Right off the bat, I should tell you that I have a weather station in my yard. No, it’s not a cheap little station — it’s a Rainwise MK III that provides updates to Weather Underground and the world every few seconds.
So, why did I install a professional grade weather station in my back yard? It all started when I was a kid and actually had the thought of being a meteorologist for a while. That dream lasted for a few years and never really went away. I’ve always watched the clouds, marveled at the downpours that we sometimes get in the midst of this arid region, and I love a good violent thunderstorm.
Weather has fascinated me for decades, especially in Colorado where it’s common in spring and fall to have temperatures in the high 70s in the afternoon and snow at night. We have the world’s most impressive record of damaging hailstorms, and there are parts of the state that get record low temperatures every winter.
But it’s not that history of regional weather flukes that has captured my full attention — it’s the idea of very local weather, AKA microclimates.
Vineyards are usually placed in a specific microclimate that provides optimum conditions for the growing and harvesting of grapes. For example, we love the wines from the California Central Coast, in particular the areas east of Lompoc and Santa Maria. They get cold, wet fog in the mornings and blazing heat in the afternoons. The result is conditions that make for some of the best Pinot Noir grapes in the world.
What does that have to do with my local weather? I mean, I don’t grow grapes, and my garden is tiny. Well, I still find it fascinating that when I go for a walk in the morning down in our local greenbelt, I can drop fifty feet in altitude and feel the temperature in the gulch dropping ten degrees. It never ceases to amaze me that it can be pouring rain at my house, yet two blocks away the residents are just getting a light sprinkle.
It is those variations within a few hundred feet that are amazing to me. In a perfect world, we’d have weather stations at every house, pouring a wealth of weather data into some vast model that might actually be accurate for once. That’s part of the reasoning behind Weather Underground’s Personal Weather Station (PWS) network, which is a network of over 30,000 stations that send in data for a particular locale. It’s giving Weather Underground an edge, basically by tapping into the feeds from weather nuts like myself.
For me, I love being able to feel hot, take a look at the readings from my weather station, and say “Aha, it’s precisely 94.8°F right now, with no wind, and 15% humidity.” In the winter, it’s nice to know that when I’m freezing my arse off in the house that it’s probably the fact that it is -18°F outside.
What I’m really looking forward to is downloading and analyzing my weather data each and every year, showing the minute by minute changes at my location over the course of twelve months. Is this a record hot day, or does it just feel warm? And I’ve already been able to look at the traces of my readings and do a pretty good job of forecasting when it’s going to start raining.
You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to set up your own weather station. Companies like AcuRite and NetAtmo sell reasonably-priced stations that can provide enough information to start you on the path to true weather geekdom.
Maybe you’re content to just let the local weather talking heads tell you how they think the conditions will be tomorrow, or perhaps you’ve upgraded to the online weather forecasts from a number of sites. For me, doing a bit of my own forecasting from data captured less than a hundred feet away from my computer is an excellent way to learn more about weather and the planet I live on.