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Monday, December 11, 2006

Weather Station

The weather has always been of critical importance to me, for example, for birdwatching, fishing, camping or fell-walking; and it is not possible to go bird ringing in wet or windy weather. Wind strength and direction can influence a decision as to which beach to go fishing, whilst a good storm might blow in some unusual bird species. From an early age my sons recognised the importance of tv weather forecasts to me, during which even so much as a whisper from one of them could bring a threatening scowl to my face!

One of my duties when I was leader of Vanda Station, administered by the New Zealand Antarctic Research Programme, was to assist the meteorologist in observing, recording, coding up and transmitting meteorological data into the world data base. Since then I have recorded weather data during my own expeditions. Recently I have discovered the UK Weather World website which contains a detailed fund of weather information, with forums for registered members and opportunities to log personal daily weather observations - a very productive use of the internet.

To assist with this I have bought a desk-top weather station from the weather superstore Meteorologica. This system has a sensor unit which is fixed outdoors and which transmits a low-energy radio signal to the desk-top receiver indoors. The data recorded are temperature, relative humidity and barometric pressure (the desk-top unit additionally displays the indoor measurements of these factors).

Desk top weather station from Meteorologica. More details about the unit are found here here .
The indoor "desktop" unit. (The pointe shoes are an auto- graphed pair of Darcey Bussell's).

Outdoor sensor unit mounted underneath the gutter.

Recording temperature, humidity and barometric pressure is precise, and is simply copied down from the screen of the desk-top recorder. Cloud type and cover is more complex and is subjective, because a personal identification and judgment has to be made, and this comes with practice and experience.

Clouds can be diverse and fascinating to watch, and may appear to be complicated to record but are quite easily classified. Fundamentally there are only two "types" of cloud: the layer type (stratus) and the bubbly "cauliflower" type (cumulus). These may be attributed to one or more of three possible levels: low, medium and high. The medium level clouds are prefixed by alto, hence altostratus and altocumulus, whilst the high level clouds are prefixed by cirro, hence cirrostratus and cirrocumulus (low level clouds have no layer prefix but may be prefixed by nimbo, indicating rain).

Once this classification is learned, recording clouds becomes possible, though in practice the observations can be complicated by mixtures of several types. Hybrid terms are available to describe clouds that don't seem to be quite one thing or the other, for example stratocumulus. A very useful pictorial guide to cloud types is found here.


Anonymous Ellee said...

Jim, Where did you get Darcey's ballet shoes from, lucky you? I wondered if they might fit me!

I'm hoping you might be able to give us more accurate weather predictions than many of those on TV - you could end up with another job.

9:12 pm  
Blogger simon said...

mate! what can I say? I am always learning something from you!

Happy Brithday BTW~!!!!!!

9:42 pm  
Blogger Ju's little sister said...

I learned that the reason New Zealand has such 'unpredictable' weather is because we don't really have the land mass to lock in certain weather patterns and the HUGE supply of water all about us causes our rapidly fluctuating weather patterns.
Is it similar in the UK, or does Europe lock in most of your weather? (and now I find myself asking if I got the direction of your storms right...)

Also - is it your birhtday Maalie? All the best :-)


4:19 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

Ellee: oh, I just met her at the stage door one night and took her out for dinner. She gave me the shoes as a momento. Actually, Darcey isn't my favourite, that is Sylvie who I've seen in 15 roles.

Simon: Thanks mate, I'll have a warm beer tomorrow night (Weds) and drink to our next meeting!

JLS: Yes we have a temperate insular climate here too. We don't (usually) get the freezing continental winter climate of central Europe.

Ellee, only joking! I bought them through a 'pointe shoes appeal' many years ago when Darcey was just a 'second swan'. I recognised her potential and snapped up her shoes while she was still "unknown". A pair sold for £700 on eBay not long ago!

7:22 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Maalie, You just took her out for dinner and she gave you her ballet shoes - you must be such a smoothie. How lucky, how wonderful. As you can tell, I love ballet too. I usually take my mother every year to the ROH as a Xmas present. This year, for a change, I booked the best seats to take her to Evita, only I discovered last week that the date clashes with my college course which must take precedence, so I'm hoping my sister will take her to the West End in my place. I am disappointed, but have no choice.

3:53 pm  
Blogger Ju's little sister said...

Thanks for that. I have drafted the email with 707 roll attached - but i see the file is around 21 MB. Will this be a problem for you to receive?


6:01 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Yes, happy birthday, it's been and gone now I guess, maybe you will write about it,

7:28 pm  
Anonymous John said...

Nice one!

6:48 pm  
Blogger Estelle des Chevaliers said...


2:27 pm  

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