The National Weather Service is using weather observations from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in its forecasting models, thanks to a new state-of-the-art campus weather station.
Installed in late 2011, the station sits atop a hill next to Perkins Stadium. The $20,000 system, funded by the College of Letters and Sciences, measures temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, atmospheric pressure, sunshine hours and precipitation. A camera takes photos every few minutes of the surrounding campus. (See photo below).
"UW-Whitewater's station provides the only high-quality, real-time weather data in Walworth County and fills in a hole between Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago," said John Frye, assistant professor of geography and geology. "Although there are other stations in southern Wisconsin, weather can change quickly over a few miles. We're able to provide more local conditions to better inform campus, the city and the community."
Frye said the National Weather Service uses UW-Whitewater observations as it tracks storms and weather patterns. "This gives meteorologists more data when making predictions and issuing watches and warnings," he said.
One of the high-tech features is a lightning detection system capable of recording strikes as far as 15 miles away.
"This is an important safety feature, especially with all the outdoor athletic competitions and camps we have at the university," Frye said. "When lightning is detected, the system alerts campus and the city, allowing people to get to safety."
With the installation of the station, UW-Whitewater is now part of WeatherBug, the largest weather network in the country. Meteorologists across the United States use observations from WeatherBug sources for forecasting and news reports. WGN-TV in Chicago has featured UW-Whitewater's weather observations several times during its broadcasts.
The station also serves as an additional laboratory for student science projects, classroom discussions and undergraduate research. The new station will be a valuable tool for students who choose the new environmental science major.
Anyone can view weather observations from UW-Whitewater at uww.edu/weather. The photos can be seen as a 24-hour animation by viewing the full observations.