A curious coincidence happened recently that brought weather reports to the forefront of my activities. First, my local newspaper reported on Summer Sundays at Brookhaven National Labs on Long Island. Next, I got an e-mail asking me if I wanted to review a weather station.

Listening to weather reports or otherwise keeping track of daily weather conditions is not my thing. I usually get caught in downpours without an umbrella. But my wife obsesses about the weather. She uses a couple of those small wireless weather devices that tells you the temperature and humidity inside and outside the house.

When I told her about the weather station review offer, she was all for it. I was intrigued, simply because there is a data acquisition component to the station. I wanted to see how that was done.

Sundays At The Lab

In the meantime, I visited the BNL site to see what was going on during its Summer Sundays. As it turned out, the only Sunday we were available was the one where BNL was focusing on the weather, dubbed Storm Hunters. My wife was thrilled, but I would rather have gone to see the one that focused on Atom Smashing.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed Storm Hunters. Prior to this trip, I didn’t know that BNL has a National Weather Service station on its grounds. We toured the facility and met several meteorologists.

The highlight of the day, though, was the launch of a weather balloon. I could really appreciate the electronics involved with the radiosonde that the team launched into the atmosphere. The device measures various atmospheric parameters and transmits the data to a receiver on the grounds.

The researchers said that 80% of the radiosondes aren’t recovered and probably end up in the ocean, but 20% of them wind up on land. They also showed us the contact information on the device, just in case one showed up in our backyard.

If you’re looking for a day of family fun and discovery, check out Summer Sundays at BNL. The 2011 events are still up at www.bnl.gov/community/summer_sunday.asp. I recommend it if you live in the New York area or are planning to visit. I also suggest visiting any of the national labs throughout the country for similar programs.

The Weather instruments

I have been living with a Vantage Vue Console and Integrated Sensor Suite (ISS) from Davis Instruments for over a month now. Unlike the inexpensive wireless weather devices my wife has been using, this unit is geared toward what Davis calls the weather enthusiast. Although my wife was excited to see it show up, I had to put it together.

I started by assembling an industrial-type tripod to hold the ISS that would stand in our backyard. The ISS (see the figure, a) houses a rain collector, temperature/humidity sensor, anemometer, and wind vane. It collects the data and sends it wirelessly to the Console via a low-power radio.

Setup was relatively easy, though I had to read the installation instructions when my first try at collecting the data didn’t work. We sat the Console (see the figure, b) on the kitchen table and my wife watched as all the data came in.

She was very happy with the results, since the Console provided much more information than she was getting before, including dew point, which a representative at the National Weather Service explained during the BNL tour.

Everything worked fine. We went through a day when 10 in. of rain fell—my wife couldn’t believe the readings on the Console—and a couple of windy, rainy days when Hurricane Irene passed through. (I chained the tripod to a fence to make sure it didn’t blow away.) We discovered that the strong winds of the hurricane were mostly blocked in our yard by surrounding houses and tall hedges, with the Console registering just 12 mph.

The Vantage Vue Console and ISS costs $395 with the tripod an additional $75. If you consider yourself or a family member a weather enthusiast, you should have fun with this system.