The roar of the March Lion

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vreihen

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March came in like a lion all right this year, with *two* nor'easters dumping on our area in less than a week. Our local power company was down to their last 100 customers without power (out of 110,000+ without power) from the last storm when the flakes started flying for this one. I haven't been outside to take an official measurement yet, but it looks like about 5cm with rates of 2.5 - 5 cm per hour forecast for this afternoon. Wet snow again, sticking to the trees and surely going to cause more power outages.

There's a weather joke about knowing that you are about to get walloped when you see Jim Cantore and a Weather Channel TV crew standing on your lawn. Jim is in New England today, but his co-star Jen Carfagno is set up 23km to our south this morning in the town of Central Valley in a commuter parking lot across from the Woodbury Commons outlet mall.

I'll post pictures later, when the lighting is a little better.....


 
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As of midnight last night, our local power company still had 9,833 customers without power going into this storm. At the peak, our power company had over 600k customers without power. I consider myself fortunate as we only had 34 hours without power. It was not a terrible hardship.

The other fun part of these storms is the saturated ground here. We have had one the most rainy Febs on record. The ground is nothing but mush! Trees are going over easy in the winds that come with these storms. Southeast PA will see another batch of outages with heavy wet snow and 35-45mph winds.. not like Friday's storm but still significant. With this storm, we will have a big dump of heavy wet snow which will pull trees down.

I did have a tree come down on my home - no damage - just a PITA. Was really cool to watch. Earlier in the day, half the tree fell away from the house into the yard. We knew the tree was stressed and it was only a matter of time until the rest came down. In the wind, we could see what remained of the trunk twisting... Well, I was eating dinner, the tree just outside the sliding glass door at my back. My son is watching the tree and I see his concern as he shouts, "Here it comes!" Well, you have not seen a fat old man move as fast as this fat old man moved.. and we watched the tree. What a ballet! The pirouette and the gentleness with which it set itself on the house was as if angels were guiding it to a safe resting place. Really! Could not believe how gentle it touched the house - barely a sound. Then it came to a rest and set there til we took it down on Sunday.

I suspect more fun times around the corner...

Seems the newsies have given all a new holiday today.. the storm has yet to materialize. The roads just wet. And, the roads were empty this am coming to work. Wuses rule!
 
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On the "weather lab" deck railing to the right is a NWS-approved Stratus rain gauge (in snow mode), a cheesy $1.89 "garden store" rain gauge, and an item that I can't talk about and am too lazy to blot out of the picture.....
 
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In my country, there was a problem due to a sudden increase in temperature. From -15 to +15 °C. :confused:

Today we had sunshine, heavy showers and ice. Like in the summer months. Some places have a big problem with floods.
:(

 
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Still coming down at a moderate clip as darkness falls. A few hours ago, a tree in the woods next to the garage fell with a crash. My wife was pulling out of the driveway when she heard the crash...and saw the tree as it came crashing down into the driveway right where she was parked a few seconds earlier! It hit my trailer and there is a stray branch that broke off stuck to the CATV feed from the pole to the house. I haven't been outside to survey the damage yet.....

 
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Boki Ar

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Ughhh. :( The tree is broken by the frost or by the weight of the snow? What's the temperature outside?
 
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It has been hovering between 0 and -1 all day, just below freezing. Here's a link to my live weather station data:



The tree was not in the best of health recently, and the trunk snapped about 3-4 meters above the ground from the weight of the snow. Sadly, my front yard security camera's lens was covered with snow when it fell, so I don't have video if I need to make an insurance claim.

As I was typing the last sentence, the power dropped for about 10 seconds and then came back on. Our power company is reporting only 12,500 customers without power, out of 300,000 total customers. Time to gas up the generator, just in case.....
 
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The official tally here was 36cm for the storm total. The power stayed on all night, but looking outside at the tree branches hanging almost to the ground makes me think that we're still not out of the woods (pun intended):



Rumor has it that Jack had a tree fall in his yard after sunset last night, but I haven't been out yet to see the damage around the area. My employer is opening at 11:00 AM, to give the plow guys plenty of time to clean up the parking lots and walkways. My plug-in hybrid kept the Mighty Dodge's windows and roof clean through the storm, so it should only take me a minute or two of brushing before I can head out into the great white wasteland.....
 
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It has been hovering between 0 and -1 all day, just below freezing. Here's a link to my live weather station data:
Sometime I'd like to hear more about your weather station rig. It sounds like interesting nerdery to engage in, and I've thought about getting into it myself.
 
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I personally saw it with my own eyes (and even took a picture) on my way out this morning, but for privacy reasons will let Jack post one of his own.

His tree was much larger than the one that fell at my house.....
 
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Sometime I'd like to hear more about your weather station rig. It sounds like interesting nerdery to engage in, and I've thought about getting into it myself.
There's varying levels of nerdery, depending on how inclined you are with electronics/software and how deep your pockets are.

On the "hands dirty" front, there are dozens of sensor kits out for the Raspberry Pi, intended to teach people how things like the I2C bus works. Great for home-schooling kids and STEM classes in primary schools, but you wind up with an uncalibrated instrument that can read out to a gazillion meaningless decimal places.

At the consumer level, you can buy something off the shelf for $100-$250. Most of the ones that provide remote access will do it through the manufacturer's web portal, which may allow you to download summaries or send your data to Weather Underground if you're lucky. Acu-Rite just released this interesting $99 package bundling their end-of-life 5-in-1 sensor with an indoor console that uploads to Weather Underground and has no known way to retrieve/intercept the data and save it locally. The 5-in-1 sensor is decent for the price point (I've had one since 2010), but they only report every 36 seconds which is annoying if you want to track things with higher resolutions like front passages as they happen. (Not recommending this package unless all that you want to do is upload to Weather Underground, especially with the 5-in-1 sensor being EOL and having an uploader embedded in firmware when WU has been changing their site weekly.)

