Owning, Operating and Maintaining the Best Weather Station

best weather station

I have to admit that I’ve been a huge weather enthusiast for as long as I can remember. The thrill of experiencing Mother Nature at her best – and especially at her worst – is simply addictive. Thus my owning and operating the best weather station in my own back yard. I’ve done this for almost 3 years now and only wish I’d started earlier. It’s fun, interesting, informative, but also can be frustrating at times (when the station doesn’t want to work right for various reasons). Besides, since I can’t be a storm chaser, I may as well monitor storms in my own community. Also, by submitting the information provided to various online organizations, it helps the NWS gather, decipher and use the information for current and historical data.

Two of the places you can find info on my weather station is:

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CWOP (Citizens Weather Observation Program) CW4485

 

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Weather Underground – Greenwood AR

Example

There are two examples, one recent and one about 1 1/2 years ago, that proved how important the weather station is.

  • The recent was the massive rains and flooding here in Greenwood. Between midnight and 6 am, my station recorded 6.58 inches of rain, with several episodes of > 1 inch per hour. This is the type of information that I will send into NWS-Tulsa straight way (directly) as an OK/AR Skywarn Spotter. It helps them confirm (and reconfirm) that what they’re seeing on the radars and hearing from others in the area are actual.
  • The other example was during a storm last year when my station recorded straight line winds of 71+ mph (right before the station was abruptly relocated by the wind forces to the neighbors across the street). Since I not only lost my weather station but also my privacy fence and part of my roof, I was able to print out and show the insurance company the data when I made my homeowners claim. I shared this data with my neighbors who also used it for their claims.

Operate the best weather station

Anyone can operate a weather station. They are actually self-run, with the occasional low-battery, spiders-in-the-sensors or the-dog-chewed-through-the-cable problems. There are many brands and models out there varying greatly in price. I, like so many others, have started with the more affordable La Crosse brand. You can find a fully functional station at Sam’s Club or Costco for under $100. Others (like the Davis brand) run in the upper hundreds. Some are solar powered and others battery powered. And you don’t have to have a computer to use one. Check some reviews to find the best weather station that suits your need. Just because you have a station doesn’t mean you have to broadcast your data to other sources. Many station owners simply have one to satisfy their own weather curiosity or monitor conditions regarding their crops. If you have any interest at all, I’d highly suggest installing a weather station – you’ll get a lot more out of it than you may realize.

(Before I continue, let me clarify that you do NOT have to run cables across your yard to get the data into your house. It is an option to gather data more rapidly – most are run on radio transmission. So your dog – or your kids – won’t run into trouble by messing up your cable lines!)

Just what does a weather station consist of? 3 essential sensors: the wind, rain, and temp (which is the primary “input/output sensor) and a console. Unless you have one of the extremely higher priced stations, these 3 sensors do connect via cable. The length of cable is usually enough to mount each sensor at different locations and heights if warranted but can be lengthened. If your property has tree cover, you would want to put your temp sensor in the shade, and the others in the open. Or, if your place is like mine where there’s only one lone tree that barely stands taller than you are, you can have all sensors in the open. Modifications for solar heating may need to be provided – depends on the make and model.

My weather station has seen many locations around my yard, including fences, makeshift poles, the kids swing set … it now resides all together atop a wooden post in the midst of the yard. The wind sensor needs to be high enough to clear any impeding structures (some put them on the roof), the rain sensor just needs to be in the open and not around items that may block blowing-type winds, and the temp needs to be as high as a person. As I said, if the temp sensor shows problems of solar heating, there are many simple ways to avoid it.

As for submitting the data to online sources, you do NOT have to purchase special software. Of course, you could go out and spend money on software, but the stations often come with it. And, there is an excellent software program available for free – and excellent support for it directly from the developer. There are no dues or fees for submitting your data. And the CWOP program provides continuous quality assurance checks for you to use in making sure there’s nothing funny happening with your station. So, after the initial cost of purchasing the station and any materials you may need to mount it on, it is a very cost-effective “hobby” to have.

Areas such as the River Valley really do need more weather stations in place. Watching real-time climate and barometric changes at locations in the path of storms ahead of us is another excellent way to know what’s about to happen here.

MY WEATHER STATION SPECIFICS

This station is a La Crosse 2310. It’s the second one I’ve had since the first one was literally blown away. Some folks call La Crosse “the poor man’s best weather station brand” but of all the folks I know online, it’s great for the majority of users.

La Crosse 2310 Weather Station

The 2310 sensors are pre-cabled, and I’m currently running mine in wireless mode from the temp (primary) sensor, only because I have a pup that won’t stop chewing the cable that would lead to the console inside the window. The advantage to running wired is that the data is gathered as quickly as every 3 seconds (something really great to have during storms), whereas in wireless the info is gathered every couple of minutes. Plus, in wireless, the batteries in the temp sensor are used exclusively. I normally have to replace them every 4-6 months. Otherwise, the primary sensor will use power from the console. Both the primary sensor and console have batteries no matter which mode you run, in the case of power failure.

From the console, the station is wired to my computer via a serial cable. The data is collected in a free (full featured) program called Weather Underground / Heavy Weather Uploaded (or WUHU for short). The software’s developer owns an email list (and I co-moderate) and this guy replies to any and all problems, suggestions and comments. Over the years he has taken what started as a simple program to upload weather data only to Weather Underground and turned it into a multifunction, multi-upload, absolutely wonderful program. If there are upload errors, problems with gathering the data from the console, or other potential anomalies, WUHU will let you know. It will also make corrections or adjustments if really strange readings are noted. I just can’t say enough great things about this program. I’m sure another article could be written on upload programs alone.

Also, if you choose to send your data into CWOP, you will receive QA emails if there are possible data errors. These are for guidance only but can come in really handy if your station is having difficulty in gathering correct data. If it is, and you cannot correct the situation at the station itself, chances are you can tweak the program to correct it there instead.

I run my computer 24/7 simply to make sure my weather data is collected at all times. I’m hooked to the Internet via DSL but I know some submit their data via a phone modem. It’s highly suggested that you submit via a high speed (or continuous connection), as the info is sent faster, more frequently and it doesn’t tie up the phone lines. Of course, if you’re not wanting to send in the data but have it for your own personal use (or to report your findings in another fashion), you don’t have to connect to the Internet. But data history will only be collected via computer – most consoles don’t keep historical data (at least, not much).

If anyone is interested in having a weather station, feel free to contact me. I may not be the best weather station guru, but I can certainly help you get started!

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