The life of a Beaufort Watershed Steward is filled with pressure. Specifically, barometric pressure. Changes in barometric pressure were the default weather forecast for generations. Now there is a sophisticated network of satellites, radar, and computer simulations at our disposal. BWS doesn’t use barometric data for predicting the weather, but we do depend on it for water level data.
BWS has sensors in various local wells and creeks that record water level. The sensors determine the water level by sensing the weight of the water above them. But that weight includes the weight of the atmosphere, also known as barometric pressure. At sea level, barometric pressure varies between 10.2 to 10.4 metres of water. If we have a sensor that reads 12.8m and the barometric pressure is 10.35m then our water level is 2.45m. So, when we harvest data from our sensors, it’s critical to know the barometric pressure for that area and that time period. To get accurate water level data, we line up our sensor data with the barometric data, apply a little Excel magic, and voila! Accurate water level data!
Initially, we used barometric data we found online. But there were often random periods with missing records. This correction is done on all of our sensors so missing barometric data meant data gaps in all our water level datasets. Eventually, we acquired a dedicated barometric sensor of our own which somewhat alleviated the problem. But a sole source for such critical data is not enough. Thankfully, I was gifted the solution! A birthday present in the form of a home weather station solved the problem. It’s a great little unit. Yes, it tracks barometric pressure, but it also tracks wind speed and direction, humidity, inside and outside temperature, solar radiation, and rainfall. It connects to our wifi and automatically uploads data to an online platform. In addition, the website allows you to view data from other stations throughout the world. Indeed, we found another station here in Fanny Bay, enriching our local data possibilities.
While our home station confirms BWS barometric data, it turns out that its real strength is rainfall data. Rainfall is much more varied, locally, than barometric pressure. BWS matches rainfall data to rises in creeks and wells which gives us insight into the hydrology of those systems. Finding accurate rainfall data has always been hit-or-miss. But now we know how much rain fell, last night, right in our backyard! That’s much more useful information than how much rain fell in Qualicum Beach or at the Comox Base. (If you’re a gardener, you might find that feature handy.) In fact, there are many reasons why someone might find a weather station a handy addition to their home. One big reason is that it would help add to the local knowledge base. Imagine a network of stations, up and down the highway between Royston and Bowser.
This is a great opportunity to satisfy your inner meteorologist and add to the local data community. And it would definitely help take the pressure off those who need data!