Weather Instruments Tips

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What's the best site for a rain gauge?

Best Rain Gauge Sites?

You stepped outside without your umbrella and you're already soaked. What did Mom always tell you?

"Take an umbrella in case it rains."

"Take your raincoat."

"Don't place your rain gauge less than a foot above ground level, especially if there are trees around."


Mom knows that she's talking about. She also has the following advice:

* Place rain gauges away from other weather instrument sensors such as a wireless thermometer or barometer, since the signals can interfere with each other.
* Mount the rain sensor on a pole or post away from sources of dirt and grime--but most rain gauges are self-cleaning (unlike your room, Mom says).
* If your rain gauge is cabled, check cables to make sure that rain spillage hasn't caused shorts or a possible fire.
* Place rain gauges at twice the height of obstructions to get the most accurate readings.
* Don't just rely on your rain gauge for storm detection! Check wind direction, look at your barometer, and take the air temperature with a wireless thermometer.

Finally, always remember your raincoat and boots. Don't forget to call your mother once in a while, either.

Can weatehr station instruments detect flash floods?

Flash Flood Warnings on the Road

If you're lucky, you've never experienced a flash flood. According to Weather Doctor Keith C. Heidorn, most flood-related deaths are flash flood-related. Even more astonishing, half of those fatalities happen in or around cars.

A fifty-fifty chance? Those odds wouldn't help you in Vegas. But knowing the facts will help you avoid flash floods. The question is, can a weather station instrument better your odds?

When the barometer rises and the temperature rises, it means pleasant summer days, but the downside is intermittent rain. You can track rainfall in your rain gauge. If your weather station monitor forecasts rain while the rain gauge history and thermohygrometer indicate a moisture buildup, you might want to avoid driving if you can. If you live in a desert or mountainous area with no vegetation to absorb the rain, stay off the roads.

If you must drive, avoid washes, bridges, highway dips and traveling downstream from a dam.

Your survival odds have improved, but don't try your luck at Caesar's Palace yet. As with God and Mother Nature, all bets are on the house.

If there's no wind indicated on my wind sensor, am I safe?

No Wind=Smooth Sailing?

You're all packed for a day on the ocean. There's no wind, but you're not windsurfing. You may even be cruising on an outboard motor. Suddenly you receive a weather alert on your laptop. A Small Craft Advisory Warning. Your home weather station wind direction sensor tells you there is no wind where you are, and you live so close to the ocean you could actually windsurf down the street.

Your weather station instrument may be excellent. Your rain gauge history may tell you that it hasn't rained in weeks except for the occasional shower, And your wireless thermometer tells you the temperature remains warm. No cooling winds here! So why are you in the equivalent of dry dock?

Your best weather station instrument usually won't match the hours of data culled by the National Weather Service and the Coast Guard. It's data provided by people like you with PCs and weather station instruments. You see a day without wind in your area but the National Weather Service has detected an approaching storm further up the coast.

Trust your weather station instrument, but leave storm chasing to the experts. You can stay home and rent "The Perfect Storm" while you monitor weather reports for your next high-seas adventure.

My doors and windows stick, is this because of dewpoint?

Detecting Dewpoint around Doors

Your frotn and back doors won't open in August, keeping your in-laws out (good) and the kids indoors (bad). Why?

Check your weather station instrument, especially your home monitor unit. A wireless thermometer and hygrometer will detect both the rise in temperature and the accompanying rise in dewpoint. A dewpoint above 60 percent means the in-laws have to pull the door open (your brother-in-law was captain of the wrestling team and looks like Charles Bronson), and a dewpoint of 80 percent means even your father-in-law's long-winded monologues can't coax the door open. Meanwhile, the kids are plotting the Great Escape through the roof.

Adjust your air conditioning and fans before the dewpoint reaches critical. Use your wireless thermometer and hygrometer to track shifts and rises in air moisture so you can calibrate your air conditioner to combat the sticky-door effect. A little WD-40 on the hinges never hurts, either.

Now your in-laws are in for the evening and your kids are outside playing. Just keep monitoring every home weather instrument you have so you never find yourself trapped indoors with your children and your in-laws, or you'll pull a jailbreak worthy of Steve McQueen.

How can I detect wind direction when driving?

Driving Like the Wind

Cell phones, drive-through fast food, the you have another distraction to contend with on the road: the wind. And the temperature. Do you want to add a wireless thermometer weather station instrument and risk a traffic accident?

Maybe so. You don't want to be surprised when the wind hits your car (which feels scary given all the stories about road rage), but you want to drive safely. Some hints for tracking weather on the road:

* Check your hand-held wind direction sensor in the parking lot and in the driveway.
* Like cell phones, you should avoid using wind direction sensors when you're in heavy traffic.
* Use cell phone mounts, clips and car organizers to keep your wireless thermometer and other weather station instrument within sight so you can just glance at them while keeping your eye on the road.

You've determined that you have to drive eastbound against the wind. Drive more slowly, since wind can delay traffic, especially in sandy areas or construction areas with debris.

Many GPS navigators track weather as well as traffic and travel routes, but until you buy a GPS navigator to distract you, a wind direction sensor can be a valuable automotive resource. Thank goodness companies don't make a rain gauge you can check in the car.

