Mitch's Blog 7.0

Mitch's Blog


Friday, January 26, 2007

Weather and Climate

It’s been a long time since a new entry. I’ve wanted to write the following post for a couple of weeks now, but the (so far) hectic nature of this new semester has made me largely unable. But, here goes.

One of the gifts I got for Christmas a little over a month ago was a fully-functional, professional-grade weather station – the three-piece kind that include an anemometer (wind vane), tipping bucket (self-emptying) rain gauge, and thermo sensor. It’s something I had wanted for awhile, particularly ever since my favorite weather website,, started allowing users to continually upload the measurements from their individual weather stations.

My station is far from being top-of-the-line, but it’s sufficient enough for me, able to do a fine job measuring all of basic variables like temperature, humidity, dew point, and wind direction. My station has been in operating mode since the morning of December 25, when it began uploading its data to every 15 minutes.

In the future, I hope to get some sort of web server set up on the computer the weather station is connected to so that I will be able to run a website with a detailed look at all the data reported by my weather station. In the meantime, if you want to check out current conditions or view archived data, you’ll have to go to my weather station’s Wunderground homepage here. Alternatively, if you just want to see the current temperature and wind speed, take a glance over to the "sticker" I’ve posted over on the right-hand side of the blog here, under the "stickers" for the official Brainerd and Grand Forks observations.

Temperature and dew point observations reported by my station generally agree with those reported by the Brainerd's official, automated station at the airport about 3 air miles from my house. If the values vary in any way, it's usually just a degree or two, which doesn’t amount to anything noteworthy given the distance between the two stations and, presumably, the different surroundings they're located in. If anything is likely to differ appreciably from the official value, it'll be wind speed. Part of this is probably because the official anemometer is of higher quality and located 10 meters above ground. More probable, however, is that the difference is because the official anemometer is (or should be) in the middle of an open field. Mine is located in a residential area surrounded by other houses and old, stately trees. As such, you could say that it records wind values that are more realistic for an environment that contains a lot of obstacles blocking the wind – the sort of environment that most people who live in cities are likely to experience.

Assuming the electricity at my house stays on, my internet connection stays up and running, the wireless signal between the station’s outdoor transmitter and indoor receiver doesn’t stop working, and the computer I’m using for uploading doesn’t suddenly explode, my weather station should be bringing you the latest weather conditions in my backyard every 15 minutes, all day long. I hope you enjoy.

Now, speaking of climate, I finally got around to posting all of the data pertaining to Brainerd’s climate that I’ve slowly spent the better part of the last two years collecting and examining. I wasn’t originally going to post it online, but I changed my mind because I wanted to have easier access to it, and I thought others might as well.

So, I present to you The Climate of Brainerd, Minnesota. Click on that link, go to that Geocities page, and find answers to all kinds of questions regarding Brainerd’s climate that you never knew to ask: How many days in January typically see a low of -20°F or colder? What’s the average amount of precipitation that falls in October? How many days in 1960 had a high of 90°F or warmer?

All of the data I used in making the website came from the very handy historical observations database at the website of the Minnesota Climatology Working Group. There are uninterrupted, daily observations for Brainerd on there dating back to 1898. Those from the last couple decades come from the cooperative observation station located close to the Mississippi River near the cemetery in northeast Brainerd. Because of this, not all of the data agrees perfectly with that reported by the automated station located, once again, at the airport east of town.

It was a lot of arduous work at times going through all the data, but, in the end, I’m glad I did it because it’s been interesting to see that the anomalous warming the entire globe has experienced during the last decade or so has also been happening in Brainerd. Sometime soon I’ll present some of the evidence that shows Brainerd is becoming a warmer, possibly wetter place.

In the meantime, Grand Forks had a bit of a cold spell about a couple weeks ago. For 6 nights, nighttime lows were around -20°F and daytime highs hovered around "the doughnut" – the 0°F mark. One of the several neat things that happens when it gets that cold is that the cloud of whatever it is that comes out of the university’s power plant (probably mostly H2O and CO2) grows to massive proportions and looms large over campus. Here are some pictures:

By the way, the answers to those questions are about 6, 2.09 inches, and 7, respectively.

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Mitch's Blog began on December 23, 2001