Compact weather sensors and weather research?

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We rely on weather forecasts in our daily lives, both personally and professionally. To obtain accurate forecasts, sophisticated and state-of-the-art technologies are required.

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With climate change, this need has become particularly important. Compact weather sensors are a recent innovation that avoids the cost and space requirements of bulky traditional weather stations. Could this be the future of meteorological research?

Sensors are needed in weather research to monitor and understand climate, and weather conditions are often installed on a structure from the ground or on a buoy above water.

While accuracy is important, technologies must also be robust enough to withstand harsh conditions brought on by extreme weather conditions, such as a storm.

Compared to sensors, traditional weather stations are composed of several individual instruments, are large in size and have high installation costs.

Typically, traditional weather systems have a thermometer to measure air and sea surface temperature, a barometer to monitor atmospheric pressure, and a hygrometer to measure humidity. There can be many more components such as a rain gauge, an anemometer for wind speed, a weather vane for wind direction, and a pyranometer for solar radiation. In combination, these components are expensive and take up a lot of space. However, this can be a limiting setup for those in remote and hard-to-reach locations.

Compact meteorological sensors

Also called all-in-one weather sensors or basic weather sensors, compact weather sensors combine several individual sensors. They can measure up to 10 different parameters simultaneously, in a single unit.

This is a stark contrast to traditional weather stations which have typically had different varieties of individual sensors and separate instruments. Some weather stations have separate sensors assembled on a single mast, while others have instruments spread across the ground.

Not all spaces will be able to accommodate a weather station requiring an area of ​​several meters. Additionally, the exact location where monitoring is required may be difficult to access, such as on top of a building or a mountain.

Here, compact meteorological sensors would come into play and offer to measure an array of variables in a confined space. Due to their small dimensions, they can be installed in most places, even those that are difficult to access. This would work wonderfully for an expedition team of scientists traveling while surveying a remote mountainous region.

Lufft innovations

Located in Fellbach near Stuttgart in Germany, Lufft has been developing measurement technologies for climate and the environment for more than a century. The Lufft product family of smart weather sensors consists of the most accurate individual sensors that can be used for meteorology, hydrology, road weather, PV monitoring for solar power or building automation. The company strives to generate the world’s best weather sensors for its customers around the world, while staying on top of market trends and innovations.

Lufft offers compact weather sensors for wind direction and speed, relative humidity, intensity, type and amount of precipitation, global radiation, atmospheric pressure, ambient temperature and even lightning. Their product Smart Weather Sensor WS800 is the first all-in-one compact weather sensor with lightning detection capabilities. Like many of their other products, the design also prevents birds from nesting on the sensor due to a covered construction.

Obstacles to overcome

However, compact meteorological sensors have generally faced certain limitations. Accuracy and sensitivity of sensors fade over time and should therefore be sent for calibration. In the case of compact sensors, the components are contained in a single unit, so the entire product must be returned to the manufacturer for calibration.

In contrast, with traditional weather systems, it is possible to remove the affected instrument without affecting the rest of the system, reducing data loss. Ideally, any problems with individual sensors should avoid disrupting the continuity of data collection as much as possible. In traditional weather stations it is also easier to upgrade individual equipment, but with compact sensors all unit capabilities remain fixed.

Overall, the limitations do not detract from the advantages of compact weather sensors that can be easily assembled and transported while generally being less expensive than traditional weather stations. It is possible to avoid the cost of renting or acquiring land to fill the space required for a conventional weather station.

It may also be possible to alleviate some of the limitations of compact weather sensors. As with Lufft’s compact sensors, these have the versatility of being broken down into individual sensors, allowing component separation; any issues can then be resolved on an individual level.

The future of compact weather sensors

Envisioning the future of compact weather sensors and accessible sensor designs for weather research may involve making them smaller, more accurate, robust in extreme weather conditions, and affordable. This weather sensor technology will become increasingly important for understanding the effects of climate change in the years to come. Their applications may even extend to medical science, as epidemiologists have begun to assess climate data related to environmentally related diseases such as rotavirus.

Continue Reading: Mitigating Damage from Natural Disasters with AETHER’s Satellite Weather Sensors

References and further reading

Earth Science. (2021) Compact weather sensors vs traditional weather stations, which is better?. [online] Available at: https://www.essearth.com/compact-weather-sensors-and-traditional-weather-sensors/

Parvez, SH et al. (2015) Design and implementation of a cost effective, portable and scalable electronic weather station.Available at: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Design-and-Implementation-of-a-Cost-Effective%2C-and-Parvez-Saha/f8571163fd099cf3302f27ca2fbc68db14e809be

Lufft.com. (2021) Compact meteorological sensors. [online] Available at: https://www.lufft.com/products/compact-weather-sensors-293/

Lake scientist. (2021) Meteorological sensors – Lake Scientist. [online] Available at: https://www.lakescientist.com/meteorological-sensors/

Hinckley, A., (2017) Pyranometers: what you need to know –. [online] Campbellsci.com. Available at: https://www.campbellsci.com/blog/pyranometers-need-to-know

Josh M. Colston et al (2018) Evaluation of meteorological data from meteorological stations, satellites and global models for a multi-site epidemiological study, Environmental researchVolume 165. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2018.02.027

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