Getting Local with the Weather

I have always been fascinated by the weather. When I was in grade school, we had a science teacher who had us go out and record the temperature and relative humidity, using a sling psychrometer that we whirled around. Then, my parents got me a weather station one Christmas. It would be crude by today’s standards, but it had an anemometer, an indoor/outdoor thermometer, and a rain gauge. It had wires that ran from the outside to the inside for the thermometers and anemometer, and the rain gauge had to be read manually the old-fashioned way, but I loved it.

CoCoRaHS rain gauge

CoCoRaHS rain gauge

More recently, in 2011 I became a member of the CoCoRaHS network. I did a post on this back in 2012 called Measuring Rain, Hail and Snow. I got tired of never knowing exactly how much rainfall we had received, and I realized I would have to measure it myself if I wanted accurate readings. One of our friends was already a volunteer, so I decided to sign up myself. CocoRaHS volunteers all use the same rain gauge, which can be purchased from WeatherYourWay for about $30. The information collected is used by researchers, scientists, farmers, teachers, and others who are interested in precipitation data.

CoCoRaHS uses low-cost measuring tools and manual methodology, but I knew there were more high-tech solutions out there. I can thank fellow blogger Daphne for that, since she got a Personal Weather Station (PWS) for a birthday gift back in 2010. I was one of those oohing and aahing over it in her comments section, and I guess I’ve had weather station envy ever since. But not any more!

personal weather station outdoor sensor array

personal weather station outdoor sensor array

So after consulting with my wife, last week I decided to get my own PWS. I believe it is the same Davis Instruments Vantage VUE station that Daphne has. The outdoor sensor array is solar-powered, storing power in a capacitor for nighttime operation and has a lithium battery for backup power. It uses wireless transmission to send the data to an indoor unit (weather center console) which displays up to date info on each of the measured variables (temperature, wind speed, rainfall, etc). I mounted the outdoor unit on a wooden 4×4 post that’s part of the main garden fencing, using a metal mounting pole kit. That puts the unit about seven feet above ground, and reasonably far enough away from trees and the house to make for accurate readings.

weather console

weather console

Of course, I wanted to be able to collect the data and store it for future reference, so I needed to link the unit to my PC. For that I got the WeatherLink USB software, which adds an interface module to the console unit that connects to a USB port on your PC. Next, I downloaded a DLL file for the Weatherlink software that allows data to be uploaded to the Weather Underground servers. Now our PWS is a part of their U.S. PWS Network, with the station name of KINNEWBU12. Once that was done, we could download a widget to put on our blog sidebar, and an app/gadget to use on our PCs. Whew! I have to say after all that, I was starting to feel like I was still working in IT.

outdoor unit

outdoor unit

The weather data from our PWS will be collected and stored on both my PC and on the Weather Underground servers. The WU site makes browsing the data pretty easy, and you can look at the raw data as well as various graphs. I know the data will come in handy for gardening as well as for our general use, and it will be nice to know weather conditions in our own backyard, instead of from several miles away.

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7 Responses to Getting Local with the Weather

  1. Daphne says:

    Congrats! I know I love my weather station. Our wind gauge has never worked, but like you I really love it for the rain gauge and all that temperature data. It makes calculating the GDD easier.

  2. Michelle says:

    It’s my turn to have weather station envy. I keep an eye on the temperature in my garden but have no way to record the data. And the rain data is from the paper and who knows where that information is gathered. How fun! And now every time I read your blog I can see what the weather is in your area. It’s always interesting to me to see what the weather conditions are in connection with the gardens that I’m reading about.

  3. Susie says:

    Yup, definitely envy worthy. Really, really neat to have that!

  4. Margaret says:

    Another envious person sitting right here – that is some setup! I would love to know what the weather is like right outside my door (now that I look at that statement, it sounds kind of weird!) & have it automatically recorded. I don’t really keep track of the weather at the moment, other than in the most cursory way, simply because it’s too much effort.

  5. Awesome citizen science going on in your yard. That setup is way beyond my understanding. I have a weather -predicting rock. If it’s wet, it’s raining. If it’s moving, we’re having a tornado. If it is wet AND moving, we are having a hurricane. 🙂

  6. Dave's SFG says:

    Very nice. I would definitely like to have one. I do have a couple Weather Underground reporting stations around, one a half mile from my home. And there is an agricultural reporting station about 2 miles from the garden that tracks rainfall and degree days and reports are on the web. Not as much fun as having your own, however.

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