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 González

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

Friday, November 7, 2014

New rainfall monitoring system for flood warning alerts in Doña Ana County

On Wednesday October 29th 2014, representatives from the Doña Ana County Flood Commission (DACFC), the National Weather Service (NWS), and New Mexico Climate Center (NMCC) office met to discuss the last updates of the “New Rainfall Monitoring System to Aid in Flood Warning” project. The purpose of this meeting was to go over the county and Elephant Butte Irrigation District's plans for establishing an ALERT network.  According to NWS most of the network will be made up of precipitation and stream flow gauges, but there will be some full-fledged weather stations involved.  One of the goals is that all agencies can work together to ensure that resources are spread out and used in such a way that they benefits everyone.
The DACFC office in conjunction with the NWS and other entities has installed the first series of rainfall monitoring station in Doña Ana County. Collected data from these stations is available for the public on internet.  One of the benefits of this project is that this data can be used as a research tool. During the meeting, they agreed that collaboration from the different agencies is crucial in order to gather all the data into one site and make it available for people that need it.
Data contained at the website are from automated sensors and are provisional. One of the challenges of creating this webpage is to make data uniform, since receiving data from different agencies weather stations result in units discrepancies. They recognized this and are working on it.
According to Paul Dugie, the Doña Ana County Flood Commission Director, the warning system represents an ongoing investment that augments diversion structures and dam maintenance with tool for residents to monitor rainfall in upstream areas.  Knowing what happen upstream is going to be key in understanding downstream behavior and this represents a valuable tool, not only for these agencies but also for the USGS as a key entity.   
DACFC is identifying population centers as potential monitoring sites to place the alert systems, since these zones are where more population is at risk.
The rainfall gauges all send data to a central tower on A Mountain east of Las Cruces, and a transmitter on that tower relays the information to the Doña Ana County Government Center, where it’s posted onto the Internet webpage at:

This website and the network of rainfall and stream level gage sites is a collaborative project of Doña Ana County Flood Commission, the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, the City of Las Cruces and the National Weather Service.
Available data:
  • Current and historical rainfall and river level monitoring data
  • Access to a network of weather and stream data collection equipment that are located throughout the County
  • Real-time local weather data  
  • Historical data for gage sites
  • Ability to view data within multiple map views or view lists of gage sites
  • Graphing and tabular data downloading functions for selectable time periods
Coming soon data:
  • Current water levels in the Rio Grande
  • Links to regional weather and river level forecast sites for up to the minute severe weather and flooding outlook
Full implementation is estimated to be completed in 2017. It includes 30 remote weather stations, stream gauges and water-level monitoring stations located throughout Doña Ana County, all of which will be linked to the National Weather Service and to other gauges in southern New Mexico and El Paso County.
-Cristina González

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween day! Warmest and coldest days of Halloween in the last five years

This is a typical festive night in which people go out to attend costume parties and kids go to "trick or treat". You would like to see how the weather in Las Cruces, New Mexico has been through the last years. The following table shows the highest and lowest records in the last five years for the Halloween Day.

Source: Almanac for Las Cruces Municipal Airport. From
Data from 2009-2013

What weather conditions are expected for the Halloween day and night in Las Cruces?

According to the National Weather Service, Halloween day is going to be mostly sunny, with a high near 71°F. The East southeast winds can be 10 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.  Friday Night will be partly cloudy, with a low around 52°F. East wind 7 to 13 mph.
We have a partly cloudy - windy Halloween day and night!
Enjoy and keep safety in mind!


-Cristina González

Friday, October 24, 2014

Monsoon season 2014 in New Mexico

The Monsoon season (June 15 to September 30) in New Mexico started with minimum or none rain during June and it was not until early July that we received the first rains but less than one inch. The active period was almost at the end of the season (early-mid September) which provided moisture during these last weeks.  We also had a big event in where received more than 3 inches of rainfall in some zones, mostly in Las Cruces and Southwest NM (figure 2).  The ideal is to receive the rainfall distributed along the entire season in multiple events and not in only one, but it was not the case. We end up with few events in September, including one big event of rain. The inconvenience with this is that we receive a large amount of rainfall in a short period of time and this causes the soil to get saturated and in consequence we have increase in runoff and floods. This was the case of the Mid-September event, in which we received input from the remnants of hurricane Odile (Last week rainfall events-hurricane Odile).
The following maps show the precipitation totals during Monsoon Season for New Mexico State, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces, NM.

Map 1: New Mexico total precipitation during Monsoon Season. Mapped by Yizhi Zhao from NM State Climatologist Office.

Map 2: Rainfall across Albuquerque area during Monsoon Season. Mapped by Yizhi Zhao from NM State Climatologist Office.

Map 3: Rainfall across Las Cruces Area during Monsoon Season. Mapped by Yizhi Zhao from NM State Climatologist Office.

The following graphs show accumulated precipitation for Albuquerque and Las Cruces.

