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Situation and set-up

The Stoke Gabriel weather station is situated at the River Shack café on the quay at the head of Stoke Gabriel Creek on the River Dart in South Devon. Latitude 50° 24.2' N, longitude 3° 37.5' W. The Ordnance Survey grid reference is SX 847569.

The weather station is an Oregon Scientific WMR928NX, costing £320.

Wind InstrumentsThe wind instruments (speed and direction) are mounted on a short pole about 1.5m above the flat roof of the café. They measure the local wind accurately, but of course the creek is more sheltered than other nearby locations such as the open river or the higher ground in the village, where wind speeds will often be somewhat higher. The instruments may, in particular, understate wind speed when it blows from the NW or SE, as the general orientation of the creek and the Mill Pool upstream of it is SW/NE. Nevertheless, wind speeds of up to 55 mph have been recorded, so the degree of shelter is not great. At speeds below 3 mph the instrument is not sensitive.

The rain gauge is also on the roof nearby and measures the rain falling into a funnel, concentrating the drops on to a double tipping-bucket instrument. The sensor registers a minimum of 1 mm of rain. In consequence, the website may show the current weather as being ‘dry’ even if there has been drizzle for some time or if rain has only recently started.

Both the wind and rain instruments are powered by solar cells attached to the pole. They send their information by wireless to the weather station console inside the café below.

The barometric pressure, air temperature and humidity are measured by a combined instrument, mounted on a shady wall. This is also solar powered and sends its information by wireless every few seconds to the console. None of these instruments is thought to be affected by unusual local conditions, although purists might argue that the thermometer should be mounted in a special, slatted box called a Stephenson screen.

The console displays all the current readings but, more importantly, is connected to a small computer which is permanently switched on and displays both current and past measurements using “Weather Display” version 10.36w software. This, plus an additional programme, “Weather Display Live”, uploads the data on to the main page of this website every few seconds.

A community resource

The weather station was conceived as something that could benefit the local community and was therefore set up with the help of financial contributions from a number of organisations in the village: the parish council, the boating association, the school, plus a number of local businesses. All are mentioned on the sponsors page. It is most unlikely that any single one of these would have thought it worthwhile to fund a computer-linked weather station alone, but with cooperation all round the initial £700 was made available and the project became feasible. We like to think that we were the first village to set up an automatic weather station with collaborative funding and would be keen to see others follow suit.

History

The idea was first put forward in March 2006 and by June enough contributions had been made to order the weather station itself. It took a while to install the individual instruments and mount the console inside the café, but the console showed its first readings in July. By early October the computer had been installed in a specially built cupboard in the café, the software installed and the connections made to the River Shack’s website, where the data were initially displayed.

On 31 October the weather station was officially opened by Richard Tully, Chairman of Stoke Gabriel Parish Council, with representatives of all the contributing organisations present. Our celebrations were reported in the local Totnes Times and the Torbay Herald Express. The following week an article appeared in the Western Morning News and a brief and very complimentary report was shown on the BBC regional news programme, Spotlight.

Unfortunately the set-up was subject to various teething problems during November and December. A lightning surge damaged the computer and storm-force winds dislodged the wind direction indicator. More difficult was a problem with the software that disrupted the uploads to the website every few hours. Eventually this was sorted out and the data have been recorded and uploaded continuously since 6 December 2006.

A new design for the website was devised by Chris Mortimer and activated in August 2007.

Contact

Comments and suggestions should be sent to neil@nmillward.eclipse.co.uk