Moving up to the pro-sumer tier, there are a few options in the $400-$1,000 range. The big dog is Davis, and their sensor accuracy is more or less universally accepted. Davis and I have a love-hate relationship going back to the early 1990's, when they made my (non-profit!) employer spend $250 for a photocopied piece of paper and a floppy disk full of useless MS-DOS code that documented their super-secret proprietary serial API to log station data. Their indoor consoles have not been updated since VAG-1551's roamed the Earth, and probably share components. :p Getting access to the data from their system requires buying an over-priced add-on logger from them that makes the consumer package above look cheap. As they used to say about IBM, nobody has ever been fired for buying Davis. You won't see one at my house, unless the mother of all deals pops up on eBay for a used one.

Above that level, you are into the serious weather instruments market. Think 3D ultrasonic anemometers, fog measuring lasers, and other goodies with government-sized price tags to match. If you want to piece something together that's personalized, :)http://www.youngusa.com/. There's also Gill and others in this market segment. Occasionally a Gill ultrasonic anemometer pops up on eBay as government surplus from an airport ASOS upgrade, if you're patient and want to drop $600+ for obsolete hardware.

Before long, you will have a whole slew of sensors around your yard that rivals only Jack's scan tool collection, trying to get them all to agree. Oh, and if anyone has about 30 feet of antenna tower laying around. :D I'll explain my setups in a future post.

Personally, I would hold off on a purchase for a few months. Darn NDA won't let me say more..... :(
 
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Weather station 101...

These are the things you'll probably want:

1) Sensor(s) to measure the weather.

2) A way to see the sensor measurements indoors.

3) Optionally, a way to store the data for future analysis.

4) Optionally, a way to share the data.

5) Optionally, a full weather web site with instantaneous live data displays to show your geekiness.


#1 Sensors - My "production" primary weather station is an Acu-Rite 5-in-1 sensor, on a 6 meter mast strapped to the back deck. The global WMO standard for wind measurements is 10 meters high, but anyone who ever put up an antenna mast knows that you need guy wires to keep things stable after about 6 meters:

(Down for cleaning)


(Up on mast)


The 5-in-1 sensor measures wind direction, wind speed, rainfall, temperature, and humidity. Great for a consumer-grade device, but global WMO standards call for rain, temp, and humidity to be measured at a lower height than wind so it is not a serious instrument.

The solar panel does not actually power the unit. It is there to drive a solar-powered fan, which draws air over the temp/humidity sensor to give it fresh air and not the solar-heated case air. Making a proper Stevenson screen or fan-aspirated radiation shield is the subject of many a doctoral thesis, and can be an entire DIY hobby all unto itself. Do you know how the MFA temperature reading in your car reads high when the engine is warm and stopped in traffic because the sensor is under the hood on the radiator support? Enough said.

#2 Display - My quick reference display unit is the Acu-Rite console that came with the 5-in-1. It receives signals wirelessly from the 5-in-1, and adds indoor temp/humidity and (most importantly!) a barometer:



Most weather stations on the market come with serial or USB ports in them, to send data to a PC that's running 24/7 for storage, processing, and sharing. This particular one does not, but I have another one similar to it that has a USB port...and a blown barometer that reads pressures on Mars and not Earth. Acu-Rite cannot make a barometer to save their life, which is a good lead-in for #3.....
 
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#3 Storage - After going PC-free a few years ago, I purchased a software package by an enterprising chap in Europe named Meteobridge. You flash this software into a cheap travel-sized wifi router, and it lets you plug in a USB weather console and uploads the data to several different web sites. It can also email alarms, and upload to an SQL database for storage. Worked great for a few years, until the barometer in the console went wonky.

Rolling up my sleeves, I whipped up this fun little box to solve the problem:



Basically it is a Raspberry Pi running Linux, with a Bosch (who *can* make barometers!) BMP-280 I2C barometer sensor and a NooElec software-defined radio (SDR) USB receiver. It is running an open-source Python program called weewx, which can receive data from all kinds of sensors and report it to even more programs and web sites. It also contains a simple web server for local data display:

http://ae3.homelinux.net:81/weewx/ (Down for some reason as I write this.) :(

One of the input sources is the SDR receiver dongle, using a program called rtl_433 that captures the data packets from the outdoor sensor's radio and feeds them into weewx. Combined with the Bosch barometer module, that's how I'm storing (and sharing) data from my "production" station. Rtl_433 can also read alarm system wireless sensors, TPMS sensors, some remote keyless systems, and a bunch of other things with a $20 SDR receiver dongle. Weewx can store a gazillion years of data from the 5-in-1 because of its pathetic 36-second update interval. On the bright side, at least it is not a horrid Netatmo system with update frequencies measured in minutes!

#4 Sharing - What fun is it to collect piles of interesting (to you anyway) data and not share it with other people who also collect data? Weather Wunderground (WU) is the big player in this sandbox, as well as the name of a TV show for weather geeks on The Weather Channel from 18:00-20:00 Eastern. I would post links to all of the other sites that I share with, but ironically my station went offline at 11:42 (most likely due to water in the 5-in-1's remote battery box) so there's nothing to see but station offline messages.

One of the uncommon things that I'm doing is having weewx send updates out to the CWOP network via 2-meter ham radio APRS packets. Weather updates slower than the speed of dialup. :D CWOP only wants 10 minute updates, so this is mostly for fun and as a backup should my home Internet feed go down.

Ironically, I also just noticed that something that I am testing just took a dump, and will need to pick this post up later so that I can grab log files for a bug report..... :facepalm:
 
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