Updated weatherstation software

I’ve been enhancing the software that I use to read data from my weatherstation. It’s been working well since I added some extra code to detect when the sensor readings are obviously corrupt (radio interference, uncontrolled concurrent memory accesses, etc), but the tracking of the wind direction was still not quite good enough.

To improve that, I’ve extended the number of readings used in the running average, and enhanced the algorithms that average the wind direction to take into account not only the direction of each data point (unity vectors), but also the speed of the wind in that direction (true vectors).

The result seems to track significantly more accurately to nearby high quality stations, but I am conscious that this is still presenting a manipulation of the data, rather than the actual data that a better sensor would provide. Having said that, it’s now producing a pretty good result for hardware that cost me only £50.

The software can be downloaded from here.

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Program a better windvane

Back in August I wrote about my weather station, some of the problems I’d experienced with it, and what I’d done to fix them. The one thing that I’d not been able to quickly solve was the lack of damping on the wind vane, which meant it was difficult to accurately track the wind direction.

Having done some research on the web, it seems that everyone has this problem with the wind vane; it’s fundamentally a bad design. Some people have tried modifying them, usually by adding a much larger tail-piece, which then needs a larger nose-cone to counterbalance it. It usually also means that the unit needs to be remounted to avoid the wind vane colliding with the anemometer.

For a while I toyed with the idea of following this route, and redesigning the wind vane. However, I could see that I would be signing myself up for a lot of messing around at the top of a ladder, and winter is very fast approaching. Not a terribly attractive option.

Meanwhile I’ve been rewriting the software that I use to capture the data from the weather station, before I send it on to my PWS on Weather Underground. The software had a couple of little bugs that I wanted to resolve, and lacked some functions that I wanted to add. So I wondered if I could do something about damping the wind vane in that software. It turns out that I can. Sort of.

The way the weather station appears to work, is that it has 4080 weather records in the console, that act as a circular buffer holding the weather history. By default, the console “creates” a new historical record every 30 minutes (giving an 85 day history) though this can be altered with software. The weather sensors however, are read at a fixed interval of about every 50 seconds, and are apparently always written to the current record. So with the default configuration the console only records the last of about 36 sets of readings.

However, by connecting to the console via USB, it’s possible to capture some of those intermediate readings, which allows us to do something helpful. In my case, I read the sensor data from the console’s current weather record every minute, creating a running average of the last “n” wind direction readings, before uploading it to Weather Underground. At the moment, n=10, which produces a significant reduction in the extremes of the readings.

Of course, this isn’t really damping the wind vane. Rather, it’s mathematically manipulating all the data points I can see (some of which I know will be inaccurate due to the sensor design) and removing the more extreme values from the set that I process. So we’re actually losing data here. But the proof is in the pudding, and the results seem to track more expensive weather station designs more accurately.

You can see this in the following series of images. This first one is an example plot of a day of raw wind direction data from my weatherstation:

Graph of undamped raw wind direction

This is a plot of the wind direction data from a different day, using a high quality weather station (a Davis Vantage Pro 2):

Graph of wind direction from a Davis Vantage Pro 2

And this is a plot of the wind direction on the same day, using my weather station, but with the damping function enabled:

Graph of wind direction from my weather station, after damping

Ok, it’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than it was. And I know that the mounting location of the Davis Vantage Pro 2 sensors is much better than mine, so I’m unlikely to ever get results as good as the Davis set anyway.

For anyone interested in the damping, I create an array of historical wind direction data. I then take each element of that array in turn, and convert it into unit vectors for X and Y components of the angle. I then average the X and Y vectors, before turning the result back into an angle. By sampling frequently, and modifying the length of the history buffer, it is possible to significantly reduce the amount of “noise” from the sensor, and produce a much better track from the sensor data.

If that sounds too complicated, you have a Fine Offset 1080 or 1081 weatherstation such as the Maplin N96FY, and just want to get similar results to me, then you will soon be able to find all the code and instructions on how to use it here.