One thing that is often overlooked by preppers is the ability to read the skies. There may come a day where you no longer have access to that convenient weather app or Accuweather forecasts. Understanding the basics of meteorology can help you understand what the weather forecast may be for the near future. We first need to understand some of the common terms and phenomenon before we can use that knowledge to predict the weather. There are several aspects of weather that I will get into:
Please note that I am not a meteorologist and not an expert of weather. As a little kid, I wanted to grow up and be a weatherman, but that changed shortly before I entered my undergraduate studies. Still, I have always been interested in the subject.
I am drawing very heavily on Weather: A Golden Guide. I have two versions of the book – a 1965 print that was discarded from the local library, and a 1987 version. Each of these copies have been in my possession for 30 years, and are well worn. The good news is that there is a newer version from 2001! It can be found on Amazon here, and it costs $6.95 new as of this article. I highly recommend picking up a copy. Are there more detailed books out there? Sure! But I have found none that are as good as this tiny little field book, and the price point makes it well worth it.
Now that we understand some of the basics when it comes to weather observations and how weather “works”, for lack of a better term, we now move briefly to the different types of instruments that we can use as prepared individuals to help us forecast. These instruments will give us the information we need to make educated inferences as to what the weather will do. All of the previous posts, including this one, will culminate with the final article on forecasting.
The first we want to be able to measure is the temperature. For this, we obviously use a thermometer. There are several different types – mercurial, digital, etc – but it is important to mount your thermometer in the right spot – namely, not in direct sunlight. A quick DuckDuckGo search yielded this website, which after a sort perusal by myself looks to contain solid advice. Follow this article to try and wring the most accuracy out of your thermometer.
The next thing we want to be able to measure is wind. We already saw how we can use the Beaufort Scale to estimate the wind, and using a compass and the world around us can give us the direction of the wind. But, we can get even more specific than that. We can us an anemometer to measure the wind speed, and a wind vane or a wind sock to measure the direction. Anemometers can be either mounted on a fixed position (such as your redoubt or compound) or in handheld form for field operations. In the photos below, we see a combination cup anemometer and wind vane as well as a hand anemometer.
We then want to be able to determine what the pressure is. As we saw in the last article, the pressure outside and its’ change over time can give us an indication of frontal activity, which in turn has implications for storm likelihood and temperature.
In fact, a fun activity for you and the kids could be building your own barometer. I remember doing this as a kid, and it both teaches science and provides a great bonding experience. Various instructions can be found online, but here is one I found: https://easyscienceforkids.com/make-your-own-barometer/ .
This one is pretty self explanatory, but this can help you keep track of how much precipitation falls over time and perhaps point to trends in precipitation for your area.
If you really want to get into data collection, you can use a psychrometer to measure the relative humidity, or the amount of water vapor in the air. There are a few different types, but one commonly used in forestry is the sling psychrometer (see below). Another version is a hygrometer.
Knowing the relative humidity allows you to then calculate the heat index, which could point out when the weather is too dangerous to do anything. A chart that shows you how to calculate the heat index using relative humidity and the air temperature is also below, courtesy of www.iweathernet.com. As an aside, relative humidity is similar to the “dew point”, but they measure different things.
The best solution for many of us could be an all-in-one weather station. I recently purchased (as in two days ago) the Ambient Weather WS-2902A Smart WiFi Weather Station with Remote Monitoring and Alerts from Amazon in order to test it out for you all and see if it does as it is advertised. It had pretty good reviews (4.3 out of 5 based on 1,201 reviews – 83% of which were 4 and 5 stars) and seemed like a solid balance between capability, durability, and price point – the latter being particularly important because I am not John Rockefeller. A picture of the unit is below. According to the description, it comes with:
- Wind Vane and Anemometer
- Solar / UV Light
- Rain Gauge
- Bubble Level
- Solar Collector
While I linked the product above and you are most certainly free to buy one if you wish, I will hopefully have a review on the unit in a few weeks. Thus, you may want to hold off until then to get some hands on feedback from me. I don’t want to simply link a product that I have not had hands on time with. Of course, as with all things, YMMV. But, given the reviews, it seems like a safe bet.
Our final post in series will be connecting all of the dots that we have and learning how to make educated inferences about the weather using the knowledge base you have now.