About Personal Weather Stations (PWS)
A PWS is a popular variant of weather station usually consisting of basic sensors to measure air temperature, air pressure, wind speed, wind direction, relative humidity, and rainfall. They are one of the most ideal tools for anybody to view and record weather conditions as they happen in their immediate vicinity whether it be for fun or work. Most people rely on their phones or the internet for current weather conditions, but few realize that the information they see may be sourced from someone with a PWS in their backyard nearby. Most online weather services display weather information from the nearest airport. In Pembroke, that is typically Plymouth Municipal (KPYM). As is often the case, the weather in Plymouth is not always true to what is being experienced in Pembroke leading to inaccuracies in some weather services’ information. Websites including Wunderground.com use the data provided from local PWS owners to resolve this common error. PWS owners upload data from their personal stations to Wunderground.com’s site, who, in turn, offer a place to store and view the PWS data for the public. There is another added benefit of PWS for forecasting. Both Wunderground and the national weather service have begun enlisting PWS data to input high resolution forecasting models. The increase in the spatial resolution of weather data has the potential to improve localized forecasting and promote a better understanding of various microclimates.
One of the biggest challenges to PWS networks is accuracy. By simple logic, as the number of stations increase, the more likely it is that there will be some error. Such networks are a form of crowdsourcing, in which untrained volunteers are recruited to supply their own data. Crowdsourcing weather data is not perfect because not everyone has a place to properly locate a personal weather station (see: CWOP Siting Guide for PWS). With that being said, PWS are more often than not owned by people who find the data valuable and enjoyable, and therefore care about maintaining accuracy. It is also often the case that PWS owners continually invest time and money to improve the quality of their data. The Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP) is a public/private partnership to collect PWS data and help owners improve their data. The program works with NOAA’s MADIS (Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System) to analyze data quality from PWS to verify accuracy.
Buying a PWS
Unlike the stations used for research or by the National Weather Service, PWS are not prohibitively expensive for the average person. They usually start around $150 for basic units and increase in price depending on their accuracy, durability, and capability. It is important to note that there is a strong correlation between quality and price. Some of the best units, that are borderline commerical-grade, can be well over $1000. Advanced setups often include sensors to measure solar radiation, soil temperature, lightning strikes and are often associated with a web camera.Those planning to upload quality data to the internet to organizations such as CWOP should be prepared to spend over $500 for equipment. As with anything, it is important to do some thorough pre-purchase research to ensure you get a station which meets your needs and fits your budget. Well respected names in the business are always a good place to start. Manufactures such as Davis and Rainwise have earned a reputation over the years for their quality and reliability and offer a wide variety of stations and instruments at varying price ranges.