By Julie Horner with Chuck Winser
Chuck Winser has been living in Boulder Creek since December of 1989, a refugee from the Loma Prieta Quake. Because he was working with manufacturing data collection at Seagate Technology at the time and had an interest in weather, the two interests combined, and he purchased his first weather station from Fry’s Electronics. It was an Oregon Instruments WMR968 with wireless and solar-powered rain bucket, outdoor thermometer/humidity sensor, anemometer, and console. “With Virtual Weather Station Windows software,” Winser said, “it was possible to interface the console to the Internet and regularly update graphics to my website.” Data was initially collected in the spring of 2002 off Bear Creek Road and later in 2005 a mile north of town.
Winser later upgraded the weather station to a Davis Instruments Vantage Pro2, an industrial-grade system, which added a wireless UV and solar wattage meter and a fan aspirated radiation shield to his existing sensor package. With this system, Winser monitors rainfall and rate, windchill and heat index, barometric pressure, dew point, temperature, moon phase, wind speed and direction, evapotranspiration, forecast, and historical graphing.
He now has the system mounted on his roof about six feet above the roof line so the roof’s temperature bias is minimized. “Ideally a radiation shield is used to minimize the influence of sunlight upon a temperature sensor. The NWS (National Weather Service) does publish a brochure on the proper location of weather station components such as avoiding eaves, mounting directly on a roof, not putting a rain bucket underneath trees or drip lines,” he said. Temperature sensors are ideally mounted on the ground at average human height.
“One of the frustrations of publishing weather data is that it may not agree with other people’s observations,” Winser said. “Rainfall and wind varies with terrain and storm cells, and within a half a mile there can be a difference of a half inch of rain. The Santa Cruz Mountains have countless microclimates that provide different readings, and that sometimes messes with other people’s weather perceptions. It’s alright since one really doesn’t need a weatherman to tell one which way the wind blows.”
Winser’s background is in science, and he was a high school substitute science and social science teacher. He’s also been doing programming for a good number of years and has recently moved up to the role of Senior IT Director engineering corporate manufacturing data collection. With an appetite for poring over atmospheric phenomena and a passion for backcountry exploring, he said he “has a good feel for the weather.”
Winser said his Davis Vantage Pro2 is as accurate as the instrumentation and the station placement allows. “Since it’s on the roof, there may be some roof bias throwing heat up at the sensor that the fan-aspirated radiation shield kind of helps to mitigate.” It’s not an ideal placement, he admits and said he needs to relocate the equipment elsewhere on the property. The current placement is the only location that doesn’t have trees or buildings over it. Winser notes, “Any station in downtown Boulder Creek would have heat bias from roadbed and sidewalk and buildings. That’s why downtown tends to be warmer.”
Winser faces challenges keeping his website portal stable. Windows updates and power outages cause the station to stop operating, he said. “Since there’s a datalogger on the weather station, data can be backed up for up to two weeks and then retrieved when the station software starts up.”
In the summer Winser grows tomatoes in pots on his sunny deck. “Roma for my homemade spaghetti sauce, Black Beauty and Dirty Girl are nice for sandwiches, Super Sweet 100/200 are cherry tomatoes good for snacking and salads.” After the recent soaking, this is something to look forward to. Visit Winser’s weather portal: http://www.boulder-creek.com/weather/index.htm
To view a map of weather stations in our area, visit wunderground.com/wundermap.
Julie Horner writes about the people and cultures of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Reach out to Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured photo: Chuck Winser’s weather station (Photo by Chuck Winser)