In this age of digital technology, with instant access to up-to-the-minute data, forecasts, and images from the National Weather Service (NWS) and innumerable other online sources; with timely reports from local broadcasters and cable television networks; with personalized forecasts and storm alerts sent directly to your email, pager, or cell phone; why would anyone need a home weather station?
The answer to that question lies right there in your backyard, where the weather conditions you experience at home are often not the same as any of those resources might suggest. We know that all too well living here in southwest Virginia, as weather conditions up on the mountain ridges can be completely different from those down in the valleys. Fortunately, keeping an eye on local weather conditions using your own state-of-the-art weather station has never been easier or more affordable. Whether simple or elaborate, home weather stations will provide you with information that cannot be obtained anywhere else. And having the ability to glance over at your weather station console from the comfort of your couch or armchair is not only convenient, but fascinating as well.
Depending on desired features and accessories, electronic weather station prices can range from as little as $30 to as much as $3,000 or more. Available in either wireless or cabled versions, these highly accurate weather instruments monitor a variety of weather conditions: temperature and humidity (both indoors and out), atmospheric pressure, precipitation, wind direction and speed, dew point, wind chill, and heat index - all displayed within the comfort of your home! More advanced weather stations offer enhanced features such as faster sampling rates, extensive data graphing and history, and additional sensors ranging from ultraviolet, solar radiation, and evapotranspiration to soil temperature/moisture and leaf wetness. All electronic weather stations include a clock and many of them are radio controlled, resetting themselves daily to the official U.S. government atomic clock located at Fort Collins, Colorado.
Cabled weather stations use a cable to connect their weather sensors to the indoor console. Drawbacks include the risk of lightning (must use lightning arrestors) and having to drill a hole in the wall to link the two, but cabled units are generally less expensive than wireless units. Wireless weather stations use radio signals (typically in the 433 MHz band) to transmit measurements from the weather sensors to the indoor console, eliminating the need to string cable and drill holes. The maximum "unobstructed" (or "line of sight") range between the sensors and indoor console can vary between models, from 80 to 1000 feet. However, their "effective" range is determined by the building materials their signals must penetrate (walls, siding, roof structure, etc.) and by sources of radio interference. As a rule-of-thumb for a typical installation, the effective range is about a third of the rated unobstructed range.
Weather station sensors need to be placed or "sited" properly to provide accurate measurements. Once installed, sensors transmit their data to the indoor console, which updates the display and records the readings at an interval set by the manufacturer. This interval may vary depending on the type of measurement (temperature, wind speed, rainfall, etc.) or may be fixed at one interval rate regardless of the type (every minute, every three minutes, etc.).
Some home weather stations are capable of interfacing with a computer, either included as part of the package or available as an optional accessory. A computer-linked weather station offers not only real-time display of weather measurements on your computer monitor, but also provides for advanced data collection and graphical weather analysis. And with a dedicated internet connection, you can even post weather data to your own weather web page or become a part of the process by sharing your readings with the Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP), which forwards the information in a format that the National Weather Service can use. Even if your weather station isn t connected to a computer, you can still participate as a volunteer Skywarn "spotter," providing your local NWS weather forecast office with important weather measurements and severe weather reports.
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