My New Weather Station – Part Three
In my last post I detailed the process that I went through to set up my Oregon Scientific WMR88 weather station. The weather station has been up and running for two weeks now and the base station’s live reports on the weather are a nice addition to the desk of my home office.
The WMR88’s base station is quite basic compare to more expensive models. It reports live readings from each of the sensors and remembers highs and lows for elements including temperature and wind speed. What it doesn’t do is act as a data logger, i.e. it does not keep an internal record of all sensor readings it receives. Now that I have been running the weather station for a while I want to see more than simple highs and lows. I would instead like to see all historical data, preferably in graph form. In addition publishing live sensor data to the Internet is also of interest to me. Fortunately all of this can be accomplished with the addition of a PC and the appropriate software.
The WMR88 comes supplied with a USB cable and Oregon Scientific’s Weather OS software is a free download. My advice is to ignore Weather OS entirely. It is very buggy and doesn’t provide data logging capabilities.
Happily the WMR88 is well served by alternatives. One such alternative is the Weather Station Data Logger (WSDL). WSDL is an open source Windows-based application that interfaces with a range of Oregon Scientific weather stations including the WMR88. There are many other options including the popular, multi-platform Weather Display which, although not free, is cheap to purchase and looks to be very capable, especially when combined with Weather Display Live (one weather station local to me uses Weather Display Live – its a very impressive setup including a fancy Flash display of live weather). If I get serious about data logging and internet publishing of weather data I will probably give Weather Display a closer look. However, for now I’m just tinkering so will stick with WSDL.
Setting up WSDL with the WMR88 is ridiculously easy. Simply download and run the installer, connect the WMR88 by USB, start WSDL and select Kick Start from the File menu. As each sensor reports data to the base station it is simultaneously reported to WSDL. WSDL logs all data to a CSV and begins drawing graphs. Here is a screenshot of my temperature/humidity readings in WSDL:
WSDL is simple to configure too. It provides a plethora of options to configure elements such as units of measurement, sensor names, graph colours and what data elements to plot.
WSDL also provides the capability to periodically upload weather information to various Internet weather websites including CWOP, Weather Underground and PWS Weather. For my setup I chose Weather Underground (Wunderground for short) simply because I have seen it mentioned in so many weather related forums.
Signing up for a Wunderground account and registering your own weather station is a straight-forward process simplfied greatly by clever use of Google Maps (to enter your elevation, latitude and longitude simply pinpoint your location on the supplied map). Armed with an assigned Wunderground Station ID and account password WSDL will upload its data to the service at defined intervals. Within minutes I could see my weather station’s data on the Wunderground website:
The sight of data from my own personal weather station on the web is just too cool.
In summary WSDL is simple to use, very configurable and feature-rich. The way software should be. The Wunderground service is no slouch either providing a means of viewing live and historical data via an intuitive interface.
I should be really happy with my new set up. I have data logging without an expensive weather station and I can, over the web, check my very-local weather (and see all historical data) from anywhere. Unfortunately there are two issues with my set up as it stands.
The first issue is with the WMR88 itself, specifically with the wireless transmission of sensor readings. My base station is scant metres away from all of the sensors. However, it is separated from them by the outside wall of my house. This seems to be causing an issue as the base station does not pick up all sensor transmissions. I have noticed that, on occasion, either the outside temperature/humidity readings or the wind readings on the base station will go blank for a short period of time.
This is not an issue in itself. I accepted when I went for a wireless solution that it would not be 100% reliable. Convenience has its price and losing the odd reading is a fair price to pay if it avoids the need for lots of cabling. However, the amount of lost communication increases when the base station is connected to a PC by its USB cable. In this case an external sensor can disappear for minutes at a time. With some research I discovered that this is a common problem for Oregon Scientific wireless weather stations.
If I am serious about logging and publishing my weather station’s data I will have to invest in some better kit to minimise gaps in the data. I have my eye on the WMR200 and may purchase one next year. The WMR200 has a built in data logger and a hefty looking external antenna which unlike the WMR88’s internal antenna I can, if necessary, modify. Also it should be possible to use the same suite of sensors simultaneously for the WMR200 and my existing WMR88 base station. This means that I can have two operational weather consoles and a set of spare sensors.
The second issue is that I do not own a desktop PC, only a laptop. This means that I have no machine available to run weather software on a continuous basis. So far I have been experimenting with WSDL and Wunderground on my boot camped Macbook Air, a machine that travels with me frequently. To make my data logging and internet data publishing arrangement permanent I will need to purchase a desktop or media PC (I can see a Mac Mini in my future, perhaps linked to the TV and a WMR200). All in I will be looking at a serious amount of money to make this work.
(Note: I have now purchased a WMR200. You can read my thoughts on it here).
All of that is in the future, probably early next year. I have had a glimpse of what is possible but, for now, will happily make do with my relatively simple set up.