Weather Station Hardware & Software
Information on the hardware and software used to run this weather station.
The Weather Instruments
The weather instrument system currently being used for this station is a La Crosse WS-2317. It provides temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, barometric pressure, and rain fall readings. The temperature and humidity sensors are housed in a custom built radiation shield known as a Stevenson Screen. The WS-2317 came with a cover to shield the instruments from direct sun but it did a poor job. The home made screen seems to work very well. The screened instruments are mounted on a 6' tall post in the back yard away from buildings and trees. The cable from the weather instruments run about 50' to the basement of the house.
The wind speed, wind direction and rain gauges are mounted on a 10' tall mast on top of the house. This puts them into fairly clean air and eliminates any problems with rain splash.
The rain gauge works well in the summer but freezes in the winter. The wind instruments are acceptable but have some problems. The wind vain freezes up from time to time in the coldest weather we get here. The anemometer works well but isn't as sensitive in low winds as I'd like. All in all though, for the $100 I paid for the WS-2317, it is a good starting point for a first time weather station.
Weather Station Software
The La Crosse WS-2317 has a serial output connection that is connected through a serial to USB converter to an eMac computer. The eMac has a 1.25Ghz G4 processor, 40GB hard drive and 756MB of memory. The computer runs both the software for the weather station as well as web and email servers. A program called LightSoft Weather Station (LWC) communicates with the WS-2317, collecting, saving and distributing data. The LightSoft Weather Station software provides a large number of functions. I'm using it to send data to Wunderground, record historical data, and create the web site graphs.
I really like the LightSoft Weather Station software. It is a very powerful program and I'm really using only a part what it can do. The next version of LWC will allow you to write custom software drivers for other weather instruments so it grows with my plans to custom build all my own instruments.
Weather Web Camera
The web cam is a Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 housed in a custom enclosure. The camera is mounted on a separate mast on the roof. The camera is about 12' off the ground and gives a good view of the backyard and the 5 acre marsh that starts behind our property and extends to the north. The camera is connected to the same computer as the weather instruments via a USB cable. The camera and computer are close enough together that I could use an active 16' USB cable to connect them.
Images from the camera are recorded with a software program called ImageCastor. The software is used to capture 4 image types: the web cam image every 5 seconds, the Wunderground image every 3 minutes, a noon image used on the weather calendar, and a time lapse movie of the day. The time lapse movie consists of images captured every minutes played back at 10 frames per second. The time lapse movies can be reached from the details page of any day in the weather calendar.
The camera faces very close to true east and gives a great view of the sun coming up in the morning. If you watch in the morning you will often see birds at the feeder and even the occasional wild animal that comes out of the marsh to ravage my garden. The image to the left shows the field of view from the camera.
The Logitech camera captures great images for a web cam and it works reasonable well in low light situations. The custom enclosure has also worked well. For winter I have added a small resistor as a heater in the enclosure. This "heater" keeps the camera about 15° warmer than the outside air temperature and costs very little to run.