Eskdalemuir Observatory

Eskdalemuir Observatory
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Eskdalemuir Observatory

A centre for geophysical and meteorological measurement, the Eskdalemuir Observatory is owned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and is located in the upper reaches of the White Esk valley, at the settlement of Davington in NE Dumfries and Galloway. It provides information on the long-term monitoring of the geomagnetic field in the UK - an activity important to navigation - as well as measuring earthquake activity around the world. As well as contributing to an international network which allows earthquake locations to be pin-pointed, Eskdalemuir is the principal means of detecting the many small earthquakes which occur in Scotland. It also detected the crash of the Pan Am jumbo jet at Lockerbie in 1988 and the observed time of impact was presented as evidence at the subsequent court hearings and enquiries.

There is also a synoptic meteorological station installed here, which measures solar radiation, levels of atmospheric pollution, and undertakes chemical sampling. An automated weather station here contributes data to the computer models which predict Britain's weather.

The observatory was relocated here from its original site in Kew, London, in 1908 - the electric tramcars there were having an adverse effect on the geo-magnetic readings obtained. This site also proved ideal for a seismological observatory because it has very low occurrence of even small earthquakes, which would add background noise to the measurements taken.

The observatory was the responsibility of the National Physical Laboratory (1908-10), the Meteorological Office (1910-68) and subsequently operated by the British Geological Survey on behalf of NERC. As well as Eskdalemuir, the Global Seismology and Geomagnetism Group of the British Geological Survey maintain and operate observatories at Lerwick in the Shetland Isles and Hartland in North Devon. Nearby is the Eskdalemuir Seismological Station established by the UK Atomic Energy Authority which operates a further seismic array intended to monitor international compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

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