Wessel Wessels

Author Archives: Wessel Wessels

Lifelong weather enthusiast and researcher. Interested in all things weather-related, and how global climate and local weather interact. Owner of multiple home weather stations for almost two decades, but still learning and expanding his knowledge base every day. He is dedicated to sharing his expertise and knowledge to get more people involved and interested in both their local and global weather and how it interacts with climate on a worldwide scale. Love sharing my knowledge on home weather stations, how they work, and the many ways you can use them to your advantage. All in all, he is just a bit of weather nerd.

What Is The Difference Between A Hurricane, Cyclone, Typhoon And A Monsoon?

Difference Between A Hurricane, Typhoon And Cyclone heading

Hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons, tropical storms and monsoon. You sometimes hear these terms used during weather reports, normally ominous ones. They are often used in conjunction with words, like "large-scale damage, devastation and destruction". But what exactly are these weather phenomena and how do they work?

We will take a closer look, not only at what they are but also at each one's characteristics. Then we will also examine how they are formed, as well as the impact on their immediate environment. But first, here's the answer and summary in a nutshell. (Some of you may be quite surprised at the following.)

hurricane, cyclone and typhoon

Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are all the same type of weather phenomenon, a tropical storm. The only significant difference is the region of the world they originate from. A monsoon on the other hand is something completely different. It can be described as a seasonal large-scale weather system that is usually associated with a shift in wind direction, and an increase in humidity and rainfall in a specific region.  

Now that we have a vague idea what the differences (or similarities) between all these weather systems are, its time start taking a closer look at each one.

Since hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are all a type of tropical storm, it only makes sense to to put the tropical storm under the microscope first.

Tropical Storms

The general term, tropical storm, is used by meteorologists and climatologists to describe the organised, rotating cloud systems and thunderstorms which forms over the world's tropical oceans. They are easily identifiable by the familiar rotating cloud pattern spiraling out from the center, as seen on satellite images.

They are also characterized by high wind speeds and extreme low pressures close to the center of the storm, with its typical low-level circulation allowing it to draw and maintain its energy from the warm ocean water. 

It is interesting to note that the direction of rotation of a tropical storm differs between the southern and northern hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere, it rotates in an counterclockwise direction, while it rotates in a clockwise direction in the southern hemisphere.

It's All About Location

Now that the tropical storm is defined and explained, you can begin to understand how the foundation of a hurricane/typhoon/cyclone is formed. To be classified as a hurricane (or one of its namesakes), a tropical storm needs to grow in strength and exceed a certain threshold. More on that in the next section.

Before we get to that, we need to clarify once and for all why hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are named differently when they are essentially one and the same thing. Like I mentioned earlier in the post and as the heading suggests, it's all about their location.

Hurricane Systems In The Northern Hemisphere

Hurricane Systems Forming Over The Northern Hemisphere

  • The term, "hurricane" is used when the weather system originates over the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean or the Northeast Pacific Ocean.
  • The term, "typhoon" is used when the weather system originates over the Northwest Pacific Ocean.
  • The term, "cyclone" is used when the weather system originates over the South Pacific Ocean or the Indian Ocean.

Meteorologists officially use the umbrella term, "Tropical Cyclone" to cover all three systems regardless of their location. Since we are all familiar with the term "hurricane", I am going to simplify everything. For the remainder of the article, the term "hurricane" will used as the umbrella term for all three variations (hurricane, typhoon and cyclone). Whenever a reference to "hurricane" is made, it will automatically include the other two name variations.

With all the technicalities out of the way, we can start looking in more detail at what makes a hurricane, including the necessary criteria for a tropical storm to be classified as a hurricane.

When A Tropical Storm Turns Into A Hurricane

There are several stages in the development of a hurricane, which then has its own set of classifications (based on strength). The best way to understand this process is to start with the weakest system, then work our way up as its strength increases.  

It All Starts With A Tropical Depression

The first system that starts forming over the warm waters of the oceans around the tropics, is a tropical depression.

A Tropical Depression forms when the warm air over the ocean rises, leaving less air near the surface (forming a low-pressure system).  The air that takes its place, warms up and starts rising too. The process continues and the surrounding cooler air swirls in to take its place. The warm moist air cools down as it rises and clouds start forming as a result. This whole cloud system slowly rotates and grows as the warm air rising  from the ocean's surface continues to feed it. As long as the wind speeds do not exceed 38 miles per hour, the system remains a tropical depression.

Turning Into A Tropical Storm

As soon the winds reach and sustain speeds of 39 miles per hour and above, the system is classified as a tropical storm. Within a tropical storm wind speeds can vary from 39 - 74 mph.

We are already discussed the tropical storm in detail earlier in the article, so I don't need to add too much additional information in this section.

Trees During Tropical Storm

Clearly a tropical storm is much stronger than a depression as a result of the higher wind speeds. Even though its not yet seen as a hurricane, its destructive nature should not be underestimated. It can still lead to substantial damage and flooding, especially in coastal and surrounding areas.

