Tracking the Weather Project

/ 5 November 2008

Just this morning at 11:40 am I finalized my Tracking the Weather independent project. I started this project way back on October 8th. It was a project that strived to answer 3 core questions. Those were:

  1. How accurate are the weather reports that we trust daily?
  2. What is the professional equipment that NOAA stations use and how does it work?
  3. How would you go about setting up your house as a WU weather station?

The first component of the project was to research the cloud types (just refreshing my memory) so I understood them for my personal observations. The second task was writing up the RCX Program to run my own data collection. This is where I hit my first real bump in the project. It wasn’t really saving the code into the Labview Library Document (.llb) that I’d decided (needed) to use for this portion of the project. In the end I wrote the RCX data collection code into a separate Labview Virtual Instrument (.vi) so that the work would actually be saved.

Over the course of about a week I was tracking the weather data using my RCX (1.0 so that the power adapter could be utilized), writing up personal observations that were based on what I observed on my way to or from school, and checking in on (and recording the data from) WeatherUnderground’s Grand Avenue Personal Weather Station. The data that I collected was uploaded each night so as to never risk losing it all on power failure or memory overload (not to mention I could then see it in school the following day). As what I’m sure is some of the same permissions issue as from the code writing, I had to export the spreadsheet of data before switching data sets in order to actually keep the data. Over time I started to see interesting trends in the data. After two or three data uploads I had gotten into a fairly intricate routine of exporting the data->graphing the data (using an automated system)->adding in the WeatherUnderground data->uploading to Google Spreadsheets.

That was only half of the interactive components to the project. After all the data had been uploaded to spreadsheets on my Mac I had to analyze it to answer the first core question. My results were quite obvious and bland, the data in the weather reports that we trust daily aren’t accurate to where we are. Of course, the final part (“to where we are”) is the catch. The reports not being accurate to where we are doesn’t mean that they aren’t accurate to where the data is collected.

During all of the fun, hands-on, and interactive components to the project was the not-so-interesting, but yet required components. That was the portions of research that were required in order to answer my final two core questions. The third question got answered within 2 hours worth of research. The second question prove a much more difficult question to answer. In fact, after 2 days (not 2 hours) of research I still was at a disastrous full-and-complete dead end. Luckily, when digging deep into a few resources that a friend had sent me, I found references to (and significant explanation on) the branch of NOAA that provides technical support for the electronic weather equipment. That is as far as it got into learning the equipment that they use.

Naturally I can’t explain the entire project here in my blog, especially since part of the project ties so closely to data. If you’re interested in delving into the project any further I recommend taking a look at the project website.

For future projects: My whole immediate family is leaving this upcoming Monday for 3 weeks in Vienna! I’ve started two projects to go alongside the trip. One is a project where I’ll enhance my understanding and comprehension of German. Another is a project mapping out where Beethoven spent the time that he was in Vienna and understanding some of his personal history. This will naturally include learning some of the history of his time. Enjoy, Alex.