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No More Snow Measurements

Unfortunately, I have decided to discontinue snow measurements. Last winter finally persuaded me of the limits of collecting and tabulating daily snowfall — even on a double city lot. The wind eddies around nearby structures result in huge drifts when winds gust upwards of 40 mph. As Marquetters know, this is an all too common event in the winter, particularly when storms come off Lake Superior. It then becomes very difficult or even impossible to separate drifted from newly fallen snow. Sometimes the snow boards are simply blown clean. Taking measurements from multiple locations won’t improve matters when everywhere around is subject to the same forces.

Continue reading “No More Snow Measurements”

Radar Down from 9/9 – 9/13

The National Weather Service Marquette will be replacing some radar equipment starting Monday September 9th through Friday September 13th. During that time, you will see a “Down for Maintenance” indicator where the radar image typically resides on our home page.

For more info, see their blog article: https://www.weather.gov/mqt/KMQT_SLEP

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UPDATE 9/11/19: Apparently the NWS radar techs wrapped up their work 2 days early. The radar was returned to service this afternoon.

Radar Down Until Thursday 8/8

According to the local National Weather Service office, the radar will be down for preventative maintenance until Thursday August 8th at 3:00 PM EDT.

If a storm develops, the radar should be temporarily re-enabled.

All radar options on our site will be affected by the outage.

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UPDATE 8/6/19 2:00 PM EDT: Radar is back online. No storms expected today. Not sure what’s going on. No update from NWS.

Humidity Adjustments

It appears our humidity sensor’s maximum value has lowered over time. This is, unfortunately, common with our particular weather station’s sensor. The process is accelerated by 24 hour fan aspiration. We’ve seen this behavior in 3 other units we’ve deployed in the past.

When we first installed this sensor last July, the top possible humidity reading was 98%. The ceiling has since lowered to 96%.

After a round of tests using an independently calibrated device yesterday & today, and in an effort to stay within +/- 3% of true ambient humidity, we’ve programmed adjustments to the following humidity readings:

  1. 94% +2% = 96%
  2. 95% +3% = 98%
  3. 96% + 4% = 100%

Because we use a 5 minute rolling average for humidity at times you will see values between 96%, 98%, and 100%.

The good news is, based on experience with this sensor model, the biases should now be fairly solidified and predictable.

The bad news is that when humidity starts to descend from persistently moist conditions (>95% and >2 hours) the sensor can lag because of moisture uptake within the protective housing. Our programmed offsets exaggerate this process. We believe it’s more important to properly indicate the arrival of fog & dew than the drier air that immediately follows.

As always, though, we will test to verify sensor performance every so often and adjust accordingly.

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NOTE: We send corrected humidities to CWOP & Weather Underground.

UPDATE 5/28/19: After an overnight period of saturated air, discovered the sensor’s ceiling is actually 96%; corrected offsets.

Cloudy With a Chance of Old School

I have swapped out the somewhat simplistic cloud icons that previously served as a background for navigation links with hand-drawn clouds. My wife and I both feel these new icons provide more visual appeal & warmth. Then again we like anything that reminds us of a mid-century movie poster.

I’m aware that using pictures for links is considered passe by most designers now.  So-called skeumorphic interface design was popularized in early Apple products decades ago. Round about 2012 everything started going “flat”.

As for this web app, we have crowned function king. The design is largely fit to purpose with a few embellishments here & there.

Did I mention I’m not a “designer”? Oh well, add that to the list of my faults.

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The cloud images were acquired from Iconfinder & appear courtesy of a Creative Commons license. The artist is “Azuresol”. I removed some snowflakes under them since I wanted to use them year-round. I also created a variant that is lighter. A darker icon indicates the current page while a lighter icon links to other pages.

New Rain Gauge

Today I installed a new tipping spoon automatic rain gauge that will report real-time rainfall to the website. This is described by the manufacturer, Davis Instruments, as an “incremental improvement” over the previous tipping bucket gauge.

For the most part, our automatic gauge has run very close to our 4″ reference gauge which is 6 ft away & 2 ft lower. However, sometimes — particularly during large rain events — we encounter under reports of approximately 25% to 50%. Discrepancies can appear at any time regardless of wind speed or direction. Many others have reported similar, inexplicable anomalies with the old gauge.

Astute, long-time readers may notice the new “Aerocone” funnel in the picture. Supposedly, this cuts down on rain-induced measurement errors by reducing turbulence where rain is collected.

We’ll see how the new gauge performs. Early side-by-side comparisons from other station owners with reference equipment are encouraging. I’m definitely in the “trust but verify” camp nonetheless.

[UPDATE 5/20/19: The new gauge is performing marvelously so far. This weekend the tipping spoon reported 2.70″ of rain. Our reference gauge caught 2.67″. That’s about a 1% departure. Given the distance & design differences between the two gauges, small variances are normal.]

Minor Site Updates

You will no longer see the spinner image when the home page is refreshed. Previously iOS (iPhones/iPads) would sometimes display a blank page unless a slight delay was created while refreshing a page from device memory. The image let visitors know something was happening — no need to refresh manually which could make it worse. It appears that bug is gone now (knock on wood). So I have removed the image.