(Also, take note that although these storms rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in Southern Hemisphere, they still remain exactly the same in every other aspect.)

A Hurricane Is Formed

As the wind speeds increase, so does the strength of the storm. Once the wind speeds reach and exceed 75 mph for a sustained period of time, is is classified as a hurricane.

The familiar shape of the this weather system becomes much more defined, with a dense bank of rotating clouds, as well as the eye of the storm it surrounds, clearly visible. The signature bands of clouds, spiraling out from the storm center can spread as far as 100 miles or more in major hurricanes.

The eye of the hurricane sits in the middle of the storm system and is normally very clear and calm, with no cloud covering or any significant air movement. It is mostly circular in size, but can vary and often form a more oval shape. The average size of the eye are about 15 miles (24 km), but in large hurricanes it can be as big as 40 miles (64 km) or more. 

Eye Of The Hurricane

Eye Of The Hurricane

As the eye sits right in the middle of the hurricane, it is surrounded on all side by huge banks of clouds receding with height (in what is sometimes referred to as the "stadium effect"). Also called the eyewall, it is this bank of clouds at the edge of the eye that also contains the highest and most destructive wind speeds.

(This is one of the hidden dangers of a hurricane. People unfamiliar with hurricanes do not realize that the danger is not over once the first wave of the storm has passed and the eye moves over an area. This creates the false impression that the storm is over, causing many people to leave the safety of their shelters, only to be caught off-guard and hit by the destructive winds & rain in the approaching opposite wall of the storm.)  

Levels Of Strength

It goes without saying that the impact of these storm systems can be devastating, especially as it approaches and crosses the coastline and surrounding areas. 

As a hurricane moves inland, it looses power quickly, as it is no longer receiving energy from the warm ocean water. It can still cause severe damage though, depending on the size and strength of the storm as it made landfall.

The strength of the hurricane can be measured on a scale from 1 to 5. As you will see from the diagram below, the strength and resulting damage is mainly a direct result of the associated wind speeds.

Hurricane Strength Scale

Hurricane Category Based On Strength With Associated Wind Speed And Storm Surge

​The strength of a hurricane is not the only factor that determines its impact and the amount of damage it will cause.

For example, two hurricanes can interact and combine to form a much stronger storm system. This phenomenon is called the Fujiwhara Effect.  

Damage Caused By Hurricanes

Unfortunately, whenever a hurricane-strength storm makes landfall (or even while still over the ocean), some form of damage is almost guaranteed.

The amount of damage caused, is not just determined by the size of the hurricane, but also to a large degree by the topography of the region hit by the hurricane, as well as the population density of the affected area.  

If the hurricane crosses into a coastal region that is very mountainous or have plenty of hills and valleys, the storm system gets disrupted and broken up fairly quickly, limiting the amount of damage it is able to inflict.

When area the storm is entering is very flat coastal region, the hurricane is able to travel much further inland without loosing too much strength, causing the extend of damage to stretch further inland as well.

The amount of damage a hurricane can cause, also depends on which component of the storm system is causing the damage. The main components of a hurricane causing the most amount of damage are:

  1. Rainfall, 
  2. Wind Speed 
  3. Storm Surge 

By looking at each one of these components individually, one can get a better idea of the type and extent of damage that each one can cause.

1) Rainfall

Devastation Caused By Flooding

Devastation Caused By Flooding

Probably one the most devastating results of the heavy rainfall associated with a strong hurricane is flooding. Extensive flooding can cause lost of life, not only as result of drowning, but also due to structural damage to buildings and other structures that can collapse and cause fatalities.

The damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure may run into hundreds of millions worth of damage, and can also make an area inhabitable for months or even years in a worst case scenario. 

In mountainous areas with little vegetation as covering, mudslides and rockfalls are common occurrences during a heavy rainfall. It can also destabilize hillsides near roads and villages, which can lead to large scale evacuations and roads becoming unusable.

2) Wind Speed

Depending on the strength of the wind, objects like trees and buildings can be severely damaged, or in some cases completely flattened. 

Consistent strong gusts of winds can also worsen the effect of flooding and storm surge. It can drive flood waters deeper inland, extending the damage caused by flooding. The strength and height of the storm surge will also be impacted by the wind speed, which will have a direct impact along the shoreline directly hit by a hurricane. This brings me to the last component of a hurricane that can be the most destructive part of a hurricane.

3) Storm Surge

We all heard about this term when hurricanes or related storms are discussed or mentioned during weather forecasts. So let's first clarify what exactly storm surge is.

Storm surge can be seen as the abnormal rise in the sea level as result of a hurricane, where both the low-pressure system in the center of the storm as well as the high wind speeds, cause the abnormal rise in water levels. The storm surge dramatically builds up in height as the ocean floor becomes more shallow near the shoreline as the hurricane approaches coastal regions. 

The height of a storm surge is determined by

  • the strength of the wind speeds, 
  • as well as the amount of drop in air pressure.

