And Now For Some Really Local Weather

by Bill Gruber

One of the problems with living in a rural area is getting accurate weather information. The nearest official weather stations are Binghamton and Monticello, which doesn’t do much for us on top of a hill in Delaware County. So we decided to investigate the possibility of our own weather station.

The Milestone weather forecasting stone from geograph.org.uk
© Copyright Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The simplest and cheapest (free) is a weather rock, but it’s pretty basic and isn’t easy to share.

Another inexpensive item is a 99¢ thermometer. Good if you are standing next to the window where it is mounted, but not much help otherwise.

We wanted a more accurate weather solution, one which could indicate temperature, wind speed and direction, rainfall, and barometric pressure, and ideally send the feed to the internet so everyone interested in the area could benefit. Of course, our budget wasn’t unlimited either, so plunking down $35,000 for a prepackaged solution was out of the question. With all this in mind, our investigation led us to a Davis Vantage Pro 2, plus some additional equipment to allow an easy connection to the internet.

Having decided on the appropriate equipment, we turned to other requirements. There are many standards dictating how the equipment must be located and mounted. For example, the temperature sensor has to be a certain distance from the ground, the wind anemometer has to be a different distance from the ground and it all has to be located far enough away from other obstacles. And there are further considerations. Ideally the anemometer should be ten meters from the ground when used for aviation purposes. But for local weather stations in farming communities, three meters is acceptable and gives a better reading of weather near the ground while being less of a target for lightening.

weather station in Franklin, NY
A weather station in Franklin, NY

Our weather station is mounted on a wooden 4×4 post, approximately three meters off the ground in the middle of a field near Gibson Hill Road. You can view this weather station on the Wunderground site:

www.wunderground.com/personal-weather-station/dashboard?ID=KNYFRANK4

While the station itself is primarily solar powered (with a battery backup), maintenance is always an issue. For example, we have to deal with bird droppings frequently gumming up the works! Recently its fan has been acting up, so a new one has been ordered. And one of these days we should probably send it in for an extensive (and expensive) recalibration.

Most people just want the weather and don’t need the boring details. Simply going to Wunderground.com and searching for Franklin, NY or just entering Franklin’s 13775 ZIP code will bring up the current conditions and adjusted forecast. (The forecast is issued by the National Weather Service, not by our weather station, but it is adjusted by Wunderground for the Frankin area.) The option to incorporate “Personal Weather Stations” instead of only National Weather Service stations should already be selected: www.wunderground.com/weather-forecast/zmw:13775.1.99999

Weather.com has recently acquired Wunderground and they have also begun to incorporate information from local weather stations.

Since we installed this station over five years ago, the availability and pricing for entry level weather stations has dropped significantly and other weather stations have begun to appear in the area. Personal weather stations can range from about fifty dollars to thousands, depending upon the features and accuracy preferred.

We hope others will consider joining the fun too!