Category Archives: Weather

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! – St Padraig’s (Patrick’s) Day blessings be upon you! (Even to those people who are seeing strange characters because they are not using Unicode fonts.) Yes, we are now over half-way through March and just four days from the Equinox.

As I went out into the vegetable garden this morning to see what was ripe to harvest, I felt a pleasant cool, crispness in the air that made it feel like Autumn really is with us. This is especially so, seeing that my largest courgette (zucchini), which I am keeping for seed, is now a fine, ripe, yellow, that reminds me of Harvest Festival in my primary (elementary) school days. Hopefully days like yesterday, which was hot and humid, and the day before, which was hot and windy with dust storms, will become less frequent as we begin the journey into Winter.

Tonight I will be able to enjoy my Guinness, reflecting on past days of doing the same in Dolphin’s Barn (Dublin/Baile Átha Cliath), just a stone’s throw from the holy of holies, St James’ Gate, the Home of Guinness on Earth. It was in Dublin’s fair city that I first ate Lebanese food, discovered Gewurtztraminer at a Chinese restaurant and spent a whole day sitting round waiting for a Cisco cable to arrive, only to discover that it had actually arrived in Berlin. (DHL could not be blamed – the last three letters of both cities are the same.)

Enough of these nostalgic musings, I’m supposed to be catching up on some cooking today. Slánte!

Welcome to Autumn 2007

For those who follow the rather pointless and arbitrary civil seasons of Australia, it is now Autumn (Fall, to those in the USA). An article in the CSIRO’s ECOS magazine that I read some while back commented on how European settlers had try to impose their (admittedly inverted) Northern Hemisphere seasons on a continent where things just work differently, now all the more so, given climate change. It was suggested that maybe we should align with a more traditional, Aboriginal, scheme that actually used six seasons which started based on observations, rather than calendar dates.

Be that as it may it is, officially, Autumn. We have now left Summer behind, and the hottest February in 100 years. I can believe that, even if I have only lived here for for six percent of that time.

Nights are now becoming cool (below twenty degrees Celsius) and bearable. No longer do we need to run the ceiling fan all night, or even sleep out of the covers. Days, too, are now more bearable – we have not had to run the air conditioner now for three days. (I suffer from extremely poor temperature regulation, so environmental control is a must.)

In just over a fortnight, we will be encountering the Equinox, the shortening of days, and descent into Winter. Thankfully, we have had a couple of birds come down the chimney, removing the chore of having to clean it. Yes, it will be back to roaring fires, thick, savoury stews and other Winter delights before we know it.

Note to self: nearly time to order the Winter sherry (warning: Flash-based site, may not be accessible to all).

About Raincalc

Raincalc is a calculator for rainwater harvesting and has for some time been the most popular page on Smiffy’s Place.

Future developments will involve fee-for-service calculations using geo-referenced historical rainfall data.

New: Offline RainCalc Java

On request from a charitable organisation in India, I have re-written RainCalc in Java, so that it can be run directly on "ordinary" computers, without requiring an Internet connection. New features include the availability of more area units for drainage calculations (hectares, acres), the ability to set chart resolutions and the number of lines in a chart. The output can be copied to the system Clipboard of the host computer, to be pasted into e-mails, word processor documents, etc.

This new version is available free of charge, at my discretion, to charitable organisations involved in getting fresh water to those who need it. If you think that this is you, please contact me, telling me about your organisation and project.

For other purposes, licenses for this software are available for a small charge. Once again, please get in touch if interested.

A commercial version with the facility to save data and projects, as well as performing consumption calculations, will be available in the fairly near future; estimated cost, around $100 AUD.

Some Rain – Finally

After a month with no recordable rainfall, we have finally had a fall of rain. With a second night of thunderstorms in the wee small hours, last night (from midnight 2006-11-12) actually yielded some rain.