The low-pressure system has a very significant impact on the height of the storm surge while still over the ocean. The lower the air pressure, the higher the sea level will rise. It is estimated that for every drop in one hPa (1 millibar) of pressure, the sea levels rise by approximately 0.4 inches (10 mm).

(If you take into consideration that the normal air pressure at sea level is about 1013 millibar and that air pressure in a hurricane was measured as low as 882 millibars in 2005, the huge impact air pressure in hurricanes have on ocean levels, speak for itself. You do the math!)

The high winds blowing in the direction of the shore contributes to the rise in sea levels as it cause a build-up of water in the direction the wind is blowing. It also strengthens and drive the resulting high waves hitting the coast, forcing the water deeper inland. 

The Power Of A Storm Surge

The results of storm surge can be devastating, especially during very strong hurricanes where waves of 15 - 20 feet or more can be generated, (Hurricane Katrina generated a storm surge of 28 feet in Louisiana in The United States in 2005. You just need to Google the term "Hurricane Katrina" to see images of exactly how devastating a storm surge can be...)

(If you want to see how the size of hurricane and relating wind speeds, influence the size of the storm surge, simply have a look at the Hurricane Strength Diagram earlier in the article.)

What can make the effect  of storm surge even worse, is when storm tide is formed.

A storm tide is created when a coastal region is already experiencing the region's natural high tide when the storm surge breaches the shoreline. The normal high tide level may already be 3 feet above the mean sea level. When a storm surge of 12 feet reaches the shore, it creates a storm tide that is a combined 15 feet high. (The high tide sea level and height of the storm surge are combined to form the massive influx of water.)

Clearly the areas most affected by storm surge, are towns and cities situated on the coast. The closer to the shoreline, the more severe the damage. It is not uncommon for buildings and other structures close to the shore to be completely destroyed by the tidal wave.

This "wall of water" and the resulting flooding can spread far inland, enveloping complete cities and surrounding areas, depending on the size of the hurricane. While this is happening, violent waves, driven by the high wind speeds, will continue to batter the coast and cause damage to anything on the coast that wasn't destroyed by the initial hit of tidal waves.

You might be forgiven to think I am being over-dramatic and and everything you are reading is over exaggerated. If that is the case, good!

As I am just sticking to the facts and give you the information in the most understandable way possible, it is great if you find this information a bit far-fetched. Why?

Simply because the sheer power and scale of hurricanes can not be overemphasized enough or taken lightly in any way. There is a reason weather forecasts pay so much attention to approaching hurricanes, their strength and heading. The same goes for breaks in normal broadcasting (on television, radio and online) to issue hurricane warnings. You now know why not to ever take this lightly again.

You now should have a very clear idea what hurricanes/cyclones/typhoons are, as well as their differences (or similarities). We also examined how they are formed, their characteristics and the impact they have on the environment.

Now you must forget everything you just read, for the moment anyway. The reason is simple. The weather pattern I am about to discuss is a completely different ball game than all the terms discussed in the above section that are all closely related to each other, and in more ways than none actually mean exactly the same thing.

Yes, the term "monsoon" often gets confused with terms like "hurricane, cyclone and typhoon". The difference is where the other terms refer to the same weather phenomenon, "monsoon" refers to a completely different type of weather system...

​Monsoons

First of all, a monsoon is not a random event that can occur sporadically at specific locations. It occurs during specific times of the year (seasonal) and only occurs in a few specific locations on earth (predominantly the region stretching from India to Southeast Asia)

Secondly the way in which a monsoon is formed, as well as its characteristics differs completely from the typical hurricane formation and familiar "rotating & spiraling" shape.

So what exactly is a monsoon and how and how does it develop?

Monsoon Descends Over Region In India

Monsoon Storm Descends Over A Region In India

A monsoon is the weather pattern that forms over India and the Southeast Asian Region during the warm summer months. It is caused by a shift in wind direction, and these southerly winds move from the high-pressure system over the warm Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. It picks up a substantial amount of moisture from the warm ocean water as it moves north towards the low-pressure system present over the continent, bringing with it large torrential rains.

(Just in case you came across the term or may have been wondering, there is such a thing as a winter monsoon. This form of monsoon is characterized by the air flowing in exactly the opposite direction as that of the airflow during warm summer months. It is also associated with the resulting dry weather condition that prevails over land during, as the name suggests, the winter. As a result, whenever a general reference to a monsoon is made, it normally refers to the familiar large-scale system occurring duting the summer over Southeast Asia.) 

It has to be noted that a similar weather system occurs over the Southwestern United States (as well as West Africa)  during late summer in the region, which are technically a monsoon as well. These systems are much weaker and smaller than the one occurring in the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans though. Although they are all technically monsoons, the general reference to "monsoons" and "monsoon season" in global terms, are normally associated with the huge weather system in India and Southeast Asia.

Early Stages And Development Of A Monsoon

It is not unusual to think of a monsoon as a very large sea breeze. Instead of occurring over the course of a day however, it lasts for months. Needless to say it also covers a much larger area than just a small coastal region, as a single monsoon can cover large parts of India or Southeast Asia at a time. The same principle apply to both though...

