Monday, 3 December 2012

A weather system called Godot (and a weather station called Digitech)

It is well known that major storms are given names to make life easy for journalists.  Hurricane Sandy (or post-tropical storm Sandy as it became) will possibly be remembered as long as Hurricane Katrina (New Orleans)  or Cyclone Tracey (Darwin).  However less spectacular weather events don't get named even though they are sometimes interesting.

The current weather system over the Southern Tablelands of NSW should be named as it has been causing the Bureau of Meteorology -BoM -  (and TV weather announcers) to look like gooses for some time.  In effect each day they seem to announce that lots of rain is due 2 or 3 days out and then nothing happens.  The process seems rather like the plot of Samuel Beckett's play "Waiting for Godot" in which characters inhabit the stage awaiting the arrival of one Godot, who never appears.  This means of course that it is not possible to show a photo of the character, but here is a (radar) image of the weather system.
I have previously explored the relationship between the weather forecast and what eventuates.  It is difficult to make such a comparison easily since the BoM don't have old forecasts readily available to the public.  This is fair enough, since the amount of data to be retained would be huge and complex, and the usage of the data would be more in the public curiosity rather than public interest.  That being said it is somewhat annoying to keep hearing BoM mouthpieces say how the forecasts are generally accurate, although my annoyance could reflect two situations:
  • I only remember the 5% of cases where BoM stuff up; or
  • the BoM, like Unhygenix, do not cry "Stinking fish". 
However I have decided that I needed to upgrade my weather recording system beyond a plastic rain gauge that sits on our bald hill paddock and a digital thermometer on the kitchen windowsill that (sort of indicates the outside temperature. 

My friend Rob has an Oregon electronic system with which he is pretty happy and I investigated those first.   The issue I had with them was the number of batteries required: to get the functionality I required it seemed I needed a set up with 4 sets of batteries at various sizes.  Apart from the sheer environmental disaster this represents the one issue Rob noted (and his system only needs two  sets of batteries) was that if one lot of batteries run out the whole system goes down the gurgler.  So it seemed likely that with 4 sets I would be continually resetting the system.

Uncle Google was then called upon.  This generated a number of interesting sites including advice from the operator of Gungahlin Weather about his system.  When I got to the bit about $2,000 I lost some interest.  However I did find a Digitech system which seemed pretty good.  The remote sensor is largely solar powered, it will feed directly into my computer and doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

Having acquired the system the issue was to decide where to site the remote station.
  • I didn't want to put it on the roof since I suspected the reflection off the roof would muck up the maximum temperature and it was too high for reliable minimum temperatures;
  • It couldn't go on the lawns as I wanted to measure rainfall, not the amount of water from our sprinklers;
  • Putting it under a tree (or too close to a building) was not good for rainfall or wind recording; and
  • It had to be within 50m of my study and without too much 'stuff' in between.
After some faffing about I found a site (red dot) that pretty much matched those criteria.

A side effect of this search stage of the process was that I found the Washington Post website (my source for Merkin news since the NY Times started to charge) was offering this:
Nice try lads, but you're too late.  Here was my study floor at about the same time:
After reading the manual (really, looking at the pictures) and establishing that a few more pictures would have been an improvement everything was together and mounted on the pole previously erected.
 The one problem with that shot is that the instructions don't allow for some of the locals.
 They are not always that chilled so a barrier was installed and should persuade them to go round the arrangement.  Here is the finished product.
Thus far the information delivered seems pretty compatible with the existing system (and what I can see by looking out the window).   The rain function has yet to be tested which will be determined in the 3rd Act, when Godot might turn up



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