Herald Journal Article - 4/8/11

Weather watcher: USU putting final touches on new station

Author: Kevin Opsahl, The Herald Journal (kopsahl@hjnews.com)
Date: April 8, 2011 Page: Section: News

Utah State University students are putting the finishing touches on a new weather station on campus, to be officially unveiled at a public ceremony on Earth Day. The new weather station — designed and constructed by the Department of Plants, Soils and Climate — is expected to be a piece of weather equipment unlike anything else in the state when it’s finished by April 22. The observatory will provide continuous real-time weather data for the campus and will be an educational resource for students in the environmental sciences. It will also serve as the department’s test platform for new innovative measurement sensors. A plaque placed in front of the station will be there for people to learn more about the weather station.

Each of the more than 20 instruments on the automated observatory produces a signal that is recorded by the data logger built into the station, transmitted by wireless signal to a computer, and graphically displayed on the Internet. This technology is fairly new and “provides cutting edge (environmental) measurements” for conservation of irrigation water, sustainable food production and monitoring air and ground water quality, said Bruce Bugbee, professor in the Department of Plants, Soils and Climate. Some of the technology has only been developed within the last six months.

“That really makes this unique,” Bugbee said. “It will be more accurate than anything previously ... and provide more comprehensive measurements. And the fact that it’s solar powered is very unique, because it’s challenging to power all of these sensors.”

The station was not funded by the state of Utah. Instead, Campbell Scientific and other instrument companies provided donations valuing approximately $50,000. The project was several years in the making, Bugbee said.

“It’s not just a gizmo to measure the environment; it’s a piece of sculpture,” Bugbee said. “This isn’t going to look like a piece of junk. This is really going to look nice, like a piece of art. ... We needed to do that to justify having it in the middle of campus.”

One of Bugbee’s graduate students, Chris Parry, said of the station, “Anyone can use the data for their own research.”

Weather measurement is no stranger to USU. It began with the historic campus weather station, built in 1893, north of the Nutrition and Food Science building.

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Copyright 2011 The Herald Journal
Photos by Alan Murray (amurray@hjnews.com)