During the summer both the land and ocean warm up, but (due to each one's different capacity to absorb and retain heat) the land warm up much quicker than the ocean

As a result, the land heats up much quicker and warms the air at the surface. The warm air rises and expands which leaves less air at the surface, creating a low-pressure system over land.

The water over the ocean takes much longer to warm up, allowing the air above it to be able to maintain a higher pressure. Since air always flows from a high-pressure to a low-pressure system, the air from the ocean flows to the land. 

The result is an effect very similar to a sea breeze This "sea breeze" effect, do not occur over the course of a day however, but build up and last for months. It effectively can last for the full duration of the summer season (or however long the region is subjected to a warm weather).

The air flowing from the ocean is filled with moisture. As the air reaches land, it starts to rise and as it gains altitude it cools down. The cooler air can no longer hold the moisture and condensation takes place. This, in turn leads to large-scale precipitation over the region.

The cooler air moves back over the ocean. This completes the cycle of air flow that creates a the structure of a monsoon. (During the winter months, this whole cycle takes place in reverse, leading to the  dry weather during the region experience during winter.) The diagram below will give you a better indication of how this cycle works. 

Monsoon Air Circulation

Air Circulation Forming A  Monsoon

​Since monsoons have been part of Southeast Asia and India for centuries, and is generally seen as a normal seasonal weather cycle that repeats itself every summer season, it is not classified as an abnormal weather activity. 

It is only when one or a combination of factors cause a monsoon to result in catastrophic and severe damages, that it is seen as an abnormal weather event. Therefore, the tracking and constant monitoring of a monsoon is vital to identify any potential dangers and issue warnings accordingly. 

The Dangers Of A Monsoon

For the most, part the agricultural sectors of the regions affected by monsoons, have adapted to this weather system over time. In fact, the whole agricultural economy now actually rely on the monsoon season and plan all their activities around the associated rainfall during the season. So much so, that they actually depend on it for their survival.

That does not mean a monsoon does not come without its dangers though.  Some of these dangers are a direct consequence of monsoon, but some are more hidden indirect dangers. It can be roughly be divided into three categories.

1) Heavy Rains And Flash Flooding

The cloud systems that build up over land when a monsoon is formed, are able to carry a huge amount of moisture. This normally results in heavy sustained rains.

Often though, a very large downpour results in a sudden buildup of water which causes flash flooding throughout the region. Many lives are lost of as a result drowning or the collapse of structures due to weakening by flood waters. 

What makes these flash floods so dangerous, is that they not only appear very quickly and without warning, but the water buildup as a result happens very quickly as well. This leaves people very little time to respond and many are often trapped by the quick rising water.

2) Diseases

A more indirect, but far more devastating result of the monsoon season, is the development and spread of waterborne diseases.

Standing water, caused by the persistent rain and flooding, is a breeding ground for all kinds of waterborne diseases and cause thousands of fatalities each year.

Malaria, Cholera, Typhoid, Dengue and Viral Fever are just a few of the potentially deadly diseases that are associated with the rainy summer season in Southeast Asia.

They are all directly or indirectly associated with the monsoon season and can be transmitted in a variety of ways:

  • Bathing in contaminated water
  • Contact with infected bodily secretions
  • Eating contaminated food
  • Insect bites, especially mosquitoes
  • Drinking contaminated water

Precautions, advances in medical technology and access to treatment have lessened the effect of these diseases in recent years, but it still remains the biggest cause of death as a result of monsoons in the subcontinent.

3) Late Arrival Or Weak Monsoons

Ironically, as destructive as the monsoon rains can be, the lack or delay in the arrival of these rains can be just as devastating. For more than a century, farmers and the agriculturist industry as whole, has not only adapted but are actually planning and relying on the coming monsoon rains for for the irrigation of crops and to a smaller degree, grazing for livestock.

A monsoon season that arrive a few weeks late, can have a severe effect on the growth and success of Kharif (rices, Jowar, maize etc. planted in the beginning of the rainy season) crops. A whole season with very low monsoon rainfalls can lead to complete crop failure.

Just take into consideration that about 70% of the population of India rely on agriculture, and about 58% of total employment in the country comes directly from the agricultural sector. You can now begin to understand how important a monsoon season with enough rainfall is to the whole subcontinent.

Water storage and better forms of irrigation has made the problem less over the short term, but is still not enough to shield the industry from a dry monsoon season.  

Conclusion

You now should have a complete understanding and thorough knowledge of all the major weather systems that often gets confused and mixed up. You can clearly see how some of them are almost identical in many ways, while other differ substantially.

This was clearly illustrated by looking at where these weather systems occur, how they develop and the ways in which they impact their surroundings.

Hopefully this will answer all your question and remove any confusion you may have had.

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my  Mailing List  to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

How To Install A Personal Weather Station – What To Remember And What To Avoid

How To Install A Personal Weather Station

Receiving and unpacking a new weather station can be one of the most exciting parts of owning a weather stations. Installing and setting it up though, can be a bit daunting and more complicated than you think.

