29. Weather station, location, rain gauge, snowboard, the whole she-bang. I have owned a Vantage Pro (by Davis Instruments) since May 2003.
More recently Davis has come out with an improved version, the Vantage Pro 2. The new station has a much farther range and an updated design on the Integrated Sensor Suite (ISS), otherwise, they are about the same.
This is a picture (to the right) of my VP Console.
Numbers on the console:
This clip (to the left) from the Quick Reference Guide (link) shows displayed variables better than I could. Full pdf manual (here).
Some of the displayed numbers can be switched between different variables. In each case, the Guide lists each of the possible choices. For example, I chose to view wind chill in the cold months and dew point during the warm ones.
The graph can be used to quickly display any variable: last 6 hours (one point every 15 min), last 24 hours (one point per hour), last 24 days (point point per day), or the last 24 months (one point per month).
Integrated Sensor Suite (ISS). The ISS (pictured to the left) is a combination of the humidity sensor, thermometer, and tipping bucket rain gauge (0.01").
A solar panel on the front of the unit charges a capacitor which powers the ISS when there is enough sunlight. A back-up battery (non-rechargeable) is used in periods of cloudiness/darkness. I have to change the battery about once every 2 years.
A very small compartment on the bottom of the ISS contains the circuit board and battery. From the right side of the compartment a small antenna broadcasts a signal to the inside console.
I believe the new VP2 has the compartment/antenna on the front of the ISS, behind a slightly larger solar panel. The VP2's tipping bucket is also made of a better material than the original VP.
The Vantage Pro and VP2 have an anemometer that is detachable from the ISS. A 40 foot cable is included so that the anemometer can be placed higher than the ISS.
In my previous installation I was able to achieve the NWS guideline of 33 feet above ground level (10 m). In my current location I can only go as high as 26 feet agl, which is still below the trees.
Some owners keep the anemometer attached to the ISS, but winds at 6 feet above the ground (a recommended height for the ISS) are not usually accurate.A nice website with recommendations on weather station placement can be found (here).
Optional anemometer transmitter.
I like having the flexibility of not having the anemometer tethered to the ISS, so I purchased an anemometer transmitter (Davis' page) to accompany my setup.
The anemometer transmitter has its own solar panel and battery back-up which allows it to transmit data to the inside console.
I love that I can have the anemometer mounted on the roof or TV antenna while the ISS is on a pole in the lawn.
However, this anemometer transmitter is entirely optional. If the 40 feet of cable supplied with the anemometer is too little, additional cable can be used to extend the distance between the ISS and anemometer.
It's worth noting that having a wireless setup is advantagous for lightning protection. If lightning (or a large enough static discharge) were to hit my TV antenna, the ISS and console remain isolated. If a power surge fries the electrical circuits in the house, the ISS and anemometer remain safe. Davis also sells a grounding block (Davis' page) that can be used with the anemometer cable for installations in a lightning prone environment.
Why did I choose Vantage Pro over the other models available?
I included this section in my previous web page (now deleted), so I'll re-include it here. There are always people browsing the web before they decide to buy a weather station. I compared all the specifications online, but sometimes personal experiences and installations provide the final bit of information.
The barometric pressure updates every 15 minutes. Elevation can should be entered into the console to give corrected station pressure for the station's location.
Outside relative humidity updates every 50 seconds.
Outside temperature and dewpoint (dewpoint derived from temp and %RH) update every 10 seconds.
Wind speed/direction update every 2.5 seconds (some other brands wait 11 seconds or more... which can completely miss any wind gust).
Rainfall updates every 10 seconds (the rain gauge counts and then transmits).
The published range of the original VP is 100-200 feet with walls, up to 400 feet without obstructions. Vantage Pro 2 has a range up to 1000 feet... the farthest in on the market. Mine is about 50 feet through one wall with reception never below 80%. A few owners report that rain, snow, and fog can occasionally impact wireless reception.
Also, Vantage Pro 2 comes in different models, so everyone can choose what best fits them - wireless (Davis' page) and cabled (Davis' page). There is an entirely cabled version which my parents have now installed in their house. I like it because all the variables in the cabled version update every second. Also, this model is a bit cheaper than the wireless. The cabled version only has one wire which runs from the ISS to the console, and it is small - about the size of a standard telephone cable, so is easy to install.
An optional feature is to add a UV sensor and a Solar Radiation sensor (W/m2). These two sensors are very handy for those wishing to monitor the UV index (e.g. swimming locations, boaters/yachts) and for those who want to monitor strength & amount of sunlight (e.g. gardeners, climatologists). I have done without these.
Another optional addition is a Fan Aspirated Radiation Shield (FARS) which includes a very small fan that draws air through the radiation shield on the ISS. There are two options of FARS, one that runs only via the solar panel (daylight FARS) and a 24-hour FARS (Davis page). I have seen studies that a FARS temperature is about 1 degree lower in the sun than no FARS. It depends on if you want to spend the extra money for a little more accuracy. Even in the blazing sun, my non-FARS model is fantastic. The radiation shield supplied with the Vantage Pro is far superior than thermometers hung from the north side of houses... period.
