Sensor gives up-to-date weather data

Sunday, December 14, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:04 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 28, 2008

There’s a new place to turn for the latest weather data in Columbia.

A new Web site provides real-time facts about temperature, wind chill and barometric pressure from a monitoring site at Sanborn Field.

The Web site, operated by MU’s Commercial Agriculture Automated Weather Station Network, updates local atmospheric data every five minutes, 24 hours a day.

“We have the latest weather information available in Columbia,” said Patrick Guinan, MU Extension climatologist. The National Weather Service, which collects its local data at Columbia Regional Airport, updates those readings every hour.

The automated weather sensor at Sanborn Field calculates the air temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, precipitation and soil temperature as well as wind chill, speed and direction. The equipment, however, lacks the capability of measuring snow and ice.

The network began measuring weather data at Sanborn Field in 1994, but lacked the technical capability to obtain live atmospheric data, Guinan said. The old system relied on a cellular transceiver to post data online, but limitations made it impossible to bring the measurements online in real time.

Now, Guinan has upgraded the station with telecommunication equipment and software purchased with funds from a $1,300 MU grant. The switch from a cellular to radio frequency device also eliminated many of the costs associated with measuring and uploading the live data to the station’s Web site.

Guinan thinks the real-time weather station could be an asset not only local residents but also to utility companies, street and highway departments, and teachers interested in teaching students about the weather. He has already received good response through word of mouth, he said.

“There has been plenty of interest in it,” Guinan said. “People are really excited to know they can now get real-time weather information in the city of Columbia.”

Columbia Water and Light spokesperson Connie Kacprowicz said the control room operators were interested in using the new Web site to help them monitor local weather for changes in electric consumption.

“Currently, they get weather information from three or four different Internet sites, mainly from the National Weather Service,” Kacprowicz said. “But they think that the local Web site could be just one more tool they will use to understand what’s going on with the weather to predict electric use.”

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