Figure 1: Accumulated Precipitation. Weather station: Albuquerque International Airport, NM.  Graph from

Figure 2: Accumulated Precipitation. Weather station: Las Cruces Municipal Airport, NM. In September 15th-18th, hurricane Odile and moisture from the remnants produced heavy rainfall and caused flooding over the Baja California area and the southwestern United States. The weather station in Las Cruces Municipal Airport registered almost three inches of rainfall for this event.  Graph from

According to the 2014 North American Monsoon (NAM) Outlook for central and northern New Mexico, a key factor that influenced this Monsoon season was the massive volume of anomalously warm water in the equatorial Pacific Region (2014 North American Monsoon (NAM) Outlook for central and northern New Mexico).

Although these rainfall events caused flood and difficulties, is important to mention that it, by the other side, improved the drought conditions is some zones of New Mexico (Last week rainfall events-hurricane Odile).

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Installing new weather stations to support viticulture in northern New Mexico

On September 26th 2014, two members of the NM Climate Center Team travelled north from Las Cruces to perform maintenance on three weather stations and install a new station.  The maintenance was performed at Ponderosa Valley Vineyard, Corrales Winery, and Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center. The new station was installed at the Estrella del Norte vineyard.

Locations of weather stations. Image from Google Earth.

In cooperation with the New Mexico Climate Center, the NMSU viticulture program is installing weather stations at vineyards across New Mexico.  A Davis Weather Station was installed at the Estrella Del Norte secondary vineyard.  According to Elizabeth Smith, the secondary location was chosen because it is in a topographically challenging area and also is away from the main tourist location.  The owners wished this location to be monitored due to its increased chance of experiencing freezes. Installing the physical station and computer system took approximately 1.5 hours and was maintaining network contact at the time of leaving.

Weather station at Estrella del Norte vineyard. Photo by: Elizabeth Smith

Weather station at Estrella del Norte vineyard. Photo by: Elizabeth Smith

Weather station at Estrella del Norte vineyard. Photo by: Elizabeth Smith

Weather station at Estrella del Norte vineyard. Photo by: Elizabeth Smith

The second location they visited was Ponderosa Valley Vineyard.  The stop was necessitated by poor response from the computer system, so a new computer with updated software was installed. The data stored on the old computer will be sent to the vineyard at a later date.  Communication to the network was working when we left.
The third location, Corrales winery, needed an updated computer as well. Communication to the network was working and stable when leaving.  The Corrales location worked for approximately 7.5 hours before a network error occurred. At Elizabeth's request, the winery re-booted the computer and monitoring resumed within 3 hours.
The last location they went was Los Lunas Agricultural Center. The weather station in this location was failing to record accurate air/soil temperature data.  They also noticed that the station was reporting very low battery voltages.  Therefore, they decided that the problems could be one or all of the following:

1.  A bad battery,
2.  A bad charge controller,
3.  A bad solar panel, or
4.  Bad air/soil temperature sensors.

Once they arrived, Stanley Engle opened the battery box and immediately noticed that the battery terminals were very corroded.  Further, the water level in the battery was very low.  The voltage was 12.5 volts and datalogger was also reporting 12.5 volts.  He covered the solar panel with a black trash bag and recorded 3 volts from the solar panel.  The voltage reported by the datalogger slowly began to fall until it stabilized around 8 volts.  During this time, the datalogger was also showing bad data from the air/soil temperature sensors. Stan uncovered the solar panel and replaced the battery with a new 12v deep cycle marine battery.  He repeated the process of covering the solar panel, however, this time, the datalogger reported voltage of 12.5 volts.  The air/soil temperature reading were also holding steady at reasonable levels.  Uncovering the solar panel also yielded steady 12.5 volts reported by the datalogger and manually measured at the charge controller.  From this process, they concluded that the only issue we had to deal with was the bad battery.  Since then, the voltage and air/soil temperature readings have all been reasonable.

Battery at Los Lunas Agricultural Center. Photo by: Stanley Engle

Finally, the Los Lunas office/weather station Campbell Scientific RF 401 radios were replaced with Campbell Scientific RF 416 radios.  The RF416 radios operate in the 2.4 GHz frequency and are lower transmitting power radios.  Since the Los Lunas weather station is so close to the office, we didn't need higher transmitting power radios.  The RF 401 radios are now available to be used at other locations.

Weather station at Los Lunas Agricultural Center. Photo by: Stanley Engle

Friday, October 3, 2014

Turn Around Don’t Drown

The NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) has been promoting "Turn Around Don't Drown" signs around the US. This is a campaign to warn people of the hazards of crossing through a flood. The NWS mission is to help protect life and property.  The NM Department of Transportation is planning on installing more of these signs across NM and the NM Climate Center team is planning on helping find potential sites where they are critically needed.

Take a look at this information provided by NOAA National Weather Service:

What Is Turn Around Don't Drown® (TADD)?

TADD is a NOAA National Weather Service campaign to warn people of the hazards of walking or driving a vehicle through flood waters.

