Deal or Dud – Fitzroy’s Storm Glass


We aired a segment on WHNT News 19 at 10 this evening about the Fitzroy Storm Glass.

If you’ve never heard of Admiral Fitzroy and his method of weather prediction, here’s a little background from the University of Hawaii:

Admiral Fitzroy (1805-1865), as commander of HMS Beagle, participated in the Darwin Expedition from 1834-1836. In addition to his naval career, Fitzroy did pioneer work in the field of meteorology. The Beagle’s instrumentation for the Darwin Expedition included several chronometers as well as barometers, which Fitzroy used for weather forecasting. The Darwin Expedition also was the first voyage under sailing orders that the Beaufort wind scale be used for wind observations.

One type of barometer used by Fitzroy was a storm glass. Observing the liquid in the storm glass was supposed to indicate changes in the weather. If the liquid in the glass was clear, the weather would be bright and clear. If the liquid was cloudy, the weather would be cloudy as well, perhaps with precipitation. If there were small dots in the liquid, humid or foggy weather could be expected.

A cloudy glass with small stars indicated thunderstorms. If the liquid contained small stars on sunny winter days, then snow was coming. If there were large flakes throughout the liquid, it would be overcast in temperate seasons or snowy in the winter. Crystals at the bottom indicated frost. Threads near the top meant it would be windy.

We concluded that this particular type of storm glass was a big, fat DUD. That does not mean that Admiral Fitzroy’s invention does not work; it means that this particular version was a failure.

We tested it the last week of January when this storm system was coming through the Tennessee Valley:


I was at work for 26-straight hours between that Tuesday and Wednesday as severe storms moved across the Tennessee Valley spawning several tornadoes in Tennessee and through Central Alabama. The storm glass pictured below showed no change whatsoever as the pressure rapidly fell and rose that week.

Some of them do work, though! If you’d like to learn more about and make one of your own, check out the info from the University of Hawaii: Storm Glass Project.


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