I have recorded 28.7mm since midnight, the last coming not long after nine in the morning. This equates to a capture of approximately 17 thousand litres, or about 13 percent of our total storage capacity. Based on existing reserves and projected consumption, this should now see us through until about March 2007. If no rain falls between now and the, I will have to re-evaluate the situation and possibly start using mains water for washing purposes. (Currently, mains water is only used for stock troughs, lawn irrigation and lavatory flushing.)

Here’s hoping for more rain, sometime soon…

Earwigs Ate Elvis!

Our unusual climatic conditions this year have have benefited some – notably earwigs (Forficula auricularia). We have had a veritable plague of them.

Although earwigs (or The Earwiggen, as I call them because I think it sounds better) are not generally a serious garden pest, in the numbers that we have had, I have replaced all my pumpkin and courgette (zucchini) seedlings twice. Even my peppers (capsicums, bell peppers) have been attacked.

So far, the only vegetables unaffected are a) garlic [nothing touches that] and b) tomatoes.

So, earwigs may not have eaten Elvis, but that’s only because Elvis wasn’t in my vegetable patch.

The Big Dry

South Australia is the driest state on the driest continent. This year (2006) is extra dry. The River Murray – the source of water for much of the state – is at very low levels, the Darling is down to almost a trickle. Water usage restrictions are being put in place and farmers are feeling the bite, with cereal crops just about wiped out. Houses in Adelaide (built on clay) are starting to crack, and not just because of lousy builders.

My Year To Date Rainfall Table says it all. Although it rained in October (sort of), there was not enough to tip my gauge. I should be able to run the house on rainwater until mid-January but after that – who knows.

‘Tis a grim picture.

Smiffy’s Weather Page

Contents

Note – this page is rather out of date and will be revised soon may get revised one day. Heck, I haven’t used SuSE or Fedora in over 5 years. Debian FTW.

Overview

This page is about my weather projects – software and hardware. Hardware-wise, my main focus is on instruments interfaced to Dallas 1-Wire® devices.
My current weather may be viewed if everything is working properly!
Please note that times quoted are for South Australia.
My latest addition to my system is the addition of my 1-Wire® beer thermometer. I have also created a year-to-date rainfall report that is created when the current weather report runs (every ten minutes).

I do the majority of my work under Linux (SuSE on most machines,
Fedora on my web server.)
Most of the applications I work with and develop are web-based, using the
Perl programming language and the MySQL database.

For any projects requiring microcontrollers (in other words, when it’s quicker
to use a generic board and do all the real work in software), I use
Atmel AVR devices, programming in C and using the
GCC compiler.

The last major revision to this page was made 2005-01-10.

Weather Software

  • My current weather software – I am currently working
    with Nathan Parker’s software; this link is to the files containing
    my modifications and additions.
  • dalweathdb-2.2
    Nathan Parker’s 1-Wire® weather software using the MySQL
    database.
  • Raincalc – Software I’m developing
    for calculations for rainwater storage, stormwater management, etc.
    Soon to include geo-referenced rainfall data for the whole of
    South Australia. This is a CGI
    application based on Perl and MySQL
  • Digitemp is Brian Lane’s 1-Wire®
    weather software for Linux/Unix. Brian’s site also has some handy information
    that I used when I first started wiring things up.
    I believe that Digitemp has a DOS version and Windows versions available,
    the latter being unsupported. There is a Digitemp mailing list.
  • OWW – Simon Melhuish’s
    One Wire Weather software for Linux and RiscOS. Whilst it doesn’t suit
    my long-term purposes, I found OWW very handy for getting my original weather
    station off the ground. Both GUI
    and non-GUI versions available.
  • >WServer – Arne Henrkisen’s 1-Wire® weather software for Windows.
    Unsupported (old) freeware version plus fully supported shareware version.
    I haven’t used this myself (I don’t use Windows), but know Arne through
    the 1-Wire® mailing list and know that, like Brian and Simon, he
    provides good, timely, support for his product.