Although the majority of quality home weather stations come packaged with a proper instructions manual, some universal principles and general guidelines apply to all weather station installations and are not always included in the device's documentation. In this article we take a closer look at them.

The Different Parts Personal Weather Stations

Home (personal) weather stations come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and vary from a single all-in-one unit to a system consisting of several separate components.

Personal Weather Station

For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the typical home professional weather station which consists of 2 units. 

The first unit is the base station (control unit), housing the "brain" and display of the weather station, with build-in sensors also forming part of the unit.

The second unit consists mainly of an array of sensors, housed inside or attached directly to the device. The bulk of atmospheric measurements and readings are performed by this second unit.  

The two units are connected to each other via either a fixed wired or wireless connection. (We will take a closer look at these 2 types of connections later on in this article.)

Positioning Your Sensors Correctly

The process of choosing the correct position to place your weather station is called siting. Siting is probably the most important part of any weather station installation. This plays the biggest part in determining the accuracy with which you will be able to measure all the different atmospheric conditions. 

The 2 most important factors that should be taken into consideration for optimal siting, is the distance and height of the sensors. We will look at each one separately.

1) Distance

Distance is the first big factor that should be taken into consideration when setting up your weather station. There are 2 different distances that are of particular importance during the setup process.

The first one is the distance between the outside unit (containing the sensors) and surrounding objects. The second distance is the actual distance between the outside unit and the base station.  

Distance Between Outside Unit And Surrounding Objects

The Distance between the sensors and surrounding tall objects can influence your readings substantially. Especially variables like temperature, wind speed and rainfall can be negatively influenced by placing your unit too close to such an object like a house or tree.

Rain Shadow

Trees and walls can cover or throw a "rain shadow" over the unit giving you a completely false rain gauge reading. The effect of a tree should be obvious, but the "rain shadow" deserves some further explanation.

Say for instance the wind is blowing from the house's direction while its raining, with the rain gauge placed too close to the wall on the opposite side of the house. The wall causes a "rain shadow" where the wind blows the rain over the gauge, causing it to receive only a fraction of the actual rain.

The same applies to wind speed and direction. Large objects will not just influence the wind speed, but also cause the wind to twirl around, making it very difficult to get an accurate wind direction reading. As a result,  the anemometer and wind vane should also not be placed close to any tall large structures.

At this point you might be getting frustrated and start to wonder where you can actually put you weather sensors where it will NOT be influenced by something. You will be happy to know there is a rule of thumb to follow.

What you may not be so happy to know, is that the rule of thumb follows a 4 X 1 rule. That simply means that the weather sensors should be placed 4 times the distance away from the height of the nearest structure. This means if the structure is 10 feet tall, the weather sensors have to be placed 40 feet away from it.

Yes, I know most of us don't have a backyard the size of  a small field, so an open space furthest away from the structure is a good option. (There is a better option. Many weather station owners use their rooftops as a good solution to solve the problem. More on that later on in the next section.)

Distance Between The Base And Outside Unit

I briefly touched on the 2 ways the base unit and "sensor unit" can be connected to each other earlier in the article. Wired and wireless. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Base Unit And Sensor

Wired connections have the advantage of having a constant connection, as well as not being influenced by the different obstacles and barriers that may influence a wireless signal.

The technical difficulties of actually laying a cable, especially if the two devices are several hundred feet apart, combined with the labor and costs involved can make this a tricky and expensive exercise.

Wireless connections are becoming the standard for most midrange to high-end home weather stations.  The ability to place the sensors anywhere outside the home and seamlessly communicate with the base station without the need of cables or any additional installations make them very appealing to most home users.

Normally the maximum distance between between the 2 devices is claimed to be around 300 feet in general. Normal barriers and obstructions like concrete walls or metal and roofing materials bring this distance down to a more realistic 100 feet. Some barriers and other factors (like electronic and radio interference) can cause a loss off connection between the 2 devices. To any professional relying on a constant reliable flow of data, this can be a big problem.

2) Height

The second most important factor during siting for determining the accuracy of your sensors' readings, is your unit's actual physical height above the ground.

The first reason for this is to get an accurate humidity reading. Especially when placed in the back garden or any area that contain plants, grass or even bodies of water, the accuracy of the  hygrometer may be severely influenced. The amount of humidity that plants and bodies of water add to the atmosphere, must never be underestimated.

Another variable that can also be influenced by the surface below the sensors is the temperature. Whether the sensor unit is installed on the ground or on a roof, the surface of each still absorb and reflect/radiates a lot of the heat from the sun back into the surrounding atmosphere. 

As a result, when the sensors are placed too close to the surface below it, the accuracy of the thermometer will not be able to give an accurate reading. (The reflected/radiated heat from the surface below will add to the atmospheric temperature that is picked up by the thermometer.)

