Sunday, February 1, 2015

Last Week's Winter Storm

Much of New Mexico experienced winter weather last week as a winter storm made it's way across the state.  Snow began to develop in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico on the evening of the 20th, continuing on the 21st and finally affecting the Southern part of New Mexico on the 22nd.

The NM Department of Transportation reported several closures over multiple highways across the state.  Schools were also affected.  According to NM news sources, over 90 schools were affected by last week's storm.  Here in Las Cruces, NMSU was closed at 10AM and the Las Cruces Public Schools let out early, allowing staff to leave after 1PM.

Weather station data from last week's storm shows that many locations across New Mexico recorded heavy snowfall.  Other locations saw none at all.  The following map shows CoCoRaHS snowfall amounts across the state.

Although the State Climatologist, Dr. Dave DuBois, was out of town during the storm, the staff at the climate center was able to capture images of the storm as it passed through Las Cruces.

The NMSU weather station taken by Rebecca Britt-Armenta

Another view of the NMSU weather station by Rebecca Britt-Armenta
A neighborhood in Las Cruces by Stanley Engle
Another neighborhood in Las Cruces by Antonio Arredondo

On Another Note

Several weeks ago, the students and staff of the NM Climate Center attended the American Meteorological Society's Annual Meeting in Phoenix, AZ.  This year the theme of the conference was "Fulfilling the Vision of Weather, Water, and Climate Information for Every Need, Time, and Place." We arrived early on the weekend prior to the start of the full meeting to take the Python short course.  As a Python programmer already, I attended the advanced Python short course, while my colleagues, Dr. Dave DuBios, Yizhi Zhao, and Rebecca Britt-Armenta attended the beginner course.

Rebecca and Yizhi learning Python by Dr. Dave DuBois
Every year the conference reaches out to the community by holding a WeatherFest where weather and atmospheric sciences are promoted. This year looked very successful and many kids and their parents attended the event. Here are a few photos from WeatherFest.

On the first Monday of the meeting, I attended the Fifth Symposium on Advances in Modeling and Analysis Using Python.  The major takeaway from this symposium is that Python is here to stay in the atmospheric sciences.  Later on Monday, we attended the exhibit presentations to see the latest and greatest technology available for the atmospheric sciences.
A Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station by Stanley Engle

Of course, one of the most popular exhibits is the NOAA Science on a Sphere.  This would be a good place to get a group picture.
Rebecca, Dave, Stan and Yizhi at AMS Annual Meeting 2015
Unfortunately, I had to leave after Monday, but Dr. DuBois, Yizhi and Rebecca stayed for a few more days.  Rebecca found that the most interesting experience at AMS was attending several talks.  A few noteworthy presentations included those in the "Global Warming Hiatus" on the first day of the conference and several sessions on the National Climate Assessment. Dr. DuBois gave the talk A perspective on drought information services at a state climate office.  According to Rebecca, about 30 meeting attendees listened to his presentation.  Below is a view of that presentation.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Modular Environmental Monitoring Sensors (MEMS)

Early last month, the NM Climate Center team built and a Modular Environmental Monitoring Sensor (MEMS) package, which was tested at the 2014 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  The purpose of building and testing the MEMS is to demonstrate our ability to gather data using inexpensive equipment. The hardware was chosen for its low cost and power.

MEMS system parts and functions:

Raspberry Pi – Read data from the Arduino Uno and Dylos.

Arduino Uno Micro Controller – Programmed to read pressure and GPS data from a pressure sensor and a GPS module.  It is connected to the Rasberry Pi via USB.

Dylos Air Quality Monitor - Counts large and small particle sizes and stores the average of both sizes over a minute.  Connected to the Raspberry Pi via Serial-to-USB adapter.

12V Rechargeable Battery - Provides the power to all the components of the system.


Photo 1: MEMS system and parts. By: Cristina Gonz├ílez

An Arduino Uno was used to collect GPS and pressure sensor data.  A Raspberry Pi was used to log data from the Arduino serial console; the GPS messages and our own custom data message format for the pressure sensor. In addition to logging data from the Arduino, the Raspberry Pi logged data from the Dylos air quality monitor. A start-up script was created for the Raspberry Pi to trigger data logging on start-up.

The Raspberry Pi, running the Raspbian OS, booted into a standard terminal mode. During the boot process, an init script would start the data collection process from the Arduino and the Dylos serial ports. This data was then stored in an incrementing file name, to prevent overwriting files, over each on-off power cycle. In addition, a one minute file-write timer was built into the logging software to ensure that data was written on a continuous basis, since the sensor package was turned off by having its power removed.

The Raspberry Pi, Arduino Uno, and all power hardware is stored in a Rubbermaid container that is placed inside an inexpensive backpack.  The Dylos is attached to the outside of the backpack to be exposed to the ambient air.

After completing the build process, the MEMS was tested on October 11, 2014 at the Ballon Fiesta (photo 6). It collected data successfully and it will be available soon in the NM Climate Center website.

Photo 2: Building a bracket to hold the Dylos air quality monitor . The bracket is used to securely hold the Dylos to the backpack.  The Dylos had to be exposed to the air outside of the backpack.   Photo by: Stanley Engle


Photo 3: Attaching it to the backpack for trial. Photo by: Stanley Engle
Photo 4: Testing it at NMSU. It was left outside for an hour. Photo by: Stanley Engle

Photo 5: Data logger inside the backpack. Photo by: Stanley Engle

Photo 6: Testing the sensor hardware at the Balloon Fiesta. Photo by D. DuBois

Photo 7: Testing the sensor hardware at the Balloon Fiesta. Photo by D. DuBois