Robert Moore talks about how he has been using EUMETSAT data for the last two decades as part of his small weather station set-up in north Wales.
18 January 2022
18 January 2022
Since 2001, I have been running a small weather station in north Wales. The station has conventional instruments, some might even regard them as rather old-fashioned — wet and dry bulb, maximum and minimum thermometers, grass minimum and ground temperature thermometers, an anemometer, rain gauge, aneroid and Fortin barometers. From the beginning, data from these sources has been augmented by satellite data, with a tracking dish for the NOAA polar orbiters and a static dish for EUMETCast reception.
My interest in weather began in the Navy when I received very basic training in oceanic weather systems, how to watch and record the weather and, when possible, avoid the worst. This was in the days before weather satellites and radio fax, although big ships did receive and plot Fleet Code. All my ships were small!
When I came ashore in 1961, I thought I would like to discover what happened when oceanic weather made landfall, but it was only as I approached retirement from my university post in 2001 that I was able to set up and keep records from my own station.
The initial installation of the reception equipment was beset with problems. I am located 165 m above sea level, on a hillside exposed to the north and shielded from the south by the hill and trees. Because of the trees EUMETCast reception was only possible from one awkward location on the east side of the house. To prevent wind movement the 800 mm dish needed a tripod mount. The whole installation is only accessible by ladder. The NOAA tracking dish was above a flat roof but had to be abandoned when my advancing years made clambering on the roof for maintenance work too hazardous.
As the available data increased, I received it eagerly, and rapidly accumulated material that I could not use (and in many cases did not understand). I have now reduced reception to visible and infrared channels, mainly covering the Atlantic and western Europe, though out of interest I also received the GOES, Himawari and IODC data and, of course, Metop images. I occasionally use Rapid Scan imagery to watch the local weather and try my hand at nowcasting, but the Atlantic weather remains my main interest.
The instruments are not ideally located, but they have been in the same position on my west wall for 20 years and full details of their location are included in the metadata for the station archives.
There is an additional Davis weather station located lower in my garden, it records temperature and humidity, and transmits the values by a UHF link to my PC, but these data are only used to interpolate values for the main station if I am late reading the instruments, or away from home. Recently sensors have been added to this station to report grass and ground temperatures by radio, replacing the glass thermometers. This change is a response to the risk posed by steep slopes and winter weather to an aging observer! There is a rain gauge on my workshop roof but it has a digital counter inside the instrument screen.
I have kept a full record of weather observations at 18:00 UTC since 2001 and these have been deposited in the Flintshire county archives every five years, and now comprise a full twenty-year record.
How do I use satellite data?
Using imagery generated with David Taylor’s software I try to produce my own local weather forecasts, or time the arrival of bad or good weather from the Atlantic or the arctic (‘anticipation’ rather than ‘forecasting’ perhaps). I’m getting better at this and very occasionally do better than the Met Office, because features of the regional topography modify the local weather in ways that are not always picked up by the professionals working at a larger scale.
Trying to make better sense of the data as an amateur has sent me to textbooks, websites and conferences to learn more about meteorology and satellite interpretation. These include the monthly EUMeTrain briefings and publications.
Interpreting satellite images is sometimes easy, for example when one can see high pressure over Europe holding off Atlantic weather systems, but mainly it is not at all easy, beyond seeing the broad outlines of weather systems. But my education continues.
I publish regular reports. Every month I write a summary weather report for the local secondary school, and every quarter a report for our community newspaper The Five Villages Chronicle, which has a circulation of 1,300. It is these summaries and quarterly reports, with more technical details added, that form the basis of the archive.
Every quarterly report has at least one satellite image. The image is used to illustrate an aspect of the weather reported and usually includes a few non-technical comments on the capacities of the satellites and the interpretation of the images.
The local population has, therefore, seen nearly one hundred images provided through EUMETCast reception and, so, some of the important work undertaken by EUMETSAT is regularly seen by the public in this corner of Europe.
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