Luckily you don't have to get completely despondent here, as the solution to this problem is not that hard. You just need to ensure that the your sensor array is approximately 6 feet above the surface below. This height is sufficient to make the influence of any surrounding objects and surfaces negligible.

Most quality weather systems come standard with brackets to fit the sensor unit (normally to fit around a standard pole). You will be able to source an appropriate pole from many of these manufacturers. You an even save money by purchasing a long enough galvanized (to prevent rust) from your local hardware store. 

(Just remember to take note of the width or type of pole/surface your weather sensor array's brackets will make use of before buying any accessories. Your personal weather station's documentation should be able to supply you with this information.)

Final Recommendations

By now you should have a pretty clear idea of how to set up your home weather station, what to look out for, and how your surroundings can affect your sensors' readings.

In summary, remember the 4X1 rule for distance, and the 6 feet rule for height.

sensors roof

Recommendation: As I already pointed out, most of us don't have a big enough backyard to place the sensor far enough away from any obstruction. Placing the sensor unit on your roof or fixed to its side on a pole about 6 feet clear of the bottom of the roof, will give you the best possible readings for all atmospheric conditions.

Please note! This is clearly a potentially dangerous exercise, so have a professional installer do it for you if you if you are not fully confident and able to do this safely on your own.

Remember that batteries have to be replaced approximately every 2 years, so make sure the sensor unit is still reachable to replace them, as well as doing the occasional maintenance.

The one last point I quickly want to touch on, is the positioning of the thermometer. It is generally recommended that temperature should be measured in the shade with plenty of circulation present. As a result, the thermometer should not be placed in direct sunlight.

Luckily, most quality weather stations come standard with the thermometer placed within an isolation shield to protect it from direct sunlight. (Some even have a small fan for air circulation.) As a result I don't want to go into more detail and confuse you even further with "thermometer protection".

Conclusion

Hopefully you now understand how crucial the placement of your personal weather station is, as well as how exactly surrounding objects and surfaces can influence the readings of the different sensors that forms part of your system.

Luckily, choosing the right placement is not really rocket science, especially if you follow the few simple guidelines laid out in this article. Weather systems have come a long way over the years and have a lot of build-in capabilities that allow it to get the most accurate readings, despite their surroundings. You can just help it out to get even more accurate readings.

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my  Mailing List  to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel


What Is A Home Weather Station? – And Why You Would Need One

What Is A Home Weather Station

Most of us have a pretty good idea what a weather station is, especially when the term is used in association with weather forecasts. A home (personal) weather station on the other hand, is something few people are very familiar with.

Actually home weathers are not that dissimilar from their much bigger brothers used for national and regional forecasts.

Indoor Sensor

Home weather stations are devices that use a multitude of sensors to measure and display the atmospheric conditions (temperature, air pressure, humidity, wind speed etc.) in their immediate vicinity. Based on build-in algorithms and calculations, they are also able to make short-term localized weather forecasts.

Technically, a simple thermometer placed against the wall inside your house to measure the temperature, can be seen as a home weather station. On the opposite end of the scale you get a display console inside the home connected to an array of outside sensors measuring up to 5 different atmospheric conditions.

And off course you get a wide variety of weather station combinations in between these 2 extremes. You are really spoiled for here. (From highly functional to simply decorative.)

It may be all good and well knowing what a home weather station is, but knowing exactly how it works will explain a lot more to you. This includes why it can be so invaluable to a growing number of users and why enthusiasts (or weather nuts like me) get so excited about it and turn it into a full-time hobby.  

How Does A Home Weather Station Work

In all honesty, there is not that big a difference between a home and professional national weather station and the way they function. The biggest difference is that one measures weather conditions on a micro scale (locally), while the other measures weather conditions on a macro scale (regional or national.). That is apart from the massive amount of resources available to professional station compared to a home system. 

Control Unit

A typical home weather system consists of two components. The control unit houses the "brain" and display of the system and is placed somewhere inside the house where it is easy accessible to you. (It also contains one or more sensor for measuring conditions inside the house).

The second unit is normally a single component with multiple sensors build into or attached to it. It is placed outside in a position and height where it can get the most accurate atmospheric readings.

All the data measured by the different sensors, is send back to the control unit inside the house at set intervals, normally measured in seconds. An intricate set of algorithms and calculations build into the controller allow it to combine and interpret the various sensor readings. This in turn enables the unit to make a number of  "predictions" and determinations based on these calculations.

The displays on the majority of the advanced systems are able to display a combination of the data the control unit receives from the various sensors, indoors and outdoors. (This include variables like temperature, wind speed, humidity, barometric pressure etc.)  Apart from displaying current weather conditions, they are also able to display a 12/24 hour local weather forecast, based on the data they received from sensors and the algorithms/calculations based on this data.

These forecasts home weather stations are able to make, can be surprisingly accurate (if set up correctly). Advances in technology over recent years, combined with a continuing increase in/ understanding of weather conditions, is making this possible.

