time, missing data
Same precipitation and type of station, no rain data makes sense
10223 temperature +22.3C
20136 dewpoint +13.6
30149 pressure 1014.9hP
40153 sea level pressure 1015.3hP
51004 pressure varying, not rising as fast, +0.4hP
91150 Ah, is a strange time code, 11:50hrs
Something is wrong, must be a time offset but can never figure which way is BST. Plot is from
I was too late to grab tabular. (those in the US, call it back? Met Office, there is no archive unless you pay them or they want to push it at you, why jumping through hoops is necessary, Wunderground have METAR data if there is anything for this station)
Mentioning record temperature is at least sharp practice and doing this without being very up front with the honest context is dishonest. Endemic problem in public life.
There are no international climatic stations in the area which is a strong implication the Met Office know there are major station problems. However http://www.nws.noaa.gov/dm-cgi-bin/nsd_lookup.pl?station=03784
Looks to me like trying to find a very hot location.
Just discovered more sharp practice by the Met Office. To me this stinks.
WMO 03784 GRAVESEND, BROADNESS SAMOS NCM KENT 51467 300 3 OS 5606 1764 15 9 1995 31 12 9999 ZZ99LH
Date station opened 1995 31 12, 31st December 1995
Honesty would state 1996.
Posted by co-moderator