Up on the roof: Annapolis Royal’s citizen weather station helping to improve forecasting abilities

Lawrence Powell editor@annapolisspectator.ca
Published on October 7, 2014

ANNAPOLIS ROYAL - When the wind blows atop the old post office, data collected by anemometers there feed into a larger system that not only provides current weather conditions but is helping improve weather forecasting abilities.

The state-of-the-art equipment on the roof of the town’s highest building was upgraded Saturday. Rick Decker came up from Maine to help upgrade the weather station, but the gear doesn’t belong to Environment Canada. It’s part of the Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP).

Decker describes CWOP as a public-private partnership with three goals: to collect weather data contributed by citizens; to make the data available for weather services and homeland security; and to provide feedback to the data contributors so they have the tools to check and improve their data quality.

In North America there are roughly 7,000 CWOP stations and they send roughly 50-75,000 observations an hour.


Retired Meteorologist

Decker is a retired National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) meteorologist with a strong interest in instrumentation and CWOP. He’s helped deploy about 10 CWOP stations in the US and Canada -- several in Maine where he lives.

Decker said data collected normally consists of temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, rainfall, and barometric pressure. Solar radiation intensity and duration is also measured by some stations, he said.

The Annapolis Royal station, CW1604, measures wind speed and direction using the anemometers (wind speed) and wind vanes (wind direction) mounted on the top of the old post office building. Those were replaced Saturday thanks to the efforts of Sefton Squires and Duncan Smith of Renaissance Property Services, and Decker. 

“The existing systems were becoming less reliable after several years in operation,” said Decker. “Normally for correct exposure, wind should be measured at a height of 10 metres above level ground clear of any obstacles for hundreds of feet in all directions. That wasn’t possible in the town, but this location is quite good. Near the waterfront temperature, humidity, and rainfall are measured.”


Improving Forecasts

Decker said that to improve weather forecasts, greater spacial and temporal resolution is needed in the analysis and forecast models of the atmosphere operated by national meteorological services such as Environment Canada (EC) and the US National Weather Service (NWS). 

“With increasing computing power these organizations are issuing finer scale forecasts or will be in the future,” he said. “Unfortunately, the governmental organizations can’t afford to install sophisticated weather observing stations in a high enough density to make full use of these fine scale models.”

Decker said that if the quality of the data is good enough, it’s believed that citizen weather stations can partially fill the gaps between government funded and operated weather stations. For example, he said, there are no EC or other sophisticated stations along the Nova Scotia coast between Brier Island and Greenwood.

“Data from the Annapolis Royal CWOP station partially fill this observations gap,” Decker said, adding that the data is available to anyone, including the general public, with access to the Internet and may be useful for transportation, agriculture, marine. and recreational activities.


Data Available

Using personal weather stations the data are collected and sent via the Internet to Citizen

Weather servers and then to the NOAA for quality control and ingest to high spacial and temporal resolution meteorological analyses.

From there the data are made available in several different formats including on Findu and MesoWest, Weather Underground.

“It must be understood these data are not of the same quality or sophistication as the measurements taken by the EC, the NWS or other governmental organizations,” said Decker. “No measurements are made of frozen precipitation, visibility, present weather, cloud height or coverage.”

Finding the Annapolis Royal data online is easy. Type into a web browser CW1604 Findu metric weather, or go to Local Climate on AnnapolisRoyal.com

How does this information fit into the bigger weather picture?

CWOP mesonet data are used by more than 800 organizations including universities, government agencies, cities, media and other private sector firms.

Besides CW1604 there is a CWOP station at Port Lorne, but its wind measurements are in need significant improvement, said Decker. 

“It is possible there might be one or two others I am not familiar with,” Decker said, adding that high quality, properly exposed wind measurements are in particularly short supply.


The Names

Several people in Annapolis Royal have previously or continue to be very helpful in hosting and supporting the operation of CW1604, said Decker.

“These include Corinne Frantel, Carol Hanson, and Holly and Paul Sanford,” he said. “Many thanks go to Tina Little who owns the old post office building for permitting me to attach the wind sensors in such a fine location -- and to Sefton Squires for getting them installed on that high perch.”

To see the Annapolis Royal observations click here and hover your curser over Annapolis Royal on the map.



Rick Decker

Published on 07 October 2014

<p>Rick Decker, a retired National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) meteorologist, tests an anemometer he was installing on the roof of the old post office in Annapolis Royal Saturday. The device measures wind speed and direction. He was replacing older equipment that is part of the Citizen Weather Observer Program.</p>

Photos by Lawrence Powell

Old Post Office

Published on 07 October 2014

Seen from the ground, the old post office in Annapolis Royal dominates the landscape from almost any vantage point. Rick Decker can be seen on the roof.

Photos by Lawrence Powell

Annapolis Royal

Published on 07 October 2014

Another view from the roof of the post office.

Photos by Lawrence Powell

King's Theatre

Published on 07 October 2014

Looking straight down to St. George Street and King's Theatre from the roof of the old post office. The post office roof was the best location to put wind speed and directon sensors.

Photos by Lawrence Powell

Rick Decker

Published on 07 October 2014

Rick Decker, a retired NOAA meteorologist from Maine, was on the roof of the old post office in Annapolis Royal Saturday helping replace equipment that is part of the Citizen Weather Observer Program which has about 7,000 weather stations across the United States and Canada. The Annapolis Royal data feeds into a larger system that receives between 50,000 and 75,000 weather CWOP observations an hour.

Photos by Lawrence Powell

Annapolis Royal

Published on 07 October 2014

The citizen weather station in Annapolis Royal includes wind speed and direction sensors on the top of the old post office. Down below near the water are other sensors that gather other information such as temperature and rainfall.

Photos by Lawrence Powell