Difference Between Home And Professional Regional Weather Stations

If you are wondering why home weather stations are only able to forecast local weather over such a relative short period of time, it has all to do with the limitations of its sensors. It is also one of the ways in which home weather stations differ from large professional regional & national systems.

The sensors of home systems are located in one area, normally your back garden. This means they can only measure weather conditions in one specific area over a period of time. In order to be able to forecast weather accurately over a number of days you need a much bigger picture, literally.

weather satellite

Regional and national weather stations have access to remote sensors hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away which makes it possible for them make long-term forecasts. This come in the form of satellites, a network of remote weather stations scattered over a large area, weather balloons, and even weather buoys located throughout our world's oceans.

Satellites are able to pick up weather systems hundreds of miles away from a certain location, the speed at which it travels and even the amount of humidity within these systems. Combined with changes in water temperature monitored by buoys in the ocean, as well as additional data from remote weather stations and weather balloons, national and regional forecasts can be made for any large area over a number of days with astonishing accuracy. 

In other words, big regional and national weather stations simply have a MUCH bigger reach than home weather systems, that allow them to make these extended forecasts. It's not a reflection of the quality and accuracy of home weather stations in any way. They simply "can't see far enough" to make these forecasts.

How You Can Benefit From A Home (Personal) Weather System

It should become clear by now how anyone can benefit from a home weather system, but there are some instances where such a weather station can be much more beneficial to some than to others.

Living in an area that does not receive local weather reports (or very inconsistent ones) can be very frustrating for professionals, working within roughly 10-15 miles from home. Regional forecasts are too broad to give you a clear picture of your local weather. (You can read more about the difference between local and regional weather in this article.) Especially if the weather at your place of work are very similar to your home conditions, having access to home station can be invaluable for planning your day.

wine farm

Many farms and big plantations are already benefiting from the use of home weather stations. Spread out over a relatively large area, they rely on local weather conditions to plan anything from irrigation to the ideal time for planting seeds, to mention just a few. Many of the more advanced home systems can also receive data from more than one remote station. This allows you to have more than one "sensor station" situated at different locations on your property to provide you with even more accurate readings.

Nurseries and similar facilities who also rely heavily on local weather to plan their activities (like irrigation), can also use a home weather system to their advantage and help with their planning and scheduling.

Large outdoor venues like stadiums and sport centers who need to know how weather conditions will change over a short period of time at their specific location, will find such a weather station installed invaluable for short-term planning and event scheduling.

Last but not least, any weather enthusiast will love the addition of a home weather system for obvious reasons. Apart from having access to accurate real-time weather data, modern weather stations also store up to a year of meteorological data that can be downloaded to a computer. As a result, weather patterns and tendencies can be determined and keep record of. Even for someone who may not have been "bothered by the weather" in the past, it can suddenly become a very interesting subject.    

Conclusion

After this post, you should have a very clear idea of what a weather station is, how exactly it functions, and how it differs from bigger regional and national weather stations.

You will also have a better understanding of what institutions and individuals can benefit from the installation of these home weather stations. 

You will be surprised how interesting weather can actually get once you are able to have access to so much data of your local weather conditions. You know the saying, "The more you know, the more interesting it gets"? This is especially true with home weather systems. You may just surprise yourself.   

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my  Mailing List  to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

What Is The Difference Between Local And Regional Weather, And How Does It Affect You

Difference Between Local And Regional Weather

I think it's fair to say that each and every single one of us has been more than annoyed with our weather service's forecaster on more than one occasion. "Sunny conditions, with a light south-easterly breeze with high of 75 degrees Fahrenheit." Great! You dress accordingly, light and comfortable and head off to work 12 miles away...

wet man

As you jump out of your car in the drizzling rain, and run for your office to try and make it before getting completely soaked, you mumble a few "choice words" towards the weather forecaster whose advice you took the previous night, while a shiver runs through you from the surprisingly chilly gust of wind also hitting you. What light breeze and sunny conditions!?

Sounds familiar? You just experience one aspect of the difference between local and regional weather. What may sound just as familiar is talking to your spouse/partner later the day, who just happens to work 15 miles away from home, but at the opposite side of town.

cafe outside

As you complain and describe your miserable morning, spending more than an hour getting dry and still cold, you are more than a little surprised to hear that he/she is having lunch with a few work colleagues outside at their local coffee shop, since its "such a nice day"...

This scenario takes place across the world every single day, and in many cities and rural towns, so please don't feel alone. The weather gods and forecasters are not out to get you, I promise. The question though is, was the weather forecast wrong? Probably not, and I will explain why in a moment.

Let's just get a few technicalities out of the way that will help you better understand everything as I continue helping you make sense of this everyday occurrence. Let's start with the term "weather" and what it is:

Weather can be summed up as a description of atmospheric conditions in a certain area over a fairly short period of time. This includes variables like humidity, temperature, atmospheric pressure and air movement (wind.) Local weather is the atmospheric conditions in your immediate vicinity, while regional weather covers a much larger region like a county or state.