Can a barometer help my in-home medical practice?

The Barometer Will See You Now

You've finally opened your own health clinic in your home. Insurance forms? Check. Lots of energy and caring? Check. Weather instrument? Put that on the requisition list.

Your whole motive for being a doctor or nurse was to help people, to make them comfortable. You don't want your patients to be sweating before they've even heard the diagnosis or seen your bill.

You regularly take your patients' temperature, but you need to take the temperature of the room, and make sure that no storms are coming--you don't want the power to go out in the middle of an exam! An outdoor rain gauge placed near your office is also useful for storm detection--rather like preventive medicine. The emphasis today in medicine is on early detection and treatment.

No need to worry about side effects either--weather station instrument interaction is safer than drug interaction. A wireless thermometer/barometer won't interfere with your other instruments. We like the Davis Perception II, which looks just like the pager that keeps going off. You might have changed the venue, but you're still a busy medical professional. A weather instrument can eliminate worry so you can focus on your patients. If only insurance companies were as helpful.

Should I buy a handheld wind direction sensor that's not digital?

Digital or Turbine-Based?

Is that a fan in your hand? It's not hot--in fact, your wireless thermometer said this morning that the outdoor temp was 30 degrees.

No, it isn't a portable fan, it's a turbine-based anemometer. While digital is inconspicuous (your friends carry enough electronic devices to supply Radio Shack), turbine-based wind direction sensor stands out. But it's better than you blowing about in the wind like a TV reporter in a hurricane.

A turbine-based wind direction and velocity sensor can actually be more accurate than a digital one. We like the Davis Turbo Meter Electronic Wind Speed Indicator or the LaCrosse Technology Hand-Held Anemometer, a weather station instrument combining the turbine wind direction/velocity sensor with a digital display that includes the wind chill.

Now that the temperature is warm again, everyone wants the fan in your hand. Your cell phone never attracted this much attention--especially since it just predicted a gale headed this way.

What does a drop in barometric pressure mean?

Uh Oh, The Barometer is Dropping

Your heart rate is up, your blood pressure is down, but oh no, according to your barometer weather station instrument, so is the barometric pressure. Whether you measure it in hectopascals or millibars (1,000 millibars=1 bar=100,000 Netwons acting on one square meter), the pressure above sea level has declined.

That can only mean one thing: A storm is coming.

A barometer, along with a rain gauge and wind direction sensor, is an excellent way to predict storm activity. You need to check wether history to find out the average barometric pressure for your reading. Is it 999 hPa or 61 mb? If the pressure readings drop, and the wind velicity is up, you're in for a thunderstorm.

Just make sure you check both surface and sea level readings, since barometric pressure levels can vary depending on whether you're on a mountainside or on terra firma.

Just make sure your blood pressure doesn't rise. Be calm, be cool. You've been forewarned. Now if only we could predict heart attacks so easily.

Is an electronic or aneroid barometer more useful?

Altimeter or Aneroid?

Altimeter or aneroid? The question sounds like the opening line at a science fiction convention. However, there's nothing fictional about weather forecasting or about barometers. Besides the old-style mercury barometer, you have two basic choices when it comes to this essential weather instrument (the only equipment more vital is a wireless thermometer).

ANEROID BAROMETER: the nautical wood-finish wall hanging or free-standing decorative weather station instrument that operates on air pressure rather than liquid. It's also portable--the altimeter variety may sound familiar, since it's most often used in aircraft. You can place it outside for accurate weather sensing, or simply keep it inside to check indoor air pressure and limited outdoor readings. Most ideal for home weather watching, and decorative as well. Perfect if you just want to check up-to-the-minute conditions rather than predict the weather, though a journal will give you an idea of the current trends.

DIGITAL BAROMETER/ALTIMETER: Handy for travel. Readings can be downloaded to a computer, as opposed to aneroid readings. Can be configured to altimeter or barograph display depending on what altitiude you're monitoring. Can provide a simple weather forecast based on barometric readings over the last 24 hours. Ideal for weather watching at home or on the road, and combo units can even track wind direction. For serious weather station enthusiasts.

Digital or aneroid? Altimeter or aneroid? Why not both? This question is easier to solve than the Star Trek/Star Wars debate.

Can I automate my thermostat with my wireless thermometer?

Thermostats and Wireless Thermometers

Programmable thermostats. You remember the routine. 78 when you're at home, 85 when you're not. But can you flex your power and sync your wireless thermometer with your thermostat so your thermostat will automatically lower the temp?

Thanks to smart home technology, that day is coming, but for right now, you'll just have to rely on your own old-fashioned initiative. Still, a wireless thermometer can help you set your programmable thermostat more effectively.

Of any weather station instrument--rain gauge, barometer, wind direction sensor--the wireless thermometer is the most important for home comfort and energy savings. You can check your thermometer history on your weather station software to determine when the house is hottest and when it's coldest. Say that your bathroom feels like a blast furnace in the morning when you're dressing and your wireless thermometer says it's 80 degrees inside. You can set your thermostat to 76 or 78 degrees between 5 to 7 a.m. You'll dress in comfort, and save energy!

So until you buy the house of the future, flex your power and keep your wireless thermometer handy.

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Guru Spotlight
Susan Sayour