Editorial Feature

How are Compact Weather Sensors Changing Meteorology Research?

We rely on weather forecasts in our daily lives in both personal and professional settings. To obtain accurate forecasts, sophisticated, cutting-edge technologies are required.

compact weather sensors

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As the climate is changing, this need has become particularly important. Compact weather sensors are a recent innovation that avoids the costs and space requirements of bulky traditional weather stations. Could this be the future of meteorology research?

Sensors are needed in meteorology research to monitor and comprehend climate, and weather are often set up on a structure from the ground or a buoy over water.

While accuracy is important, technologies must also be robust enough to withstand harsh conditions brought on by extreme weather, such as a storm.

Compared to sensors, traditional weather stations are made up of multiple individual instruments, are large in size, and have high installation costs.

Typically, traditional weather systems have a thermometer to measure air and sea surface temperature, barometer to monitor atmospheric pressure, and a hygrometer to measure humidity. There can be many more components such as a rainfall gauge, anemometer for wind speed, a wind vane for wind direction, and a pyranometer for solar radiation. In combination, these components are costly and take up much space. However, this can be a limiting setup for those in remote, difficult to access locations

Compact Weather Sensors

Also known as all-in-one weather sensors or basic weather sensors, compact weather sensors bring together multiple individual sensors. They can measure up to 10 different parameters simultaneously, within one unit.

This is a stark contrast to traditional weather stations which have usually had different varieties of individual sensors and separate instruments. Some weather stations have separate sensors assembled on a single mast, while others have instruments spread across the ground.

Not all spaces will be able to take on a weather station that requires an area of several meters. Additionally, the exact location where monitoring is required could be difficult to access, such as at the top of a building or a mountain.

Here, compact weather sensors would come in and offer to measure a spectrum of variables within a confined space. Due to their small dimensions, they can be installed in most locations, even those that are hard to reach. This would work fantastically for an expedition team of scientists who are on the move while surveying a remote, mountainous region.

Lufft Innovations

Located in Fellbach near Stuttgart, Germany, the company Lufft has been developing measurement technologies for the climate and environment for over a century. The Lufft product family of smart weather sensors is made up of the most accurate individual sensors that can be used for meteorology, hydrology, traffic weather, PV monitoring for solar or building automation. The company works to generate the world’s best meteorological sensors for their clients across the globe, as they keep atop market trends and innovations.

Lufft offers compact weather sensors for wind direction and speed, relative humidity, precipitation intensity, type and quantity, global radiation, air pressure, ambient temperature, and even lightning strikes. Their product Smart Weather Sensor WS800 is the first only all-in-one compact weather sensor with lightning detection capabilities. Like many of their other products, the design also prevents birds from nesting on the sensor due to a roofed construction.

Hurdles to Overcome

Compact weather sensors have typically faced some limitations, however. The accuracy and sensitivity of sensors fade over time and so must be sent for calibration. In the case of compact sensors, components are contained within one unit, so the whole product must be sent back to the manufacturer for calibration.

 By contrast, with traditional weather systems, it is possible to remove the affected instrument without impacting the rest of the system, reducing data loss. Ideally, any issues with individual sensors should avoid disruption to the continuity of data collection as much as possible. In traditional weather stations, it is also easier to upgrade individual equipment, but with compact sensors, the full capabilities of the unit remain fixed.

Overall, the limitations do not detract from the advantages of compact weather sensors which can be easily assembled and traveled with while being generally cheaper than traditional weather stations. It is possible to avoid the costs of renting or acquiring land to make up the space required for a conventional weather station.

It may also be possible to mitigate some of the limitations of compact weather sensors. As in the case of Lufft’s compact sensors, these have the versatility to be broken down into individual sensors, enabling the separation of components; any issues can then be fixed at an individual level.

The Future of Compact Weather Sensors

Looking to the future of compact weather sensors and accessible sensor designs for meteorology research may involve making them smaller, more accurate, robust during extreme weather, and affordable. This weather sensors technology will become increasingly important for understanding the effects of climate change in the coming years. Their applications could even stretch as far as medical science, as epidemiologists have begun to assess climate data related to environmentally driven diseases such as the rotavirus.

Continue reading: Mitigating Natural Disaster Damage with AETHER's Satellite Weather Sensors

References and Further Reading

Earth Sciences. (2021) Compact Weather Sensors vs Tradition Weather Stations, which is best?. [online] Available at: https://www.essearth.com/compact-weather-sensors-and-traditional-weather-sensors/ 

Parvez, S. H. et al. (2015) Design and Implementation of a Cost Effective, Portable and Scalable Electronic Weather Station.Available at: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Design-and-Implementation-of-a-Cost-Effective%2C-and-Parvez-Saha/f8571163fd099cf3302f27ca2fbc68db14e809be

Lufft.com. (2021) Compact Weather Sensors. [online] Available at: https://www.lufft.com/products/compact-weather-sensors-293/ 

Lake Scientist. (2021) Meteorological Sensors - Lake Scientist. [online] Available at: https://www.lakescientist.com/meteorological-sensors/ 

Hinckley, A., (2017) Pyranometers: What You Need to Know -. [online] Campbellsci.com. Available at: https://www.campbellsci.com/blog/pyranometers-need-to-know 

Josh M. Colston et al (2018) Evaluating meteorological data from weather stations, and from satellites and global models for a multi-site epidemiological study, Environmental Research, Volume 165. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2018.02.027

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