In other words, it simply tells you how hot or cold, rainy or sunny, and windy it is or going to be in a certain area over a short period of time. This is something we all know and considered common sense. Having said that, the weather is a lot more complex and volatile, and especially difficult to forecast over a small, localized area. (As the scenario described at the start of this article clearly showed and we all experienced .)

Now we can have a closer look at the difference between local and regional weather.

Regional Weather

Regional weather is normally focused on a specific region within a country. For example, looking at the weather of Northern California is a good example of regional weather.

regional weather

Although much more targeted than the overall weather condition of any country, it still covers a fairly broad area, sometimes spanning a few hundred miles. (And it's within this broad area that so many local variations in the weather can occur. More on that shortly.)

Meteorologists (weather forecasters) make use of a huge amount data gathered from numerous sensors on the ground, in the air, and from space.

Various different data (temperature, humidity, air pressure etc) is collected from a network of weather stations spread out throughout the region. This is combined with satellite images showing weather systems hours or even days away. Data is even collected from devices such as weather balloons send up to collect very specific data in the lower and upper atmosphere.

All this data, combined with looking at a logged history of weather patterns and tendencies over the years, allow meteorologists to make very accurate regional forecasts. (Using satellite images that show weather systems still days away allow meteorologists to even provide us with the 3-5 day weather forecasts we often see during forecasts.  This is not as accurate a 24 hour forecast though, due to the continuously changing nature of weather systems.)

And please take note, I am referring to regional, NOT local weather here. 

Local Weather

Local weather is normally focused on a "small location" like a city or town and surrounding areas. For example, Los Angeles and its immediate surroundings is one example of a "small location".

local weather

Local meteorologists make use of the same data that their regional colleagues use. Additionally though, they also make use of sensors located in the immediate vicinity, normally from weather stations located at places like the local airport. Using a combination of regional and locally obtained data, they are able to make a much more accurate forecast for your specific area.  

This can be very helpful, as within a big weather system, like a cold front spanning more than a hundred miles and moving very slowly, there may be pockets of warm and sunny conditions that can influence a smaller area within the bigger system. This can cause a specific city or town to experience sunny conditions, while the bigger surrounding region is experiencing the expected cold and wet conditions of the cold front.

(You should now be able to better understand why scenarios like the one described in this article introduction occur.)  

The term, "local weather" has started to become a bit more vague lately, as some local forecasters are trying to be even more specific, realizing that weather conditions can vary substantially, even in a fairly localized area.

As a result some local radio stations and Weather Apps can focus on specific areas within a city or town. In Los Angeles for example, some "experts" can focus on the weather in Northridge or South Los Angeles.

They may make use of personal/home weather stations (or network of weather stations) situated in their area, and combine that with the official local forecast to make a more specific forecast of their own.

Modern personal/home weather stations have become much more accurate during recent years, enabling users to make fairly accurate 12-24 hour forecasts. (If installed and interpreted correctly, which is often not the case.)

As you can see for yourself by now, local weather forecasts can be a mixed blessing. 

What Does This Mean For You?

Now that you have a clear idea of what exactly the difference between local and regional weather is, you may still be wondering how this influence you more directly.

Let me first point out that not all weather forecasts are created equally. Whether you use a weather app on your smartphone, read the forecast on your laptop, or get your forecast from a radio or television broadcast - make sure you vet and test each one over time to test its accuracy and reliability.

Naturally if your daily movements are in and around your city or town, paying attention to your local weather forecast is important. Similarly, if you tend to travel within a broader region on a daily or weekly basis, keeping an eye on the regional weather should be a priority for you.

Useful Tip: Getting a local and regional weather forecast from different credible sources, is always a very good idea to get the best possible picture of what to expect, especially if weather conditions are important to you.

Now, you can get even more specific, especially for the weather enthusiasts among you. (Or if you are a bit of a weather nerd like yours truly.) As personal/home weather systems are much more accurate and affordable than in the past, many users opt to install their own systems to monitor the weather in their immediate vicinity.

Combined with the data you get from general local forecasts, you are able to get a much better indication of weather conditions over the next 24 hours at you location. This may seem like a bit of overkill for you, but can turn out to be valuable investment and an interesting hobby.

This is especially useful for people living in remote areas, farms, nurseries and other places where up-to-date weather information at their specific location is of the utmost importance.

(I will cover home weather systems and their uses in detail on this site, so make sure you check back regularly to see what is new. You may just realize how interesting the weather actually is and may just get hooked!) 

Conclusion

An there you have the two different types of weather explained in more detail to help you better understand how each one influence you.

In summary, regional weather covers a large area with many fluctuations within it, but tends to be very accurate. Local weather targets a more specific location which can benefit anyone who needs more information about their immediate vicinity, but can be more unreliable due to sudden small weather changes within the larger system (as well as slightly less comprehensive and accurate measuring equipment.)

So next the weather forecaster gets it wrong and you are soaked in rain, rather then basking in sunshine, don't be too hard on him/her. It's not always as easy as it looks!

I trust this post has been helpful if this has been a confusing issue for you.

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my  Mailing List  to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

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