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