A gathering place for PWS owners to learn about setup, installation and maintenance. Regular features of owners doing cool things with their PWS data!
By: Madeline Rae , 10:22 PM GMT on October 12, 2016
With about 17,000 students, Southern Illinois University (SIU) is classified as a Carnegie Foundation High Research Activity Institution and is ranked among the top 4% of higher education research institutions in the U.S.
Located about 5 ½ hours south of Chicago, at the very bottom tip of Illinois, SIU sits on 4,000 acres of land with approximately 7.5 million square footage of housing and academic structures. While students, researchers and professors alike focus on maintaining and building up their knowledge base, the SIU Physical Plant (that’s their facilities division) - with the help of a personal weather station (PWS) of course - works on maintaining the grounds.
Brad Dillard, Associate Director of Facilities, explains that he and his team look at all climatological conditions on a daily basis for a myriad of different reasons. By seeing what is happening now and what weather conditions will be happening next, they can make better management decisions and continue to maintain the campus to the best of their abilities.
New construction, lawn mowing, snow removal, insecticide spraying, mail delivery services, power plant operations, printing and duplicating services - all such functionalities and more are provided by the Physical Plant, or facilities division. By installing a PWS on top of the Physical Plant’s main office space, they are able to schedule their maintenance more efficiently around the weather. That way they aren’t spraying insecticides during a windstorm blowing towards student housing or trying to finish construction during torrential downpours.
SIU is located in a sort of ‘ice belt,’ so winters can be tough, especially from a maintenance perspective. The campus sees a great deal of freezing rain, wintry mix and sleet, not to mention good old fashioned snow. The maintenance crew has always used private weather forecasting data to assist in their snow removal process, but the PWS allows them supplement that data.
The official NOAA reporting station for Carbondale, Illinois lies at the campus airport, a good 4-5 miles northwest of the main campus. The airport is also surrounded by green pastures and a lot of land, whereas the campus has more asphalt and concrete. At this distance and with these changes in topography, there is often at least a temperature difference and even a few degrees difference means everything to those tasked with keeping people safe from snow and ice.
Their station also tracks solar UV radiation and evaporation rates. This helps them determine how much water their grass is going to lose or not lose in a day, so they can figure out how much they should water the lawn (or conversely, to turn off the sprinklers and save some water). This also helps them determine the best times to fertilize, plant and spray around the campus.
On Brad’s team is Chris Gaertner, Associate Director of IT, who also helps keep the PWS up and running. Although SIU does not have a meteorological degree, Brad and Chris often get calls from professors, researchers and department heads asking for access to the station’s data. Many use it either in their research or for background information in their lesson plans. SIU’s Department of Geography and Environmental Resources teaches climatological and meteorological classes and uses the data from the Physical Plant’s PWS to help students can gain an understanding of the hyperlocal climate they live in, allowing them to delve into a deeper understanding of the relationship between geography and weather.
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The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.