WeatherLink data logger & software.
There are so many options with Vantage Pro and VP2, and here is the last.Data is stored for a period of time in the VP/VP2 console, but WeatherLink (Davis page) is the connection and software to download all the data to a computer.
WeatherLink's data logger is simply a little plug that fits into the back of the console (behind the battery cover). The logger is then the memory that the console records to.
A USB cable can then be plugged into the data logger to directly connect the console to a computer.
The logger can store up to 2560 records in the memory, the user can choose the time interval which the logger will log data. A one minute interval will fill the logger memory in 42 minutes. A five minute interval can store 8.8 days worth of data in the logger. There are seven interval choices: 1, 5, 10, 15, 30, 60, and 120 minutes. The largest time-gap interval (120 min) will store up to 213 days of measurements.
If the data logger is not downloaded before the memory fills up, the logger re-writes over the top of the oldest data. I download my VP once a day, so data from 17 days ago (10 min interval) is re-written in the logger without impacting my download.
The software archives all the downloaded data into files on the local hard drive. All downloaded data can be viewed in different ways in different screens.
The bulletin screenshot (above) shows real-time measurements when the VP/VP2 is plugged into a computer.
The strip chart screenshot (to the left) can be configured to show any number of variables in four strips over any period of time.
Data can also be displayed in a plot where any variable can instantly be selected/de-selected and overlayed with others.
At any point, in any timeframe & screen, the data can be browsed by double-clicking on it, which opens a spreadsheet of every number recorded. There are also detailed monthly and yearly reports that summarize each day of the month (highs, lows, times, max wind speeds) in one table. Back-up rain gauge. With so many trees surrounding my location (more on this below) I like a second opinion. Besides, complicated things can fail, so I like having a simple back-up.
I've had a 4" rain gauge (4" diameter) since 2000, first at my previous location and now here on the Hill.
In the warm months it is mounted in the vegetable garden on a post at 5 feet above the ground. In the cold months I use the 4" rain gauge to take snowcore measurements and obtain snow-water equivalent measurements from each snowfall.
It's very handy and it's something I wouldn't want to live without. Measurements can be made down to one hundredth of an inch (0.01").
Incidentally, this is also the same type of raingauge that CoCoRaHS uses for their measurements by volunteers across the U.S. This type of rain gauge is sold by different vendors for around $30 and is usually labeled as a "long term rain gauge" because the outer cylinder holds up to 10" of rain.
How do we measure liquid from the snow? With the raingauge I discussed in the previous paragraphs.
The outer cylinder, used in conjuction with the calibrated inner cylinder, can be used to take snowcore samples. The sample is then melted and measured in with the inner cylinder.
This is the only 'action' picture (to the left) I have of a snowcore sample, the snowboard from last year is the wrong color (white this year) and the measuring stick is in 1/32s (1/10s this year). Despite last year's imperfections, it's a good visual of the process. An example from this year, the largest daily snowfall I've measured so far:
15 December 2008.9.0 inches of new snow = 1.11 inches water. 21 inches on the ground.
Putting it all together.
To wrap up my station here is a photo (to the right) of my equipment in the front yard.
The ISS is mounted on a pole. I hit a rock while driving the pole (the yard is nothing but a glacial rockpile) and I'm not cutting the pole, so the ISS is about one foot higher than I'd like. [The NWS standard for a thermometer is 5 feet above ground level.]
A snow depth gauge (green) is in the background. I find that the snow drifts around it, so it's nice to look at but not something I rely on.
And the white snowboard is lying on the ground in the foreground, thanks to Mr. Brian Hahn. It's gotten quite a workout this winter! It currently blends in with the snow pack, so this picture is as good as it gets.
And finally, something I think is very important to consider... station sitting.
Micro-climates can hugely affect measurements, so I feel a responsibility to expound on my unique location because of how it may affect my numbers.
I'm perched on the north slope of a large hill which encompasses 1 square mile of land that is 200 feet higher than the surrounding terrain.
I am about five miles from Lake Superior (to the east-ish) and about 400 feet higher than the lake surface. The land continues to rise another 200 feet to a peak a handful of miles to my west - the spine of the Bayfield Peninsula. Elevation, proximity to Lake Superior, and wind direction all play a huge role in the weather surrounding my region.
I wrote a previous post that graphically looks at the elevation differences surrounding my location, this post can be found (here).
If a hawk had a camera.
Nothing tells a story like a picture, so I'm adding this one (to the right) - an aerial photo of my location.
This image was taken in the spring, before the deciduous tree leaves sprouted. All the darker green blobs are evergreens.
The garden rain gauge is located in the middle of the vegetable garden, next to the green-roofed pole shed.
My weather station's ISS is located in the front yard next to the house.
The rest is pretty self-explanatory - it's a mixed-forest location with small clearings. Fields border the forest to the east and north.