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Weather made easy while on the water

Technology is enabling weather watchers to share what they see with others.Boaters and others can get free real-time weather information from www.weatherlink.com, a website where amateur weather wonks — 9,384 of them, to be exact — are sending data updated every 60 seconds from their weather stations.

Too good to be true? No, says John Hansen, a spokesman for Davis Instruments of Haywood, Calif., which owns and manages the website. Weather hobbyists are devoted to collecting weather data — and sharing it. Boaters are the beneficiaries.

Go to the website and wait for the site to upload the stations. Key in a location and double-click on one of the dots on the Google map to get the latest weather information from that locale — temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, barometer reading and whether the pressure is rising or falling. The information appears in a pop-up. Click on the station name in the pop-up and a graphic appears with the same data. Click on “Summary” in the toolbar on the graphic and get yet more information — high and low temperatures; the inside temperature; heat index; wind chill; dew point; wind gusts; rainfall for the day, month and year; and a 12-hour forecast.

“We’ve got thousands of station owners, all providing live data,” Hansen says. The stations are spread across the globe in North, Central and South America; Europe; Africa; Asia; Australia and New Zealand; the South Pacific; even a few in the Arctic. Some stations are boat-based; others transmit from land.

Bermuda? At 4:50 p.m. July 16 the temperature was 82.5 F, the humidity 78 percent, the wind 2 mph out of the north-northwest (330 degrees), and the barometer 1018.7 millibars and falling slowly. Curacao? At 3:58 p.m. that day, the temperature was 86.8 F, humidity 73 percent, wind 21 kph out of the east-northeast (59 degrees) and barometer 1011 millibars and falling slowly. London on the Thames? At 8:13 p.m. the temperature was 17.3 C, humidity 86 percent, wind 5 kph out of the east (91 degrees) and barometer 1010.2 millibars and rising slowly.

The Vantage Vue weather station from Davis InstrumentsThe common denominator: All of the reporting stations have a Davis Instruments weather station — its Vantage Pro (now discontinued), Vantage Pro2 or Vantage Vue — and use Davis’ WeatherLinkIP software to send data to the website. No computer is needed to upload data, only an Internet link and the WeatherLinkIP software and data logger, a small piece of hardware that plugs in at one end to the weather station console and at the other to a cable or DSL router or hub.

Hansen says WeatherLinkIP’s basic upload function is very easy to use: Connect the data logger to the console and the router or hub and it starts uploading information to Davis’ Web server. The minute-by-minute weather updates at the website are free and accessible to the public. “You don’t have to buy anything to view the weather,” Hansen says.

Each WeatherLink.com reporting station also has a private page with storage capacity for two years’ worth of weather data, accessible only to the station operator. WeatherLinkIP also automatically can upload data to third-party weather sites, among them the Citizen Weather Observer Program, Weather Underground and the Globe Program, which collects weather and other data from schools around the world. Davis has had the Weather-LinkIP website up and running for about two years, Hansen says. It started with 1,000 reporting stations and now has more than 9,000.

Davis also offers an older version of WeatherLinkIP called Weather-Link, which does not have the upload capabilities but does enable weather wonks to download weather data from their station to their computer to create a historical database. That software has the tools to analyze the data; graph and chart it on an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis; and create a variety of trend reports. Hansen says WeatherLinkIP has all of those capabilities, as well. The Davis Instruments website (www.davisnet.com) lists the cost of basic weather stations at $355 for Vantage Vue and $535 for Vantage Pro 2. The WeatherLinkIP software costs $265.

Boaters who are really tuned in to the weather, like the idea of sharing their information with others, and enjoy archiving and analyzing the data they collect comprise much of the marine market for the weather stations and WeatherLinkIP, Hansen says. However, investment in weather data collection and dissemination also makes sense for a yacht club that wants to offer members up-to-the-minute information from its weather station. “Anyone can check and see exactly what the weather is like at the club,” he says.

This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue.


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