Weather Hardware

  • My Weather Station
  • AAG Electronica – this Mexican company
    produces a whole range of 1-Wire® hardware. I am using the AAG
    1-Wire Weather Instrument. This device is extraordinarily good
    value for money, even taking into account international shipping.
  • >My Lightning Detector

General Resources

Smiffy's Weather Station

My current weather station (January 2005) comprises the following:

  • Home-made 1-Wire® adapter: DS2480B + MAX232 + DS9503. The adapter board is mounted in the casing of an old D-Link ethernet hub, which provides the power supply and front panel jacks. All the jacks are wired in parallel, giving a star topology for the temperature sensors, which are connected through the CAT5E house structured cabling. One leg of the star goes out through the wall on twisted pair telephone cable to the rain gauge and weather instrument. I have had no problems with this arrangement except once when one of the cable joints was attacked by birds.
  • AAG Weather Instrument. The temperature sensor in this unit is
    recorded but not reported. The weather instrument is attached
    to a piece of galvanised box section, currently tied to one of
    the (steel) posts of a panel fence. This needs slight re-orientation
    and raising as far as I dare without things wobbling about too much.
  • Lacrosse rain gauge – originally wireless, but with all the guts
    ripped out and replaced by a home-made board with a DS2423.
    Circuit based on Dallas application note. I used the wireless gauge
    because the [tipping] bucket had a better resolution (0.01 inch/0.254mm)
    than the wired unit that was offered.
  • 6 1-Wire® temperature sensors – various models. These are
    distributed around the house, with one outside. The outside unit
    currently reads high when the sun is on it since it’s located
    in a plastic flower pot rather than a Stephenson screen!

Future additions to the station – some sooner, some later, some maybe never:

  • DS2423-based lightning detector
  • Temperature probe in my beer fermenter.
  • Airlock ‘glug’ count for beer fermenter (DS2423 and some kind of optical
    sensing) to determine fermentation rate.
  • Field mill for measuring cloud (electrostatic) charge. Have yet
    to settle on an interfacing technique for this – will either
    use 1-Wire® analogue to digital convertor (DS2450) or just run
    the whole thing off a microcontroller and present data through
    a 1-Wire® port expander (DS2408).
  • Geomagnetic sensor; sensor and processing chip (SCL006B) from
    Speake Sensors;
    processing chip has digital out so will probably interface to
    a DS2408 port expander.
  • Atmospheric pressure (DS2450 + ?)
  • Relative humidity (DS2450 + ?[2])
  • Insolation (some sort of differential arrangement with DS18B20)
  • Some sort of optical system to check the clarity of the irrigation water
    coming out of our aerobic wastewater system (DS2450).
  • Temperature probe in septic unit of aerobic wastewater system.
  • pH probe in septic unit of aerobic wastewater system.

Smiffy's Lightning Detector

electrical schematic of lightning detector

I am currently working on a design for a lightning detector interfacing to a Dallas 1-Wire® bus. The schematic shown is based on work by Charles Wenzel

The image above is presented as a JPEG for compatibility; for those who can read PNG files, a much clearer version may be viewed.

This page was created 2005-01-10 and has not been revised.

1-Wire Beer Fermenter

For some time now, I have been meaning to get my beer fermenters hooked into my 1-Wire weather system. Now we are in business! Thumbnail images on this page link to 640×480 versions.

Temperature Probe

photo of encapsulated temperature probe

Probe (DS1820) is inserted into a short length of polyethylene beer siphon hose and filled with epoxy resin.
The wire is industrial PTFE insulated equipment wire. To maintain gas seal when passing through the
fermenter lid, wire is epoxy encapsulated into a short length of copper tubing.

Working Rig

photo of fermenter with probe installed

Probe is shown installed in fermenter; an extra hole has been drilled in the fermenter lid and a nylon cable gland installed. An ‘O’ ring is fitted between the underside of the fermenter lid and the locking ring of the cable gland to prevent gas leakage.

When fermenter is active, data may be viewed on my current weather page. Note that the fermenters live in the laundry and close to the temperature probe in there, so you can see the difference between air temperature and beer temperature.