Why is Turn Around Don't Drown® So Important?

Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other severe weather related hazard. The Centers for Disease Control report that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters. Why? The main reason is people underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Many of these drownings are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded.


What Can I Do to Avoid Getting Caught is This Situation?

Most flood-related deaths and injuries could be avoided if people who come upon areas covered with water followed this simple advice: Turn Around Don't Drown®.

The reason that so many people drown during flooding is because few of them realize the incredible power of water. A mere six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes only two feet of rushing water to carry away most vehicles. This includes pickups and SUVs.

If you come to an area that is covered with water, you will not know the depth of the water or the condition of the ground under the water. This is especially true at night, when your vision is more limited.

Play it smart, play it safe. Whether driving or walking, any time you come to a flooded road, Turn Around Don't Drown®

Follow these safety rules:

  • Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio, or your favorite news source for vital weather related information.
  • If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes etc.
  • Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams. Turn Around Don't Drown®
  • Road beds may be washed out under flood waters. NEVER drive through flooded roadways. Turn Around Don't Drown®
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

TADD Brochure:

For more information, access:
-Cristina González

Friday, September 26, 2014

Last week rainfall events-Hurricane Odile

During the past week, starting Tuesday 16th, Hurricane Odile and moisture from the remnants produced heavy rainfall and caused flooding over the Baja California area and the southwestern United States.  We had a significant amount of rain in a relatively short period of time. The soil quickly gets saturated and water starts to accumulate.  Here, in New Mexico, we do not have a lot of natural hazards but flooding tops out on the list and causes inconvenience.

Photo 1-Heavy runoff in North of Rodeo, NM. Photo by David DuBois

Photo 2-Heavy runoff in North of Rodeo, NM. Photo by David DuBois
Photo 3-Playa West of Lordsburg, NM. Photo by David DuBois

Flash flood concerned portions of Eastern New Mexico and Western Texas ,but at the same time it eased the droughts in some zones of the Southwest region, where some areas have been experiencing extreme to exceptional drought conditions.  The NM Drought Monitoring Work Group met past Tuesday, 23 of September, for their monthly meeting and they agree in modify the current U.S. Drought Monitor map for New Mexico. According to the Drought Summary from the National Weather Service, Albuquerque NM, drought was removed from portions of southeast New Mexico, but 63% of the state is still in moderate to extreme drought and 30% is still in severe to extreme drought. The none drought category increases from 3 to 16%, which reflects about 13% of improvement in Southwest of New Mexico (figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1: U.S. Drought Monitor Weekly Comparison. Left map shows data from September 16, 2014 and right map shows September 23, 2014.
Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

Figure 2: U.S. Drought Monitor for September 23, 2014.
Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

Monsoon has been active late in the Monsoon season and provided moisture during the past weeks. Input from Hurricane Odile impulsed more humidity this last week.
 Time Lapse of the Organ Mountains on September 19, 2014. Video by D. DuBois

-Cristina Gonzalez

Monday, June 30, 2014

USRCRN Stations

The New Mexico Climate Center will soon be able to gather climate data from even more monitoring stations in New Mexico with the addition of 15 stations that were formerly part of the U.S. Regional Climate Reference Network (USRCRN). Soon the precipitation and temperature data form these sites will be available through our website.

The USRCRN was a pilot project set up in 2009-2011 by NOAA's National Climate Data Center.  The project began in the Southwest United States. The high-quality weather stations in the network are spaced at 130 km spatial resolution and are focused on gathering temperature and precipitation information in order to detect regional climate signals. The sites were carefully chosen and many stations are situated in remote areas. The stations in New Mexico started recording data in 2009. (Note that this network is not the same one as the U.S. Climate Reference Network.)

Map of USRCRN sites in New Mexico and Arizona (shown in black). The blue points are sites in the USCRN network. Map from

Unfortunately, budget cuts mean that the data from many of these USRCRN stations stopped being ingested and made available at the USRCRN website as of June 1, 2014. Five of the stations in New Mexico were de-installed. Theses stations were at Kiowa and Rita Blanca Grasslands (Clayton), BLM near Kenna (Elida),  BLM Hagerman, Kiowa and Rita Grasslands (Mills), and BLM near Ramon (Vaughn). (The equipment from these sites will be divided up and given to climate offices in the Southwestern states.) Management of the 15 remaining stations will be moved to various local individuals and organizations who are willing to help. We have had strong commitments for most of them. (One of these stations is the highest in the network at 10,000 feet on Magdalena Ridge.) The remaining stations will still collect precipitation and temperature data; the issue will be finding a way to ingest that data into our website. We're working now to find a way to get those data into our website.

The USRCRN station at Carrizozo in Lincoln County, New Mexico. 
The following diagram describes the set-up of each station (image from

The data loggers on the remaining open stations are still collecting the data from the  precipitation gauges and the temperature sensors. The collected information goes to the GOES satellite through the GOES antenna. Our task is to find a way to get that information from the satellite.