Weather for Kids - Chapter 10: What is a Weather Station?
Before going forward with Weather for Kids Chapter 10, here are the answers for the trivia questions in Chapter 9 - "Weather Instruments"
Q: What is the functional difference between a thermocouple and a thermistor?
Q: What is the advantage of a cup type anemometer over a propeller type?
Q: What does a falling barometer generally indicate?
Q: How does a psychrometer measure relative humidity?
Q: How is rainfall measured?
Chapter 10: What is a Weather Station?
In this lesson we will discuss:
- What is a weather station and how is it used.
- How to put together a weather station
- How analog weather stations work.
- Remote Automated Weather Stations.
· Airport AWOS.
As we learned in our previous discussions, there are many different things going on in the weather at any particular time. To understand the weather we not only need to be able to measure things like air temperature, moisture, wind speed and direction, and atmospheric pressure, we also need to be able to record the data. Knowing the conditions at the moment is useful, but if we can analyze the trends, how the data changes during the day and from day to day, we can see a better picture of what the weather is going to do in the future.
A weather station is simply a collection of weather instruments to gather data about weather conditions at a specific location. Which instruments and their quality will be determined by who is collecting the data and their mission. Highly rugged and accurate scientific and military grade weather instruments are becoming readily available on the open market, as are sophisticated automated electronic systems. Understandably, the personal weather station that a holiday resort uses to tell their guests whether they will need a sweater or sunscreen for the day’s adventures does not need to be as complicated or expensive as the weather station at an international airport where the data will be used by commercial pilots who are responsible for the safety of their passengers.
You can build your own weather station using homemade instruments like those we introduced in our Fun Projects lesson. Although the accuracy of the data will not be as accurate commercially made instruments you will be able to observe trends and see the effect they have on the weather outside your window. The difficulty with a homemade weather station is recording the data, usually the best you can do is to keep notes with pencil and paper.
For centuries, this is how scientists developed an understanding of how weather worked. With the dawn of the industrial revolution, accurate and affordable mechanical instruments became available. In time, recording devices were developed. Some of the most common were clockwork mechanisms which would turn a paper drum or disk beneath a stylus attached to the instrument sensor. The markings made by the stylus could be read later after the paper had been removed and the clock-work rewound. Eventually, clockwork was replaced by electric motors, but the paper recording element still needed to be replaced periodically.
The age of electronics has brought a new level of automation to weather observation. With solid-state electronics, the instruments themselves are incredibly accurate and affordable. The sensor data is an interpretation of an electric signal that can be displayed on a screen and recorded either locally or remotely via a telephone line, satellite upload, or an Internet connection.
Weather stations at airports are usually part of the Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS), which is maintained and controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), although some AWOS stations are operated by state and local governments or private agencies. AWOS reports may be broadcast via computer generated voice reports that pilots can monitor on their cockpit radios, or via telephone modem or Internet reports for pre-flight planning. There is some difference in the sensors used in AWOS stations and those seen on a personal weather station. Some older AWOS installations use traditional wind vane and cup anemometers, but newer generation installations depend on a sensor which works by measuring the time it takes an ultrasonic pulse to travel from one transducer to another. Precipitation rates are measured by a Light Emitting Diode Weather Identifier (LEDWI) which measures the amount of rain or snow falling in front of an infrared beam approximately 50 millimeters in diameter. In addition to more dependable accuracy, the LEDWI can identify whether the precipitation is rain or snow through pattern analysis.
- Why is record keeping an important function of a weather station?
- How did analog weather stations record data?
- In addition to weather data, what information is uploaded in a USFS RAWS hourly report?
- How is wind speed measured in a modern airport weather station?