On the maps page, you’ll notice a couple changes. First, I had to replace the “Regional Radar” with a different image because the previous one hadn’t been updated in awhile. I had to completely remove the Surface Maps image for the same reason; however, there isn’t a freely available alternative available at the moment. If anyone would really like to see a replacement for a frontal map, let me know. Otherwise, I will leave everything as is. (Update 5/10/19: Both maps have been returned to service after being frozen for 3 days. We’ll keep an eye on them.)

The loop images on the maps page will now play continuously. I had to eliminate the play/pause button because on certain devices it was preventing the image from loading. It also seemed to slow down the loading process and sometimes interfere with the “user experience”.

I’ve addressed an issue where previously on iPhones the display would zoom when you selected an “Enhanced Radar” option. It should no longer do that (in portrait orientation at least).

I also fixed a bug affecting rain measurements on the home page that would only happen under rare circumstances. The malfunction also created incorrect totals for “Yesterday’s Rainfall” in the Almanac section, but only when metric units were selected in the page settings.

Finally, I’ve performed some back end improvements. The site now fully supports the HTTP/2 protocol resulting in better performance.

200″ of snow in Marquette? Not even close.

You may have seen the widely circulated story that the local National Weather Service office has measured over 200 inches of snow this season as of Monday morning, February 25th. Unfortunately, some articles have explicitly assigned the total to Marquette. Others have allowed readers to conclude that this is a representative total for the area. In fact, the NWS office is located well outside of the city limits in the highlands which receive substantially more snow. 

A helpful rule of thumb is that for every 100 ft you gain in elevation, you can expect 10 additional inches of yearly snowfall.* Of course, there are other factors, such as differing lake exposure, that come into play in the wider area. For this comparison, however, elevation is the key difference. So, given that the NWS office is 800 ft higher than the lakeshore of Marquette, that represents approximately 80″ of additional snowfall per year. In fact, that’s very close to the 30 year normals. Marquette normally receives close to 120″, and Negaunee Township gets a little over 200″ per year.

So far this season (October 1 – February 25) in Marquette, the city’s official NOAA COOP weather station has recorded 96.3″. That’s less than HALF the amount the NWS office received. Just a mile away from the COOP station at our location, 3 blocks south of downtown, we recorded 108″ in that period. We are about 100 ft higher than the COOP station, which explains why we’ve had a bit more snow. To be more than fair, I would allow for an additional foot or so lost to high winds this winter at our station (which would give us about 120″).

So, in other words, both Marquette and Negaunee Twp have received something close to their normal seasonal totals thru the end of February. That would be the proper way to frame a story if, indeed, you were writing about Marquette.

Continue reading “200″ of snow in Marquette? Not even close.”

Blizzard Updates

In reverse chronological order (newest first):

  • Measurement site is now open (as of 3 pm Monday) & ready for the next precip event!
  • The snow measurement site is currently blocked by 4+ ft drifts. Will dig out this afternoon. But I was able to see from a distance that only a trace of snow has fallen since the last report at 10:40 pm Sunday (at which time I body surfed through the snow to reach the gauge).
  • Winds should really start to fall off after noon today (Monday).
  • Our storm total from Saturday morning thru Sunday night is 12.3″ of snow. Likely we got a few additional inches but they found a home in nearby drifts.
  • Just recorded another low-ish snowfall measurement of 0.9″ at 10:40 pm. Can’t keep snow on the board.
  • As of 11 pm it appears that winds may have peaked in the 8 pm hour. Each successive hour has had a lower average wind speed.
  • NEW Station Record of 51 mph set at 9:03 pm Sunday
  • Winds should peak between about 7 pm – 9 pm Sunday
  • Last snow measurement of 1.2″ (representing snowfall between 7:30 am – 2:05 pm) is low. Unfortunately, snow is being blown off the collection surface. I left some snow on there so hopefully the incoming snow will stick to it. But with almost horizontal snowfall, it’s tough to measure! It all wants to collect in a drifted pile somewhere.
  • It’s possible we could break our station wind record (49 mph) in the next 24 hours.
  • We received some freezing rain overnight. About 0.2″. From what I could see, though, power lines and tree limbs were unaffected — no ice accumulation. Probably too much wind and too warm to stick. The really cold temps don’t hit until later tonight.
  • Almost an entire February’s worth of precipitation fell in the 24 hours ending 7:30 am Sunday: 1.22″. Normally we receive about 1.3″ of melted precipitation for the month. We’re now at 4.99″ for February 2019!

Snow Measurements On Hold

Due to a combination of intense recent snowfall, high winds, and limited space, we have nowhere to place a snow board where it is not subject to significant drifting. The city has become a labyrinth of snow piles that powerful lake winds are merging and leveling.

Therefore, effective 11 AM Friday 2/15, we are suspending snow measurements indefinitely.

Once the winds subside and/or the peaks reduce/even out we will resume snow measurement. Given the forecast of sunny to partly sunny days this weekend and limited snowfall in the next several days, hopefully that will happen by next week.

Note: a liquid equivalent reading taken from our gauge will continue to appear in the precipitation tables on our History page.

[UPDATE Saturday 2/16/19]: I have relocated a snow board to be further from any potentially drifting high spots to the north and northwest (two of the most common direction for snow in the winter here). After knocking on wood, I am now reinstating measurements. I have added 2″ to yesterday’s snow total as a minimum estimate of what fell after 8AM.