Redwood Lake Weather Station

2 04 2010

Over the last month of so I’ve been making a number of incremental changes to the web site for the Redwood Lake Weather Station. I still would love to build my own site from the ground up and a few prototypes have even gone from white board to web site and back again.

My biggest issue is instrumentation or gauges, Ive tried various offerings the most successful being the free gauges offered by Bindows but even these have left a lot to be desired, wide browser compatibility being top of a list of niggles.

So I decided, while I continue my search for the tools to build my own site, to apply a lot of the other tricks, tips and technology to my Cumulus based site from SandaySoft?

My weather station, a WS2350, is connected to an old server here in my office and via the excellent Cumulus software from Steve at  SandaySoft keeps the Redwood web site up to date.

Redwood Lake Weather Station Web Site

Redwood Lake Weather Station Web Site

So what are the key differences between the standard Cumulus web page and the Redwood site?

The old multi page standard site has been replaced by a single main page incorporating some of the data found on the old additional pages and driven by AJAX based dynamic updates based on a live data feed from the weather station. You can find details of the AJAX scripts on the Cumulus forum pages, implementing it was very simple.

The page has been reformatted a little with some minor tweaks to the CSS and the addition of a banner image (a picture of Redwood Lake, of course).

I have also implemented a data log to drive some graphs. The graphs are based on JPGraph package using the logging and data generation scripts by TNET Services, these are really good and very simple to get working. However they dont seem to deal with data gaps as I would like, I would prefer to see time on the graphs with no data rather than the period omitted. I’ve been looking at Open Flash Chart but have not really had the free time to define scripts to feed data in the JSON format required.

The navigation bar has been changed to allow me to include some great external content from Weather Underground and from Meteorologica, the standard Cumulus instrumentation gauges have been retained but I’m no fan of Silverlight and at best they are troublesome, which is a shame as I think Steve from SandaySoft has actually done a great job in building them.

One thing I always disliked about the standard Cumulus web site was the Moon phase graphic, so I’ve replaced it with some new images.

Overall I’m fairly pleased with the results, I think there is still a lot that could be done (time permitting of course). I would like to implement a better forecast, currently I’m using the simple (Zambretti based) forecast produced by Cumulus, the WS2350 doesn’t produce anything better itself as some weather stations do.

I think a forecast graphic and, if I can work out the scripting, a ‘current’ conditions graphic are next on the TO-DO list.

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#uksnow – Snow and the Weather Station

8 01 2010

As every one not living under a rock will know the UK has been hit by quite a lot of snow in the last week. Here at Redwood we still have 8 to 10 inches laying on the ground, now frozen as we have not see a temperature above freezing for a few days.

I’ve been watching the weather station sensors of my WS2350 out on the roof outside my office windows and its stood remarkably well to its second winter in the snow. The wind speed anemometer has not frozen and has continued to provide good readings, The temperature, pressure and humidity have provided readings as accurate as they are ever going to be and well with in the margin of error when cross checked with other local weather stations. In fact only the rain sensor lets the side down a little by having no way to distinguish between snow melt and rain fall, hardly the sensors fault I know, but it does raise the question of how one avoids measuring snow melt in the rain fall stats. Its also bound to suffer from frozen water on the tipper which when it melts will add to rain fall stats too, less of a snow issue, more a freezing temperature issue.

I was also thinking about how to deal with recording snow fall, both depth and rate. Obviously there is no sensor to record this automatically (that I am aware of) so one would need to take manual readings and record these. The excellent Cumulus software (www.sandaysoft.com) I use as my data logger and web site feeder has provision for a weather diary in which snow conditions can be recored but it does not seem like the standard Cumulus site presents this diary. Of course snow fall is one thing, sunshine is another and lightning strike, both of which can be measured by the amateur using available sensors and software. Snow, it would seem, is not so easy to measure with automation.

There was an excellent series of weather programs on the BBC Four earlier this year, The Weather (www.bbc.co.uk), in four parts. One of which covered snow in some detail. I was hoping there may be a repeat showing but I cant find them.

The excellent #uksnow twitter tag mashup by Ben Marsh (uksnow.benmarsh.co.uk) has been incredibly popular again, showing a simple picture of snowfall across the UK based on a tweet comprising your postcode then a 1 to 10 scale of snowfall. But it only records snow fall not depth (in fact it only records what you tell it so its very subjective). I think there are definitely a few changes that would take it forward and make it even more popular.

The Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com) has a fantastic mashup map, based on personal weather station feeds, such as the one here at Redwood, but again, snow is obvious by omission only.

I’m sure in places where snow fall is greater that recording and publishing methods are much further advanced than they are for the typical personal weather station, but I am curious what else I can do. Its likely that these winter conditions are indicative of future winters and that snow fall will be a useful addition to the recording going on here at Redwood.

You can follow the weather here at Redwood on the web site (weather.60redwood.com) and on twitter @RedwoodWeather

There is more snow expected this weekend

Finally, here a few pictures from my office window out over the frozen garden Redwood lake

Posted via email from Steve’s Blog





The Weather

12 10 2009

I’ve always had an interest in the weather, but then, don’t we all? Except, I’ve always been interested in how it works, what it does and why it does it, as well as figuring out how to tell what it might do next. Weather forecasting is.. well ask Michael Fish!

So, a little  over a year ago I installed a weather station. This is made up of a base station which sits on my desk and via large display tells me what the weather is doing now and what it has done historically, it also attempts to provide a basic forecast. It does this by taking measurements from a weather station outside, this has sensors for

  • Temperature
  • Pressure
  • Humidity
  • Wind Speed
  • Rain Fall

The weather station is a WS2350, it is sold under a few different brands and is generally around the £110.00 mark. This price point is pretty much the entry level for a station that can be linked to a computer. In the 14 months its been working Ive not had any problems with it.

At first I used the wireless feature to link the sensors to the base, the obvious benefit being no drilling holes into the house for wires. However, there are two downsides to this. First it means the sensors have to be battery powered, not a big problem really, a decent set of batteries ran for 6 months. The second issue is more important, when connected wirelessly the sensors only take wind readings every 120 seconds or so, when connected with a wire its 8 seconds. This I found proved a bit of a limitation so quite recently my office wall acquired a hole and now base and sensors talk over the wire.

Being a tech junkie this couldn’t possibly be enough though, could it? No, of course not, we need to grab all that data and publish it online.  At first I used the software that came with the weather station I bought, this proved to be very limiting and unreliable. Searching the interweb revealed various other software systems. First I tried WUHU which is the software from Weather Underground, this allowed me to grab the data and publish it to different web sites. I still publish to www.wunderground.com and also publish a web cam image looking out over the garden.

The Weather Underground web site is very good and the features and maps are fantastic, but its not ‘my’ web site. Further trawling through the interweb revealed Cumulus from SandaySoft. This is a piece of donationware, free but if you find it useful you are asked by Steve, the author, to make a donation to fund further development. I’ve dealt with Steve via the forums he provides for help and support and both he and the Cumulus software are first class. In my opinion if you are going to set up a weather station, you use Cumulus.

So, my weather website. Well its currently more or less the default site generated by the excellent Cumulus software. Its ‘live’ most days but I tend not to run the PC that uploads the site and data all night. The site updates every minute and there is a weather feed via twitter @RedwoodWeather