Thursday, February 02, 2006

Weather Station

For Christmas I asked Santa for a wireless rain gauge/thermometer, which I received yesterday. Now I’m in the process of setting it up.

This mini weather station will hopefully serve two purposes. First, it will allow me to put local (very local!) rainfall and temperature data in the newspaper. Second, it will provide me with some nerdy entertainment.

The device contains three elements. There’s an electronic rain bucket with a little antenna on it. The bucket measures rainfall and self empties. It transmits the data to a wireless monitor located inside the house. The monitor stores nine days worth of information. There’s also an outdoor temperature gauge which also transmits to the indoor monitor.

The first step was finding the right location for the bucket and temperature sensor, which had to be within line-of-sight of a window. I live in a breadbox, so my options are limited.

I found a nice spot in the backyard within eyesight of the kitchen window. The inside monitor will be located on a tiny shelf I’ll build a couple feet above the kitchen sink and near the window.

Today’s project involved installing a 4” x 4” fence post. I borrowed my neighbor’s manual fence post digger, which is the only good way to go when digging such a hole. I hate digging with a passion, but with a fence post digger, it’s a pleasure. After three leisurely scoops, I had a nice, round 8”-inch deep hole. The soil I pulled up was normal – slightly damp, but not soggy. It was exactly what you’d expect from a yard in the winter.

But a few inches later I found something surprising. The ground water level was only about 12” down! I kid you not. That means that if I needed to dig a well right now, I’d only need to go down a mere foot before a hit water. The total depth of the hole I dug was about four feet, which took about 7 minutes. It was like ladling clam chowder.

I live in an area that is generally well drained. But with the non-stop rainfall, the water levels are ridiculously high. I’m glad I don’t have too many tall trees around the house. How could they stay up when they’re virtually floating in water? Go figure.

I put the 10-ft. fence post in and used a large sledge hammer to pound gravel into the surrounding hole. Then I built a small platform on which to place the bucket and a small box for the weather sensor and screwed it on top of the post. By the time I finished, it was dark.

Installation of the electronic gizmos may take place tomorrow unless the entire house floats away.

Once it’s up and running, I plan to take measurements and compare them to National Weather Service data for at least a couple weeks. I want to make sure that, at the very least, I’m in the ballpark before publishing this data. I’ll make sure there’s a disclaimer so readers know that this information is coming from me and not some brainiac NASA scientist. I also plan on using some low-tech thermometers and information from other amateur weather watchers to double check my measurements.

Stay tuned.

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