Update on weather station

Weather station MkII

Weather station MkII

A brief post on the weather station saga. A few weeks ago (at least), the anemometer (which measures wind speed) stopped working on my weather station. So yesterday, Dr Turnip (who is himself going viral in the blogosphere, eg here, here and here) and I took the weather station back to the shop (again) and this time, we just got a whole new weather station!

So, although I have a brand new weather station — which will hopefully last a bit longer than the last — I have lost almost 6 months worth of (admittedly shoddy) data. If I’d thought that they’d replace the unit entirely and take the old one, I’d have downloaded the last ~2 months data that was on it. But I didn’t predict that, so now it’s gone.

But, today’s a new day, and the weather station is up and running, so hopefully I’ll be able to collect some slightly dodgy met data once more!

Anti-spider defences?


Although this photo doesn’t have much to do with my post, they were awesome clouds (possibly mammatus, if I squint a bit?) that I observed with my own eyes from the location of the weather station.

How can I keep spiders out of my weather station?

I hadn’t thought about this problem until spiders, and specifically their webs, stopped my rain gauge from working. This happened a few months ago, and it continues to happen regularly. The spiders attach webs to the moving parts of the rain gauge so it never tips, and if it never tips, it never registers any rainfall!

I suspect that regular cleaning is the only way to sort this out, but I am lazy and I dislike spiders, so this is an unlikely solution… The other week I removed the louvredcasing to inspect the batteries (it had stopped transmitting data) and three huge spiders flew out as I slid the louvres off. It was pretty gross, as only one of the spiders remained alive past this point. The last one standing didn’t stand for much longer either. I’m pretty sure it was these spiders that sabotaged the data transmission in some arachnid conspiracy to try and stop me collecting sub-optimal highly non-standard observations. They aren’t doing a bad job, as we had to replace the part entirely, and in the process of trying to fix it we wiped all the observations for the last 3 or 4 months. OOPS. I was rather looking forward to continuing the graph of the oddball rainfall we’ve been having this year.

So if anyone has ideas on how I can make my weather station spider-proof, PLEASE let me know!

When it rains, it pours!

Rainfall at my weather station for first half of 2012

Rainfall at my weather station for the first half of 2012, alongside 1971-2000 averages for the Met Office’s station at Bedford. See how we caught up once the hosepipe ban kicked in! (Click to see full size.)

Can you guess when the hosepipe ban started? It was on the 5th of April. By the end of April we were catching up with the cumulative average. I guess we should all be joyous that the rains have finally come, and we aren’t running low any longer. It’s about time too!

So, to backtrack a bit. Dr Turnip got me a fancy-pants weather station for Christmas (the one he wanted to buy was out of stock, so he went for the next one up!), and so I am now able to plot up my extremely local weather data, which has been collected on the very non-standard roof of our canal boat. Despite being a pretty cool bit of kit, it’s not a very good location for collecting weather data as the boat rocks about a bit, and the boat will radiate heat and reflect light from the roof, and the marina is surrounded by trees, which deflect the wind.

So, every quarter (ish) I download the data and take a quick look. As we were in drought earlier in the year, and then we had such a lot of rain more recently, I thought I’d plot it up and share. The graph shows cumulative rainfall from my rough-and-ready weather station since January. I was a bit negligent and didn’t download the data in time, so there’s a gap in April where the data was over-written. I’ve also plotted up the Met Office 1971-2000 monthly averages for their Bedford station (which can be found at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/averages/19712000/sites/bedford.html). This shows that in the first three months of 2012, here in the south east of England we were much drier than usual. Then the hosepipe ban came into force of 5th April, and everyone started sacrificing their lawns, flower beds and car hygiene in the name of the rain god.

Then in April, we started to see more rain than average, which was totally unrelated to the sacrificial lawns, I’m pretty sure. (NB the totals in my plot are a bit off for March and April because of my lost week which fell over the 1st April. Hah! What a fool I am.) My total for 23 March – 30 April was 90mm. This would equate to about 71mm for a 30 day period, and the average for April in Bedford is 47mm — so we got 50% extra free this April! Bargain!

The River Great Ouse overspilling

I took this photo in Bedford on 2 May 2012. This tree is not usually in the middle of the river… that was down to the bonus rainfall we had in April.

And then May was only slightly above average. But then June. Well. We got 66% extra free. That’s 66% more than usual. And it really felt it. And lo – we caught up with and surpassed the average year-to-date rainfall. Sounds good, right? Not entirely. As you can see from my photo above, the River Great Ouse in Bedford burst its banks. Luckily, we didn’t have it too bad here. Others in parts of the UK had their homes and possessions ruined by flooding, and some poor souls even lost their lives. This kind of unusual weather means that we often aren’t prepared to deal with it. And if this kind of thing is going to become more common, we’ll have to adapt. (One reason why I live in a boat!) But the $64,000 question (in fact, it’s worth a whole lot more than that) is: is our climate is changing to one that has more of these extreme weather events? Only time will tell for sure. But one thing I can say for sure now: by then, the damage will already be done.

That ends on a a bit of a downer. So to pick things up again, check out this article and cool video: http://www.channel4.com/news/met-office-rain-plane-on-course-to-chase-storms. It’s about some work that people are doing using the UK’s atmospheric research aircraft, which I have done/will do field work on. Lots of people are working on finding out more about severe weather and predicting it (not me though). So things aren’t all doom and gloom!