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1101
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Weather station in freezing weather: questions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:16 am

Good day everyone,

I've got a question for those of you that have built a weather station in the very cold parts of the northern hemisphere. I'm wondering which components you used, as I'm worried about the integrity and functionality, in freezing weather, of the standard recommended parts, as described here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/learning/we ... ion-guide/. Specifically, I'm worried about the anemometer and wind direction sensor, as these are mechanical and I've got a suspicion that they will freeze and lose functionality.

I currently live in South Africa, where the minimum temperature in my city is maybe 3C degrees on the coldest day of the winter. So the sensors freezing over is not a problem. But I'm moving to Toronto, Canada, in a month or so. So yeah, big difference.

I've eschewed the standard software and subsequently spent an obscene amount of time on this project programming a new logging and graphing routine. My wife even calls herself a weather station widow. I'd hate for all this to go unused for a large portion of the year.

Can anyone give me advice on what sensors you used, or how you overcame this issue?

Many thanks!
Last edited by 1101 on Thu Feb 14, 2019 6:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

W. H. Heydt
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Re: Weather station in freezing wheather: questions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:28 am

Can't help you the instruments, but you needn't worry about the Pi itself. A researcher at CERN managed to make one fail by getting too cold. It quit working at -180C.

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1101
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Re: Weather station in freezing wheather: questions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 6:56 am

W. H. Heydt wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:28 am
Can't help you the instruments, but you needn't worry about the Pi itself. A researcher at CERN managed to make one fail by getting too cold. It quit working at -180C.
Ha, good grief. I've no intention of putting that to the test!

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DougieLawson
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Re: Weather station in freezing weather: questions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 7:05 am

My weather station is mounted on the outside of my "man cave". The lowest I've seen it in the UK winter is -5° (it may have gone lower while I was away when the UK snow grid locked Basingstoke). No problems with that, it's still running.
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1101
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Re: Weather station in freezing weather: questions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 7:34 am

DougieLawson wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 7:05 am
My weather station is mounted on the outside of my "man cave". The lowest I've seen it in the UK winter is -5° (it may have gone lower while I was away when the UK snow grid locked Basingstoke). No problems with that, it's still running.
That's good to know! I'm assuming that you're using the standard components, as mentioned in the link of my OP? How does it manage snow?

Paul Hutch
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Re: Weather station in freezing wheather: questions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:39 am

W. H. Heydt wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:28 am
Can't help you the instruments, but you needn't worry about the Pi itself. A researcher at CERN managed to make one fail by getting too cold. It quit working at -180C.
I had my one outdoor mounted RasPi quit working at around -20°C. Single piece experiences are merely anecdotes, without a spec from the creators of a device it's all a matter of luck.

I've design lots of products for lots of temperature ranges over the last 40 years. Some customers always get lucky and say the one they bought works well outside it's design range. Without fail, someday in the future they complain that another unit they bought doesn't work outside it's range. People need to understand that things are designed to be guaranteed to always work over a range of temperatures, they are not designed to stop working outside of that range.

klricks
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Re: Weather station in freezing weather: questions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 1:41 pm

The company I work for makes sonic anemometers with built in heaters to melt snow and ice. We have many customers from Northern States, Alaska and Canada who use them.
Not a cheap option however.... ~$3K USD.
https://metone.com/wp-content/uploads/p ... sensor.pdf
Unless specified otherwise my response is based on the latest and fully updated Raspbian Buster w/ Desktop OS.

W. H. Heydt
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Re: Weather station in freezing wheather: questions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 2:42 pm

Paul Hutch wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 11:39 am
W. H. Heydt wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:28 am
Can't help you the instruments, but you needn't worry about the Pi itself. A researcher at CERN managed to make one fail by getting too cold. It quit working at -180C.
I had my one outdoor mounted RasPi quit working at around -20°C. Single piece experiences are merely anecdotes, without a spec from the creators of a device it's all a matter of luck.

I've design lots of products for lots of temperature ranges over the last 40 years. Some customers always get lucky and say the one they bought works well outside it's design range. Without fail, someday in the future they complain that another unit they bought doesn't work outside it's range. People need to understand that things are designed to be guaranteed to always work over a range of temperatures, they are not designed to stop working outside of that range.
All true, the plural of "anecdote" is not "data". On the other hand, we have quite a number reports of Pis working perfectly well a good ways outside their spec'd ranged, starting with the one in Antarctica at -42C...when the batteries froze.

At this point, I think it's reasonable to think that any random Pi will *probably* function in moderate below freezing temperatures...and if a given Pi doens't, the next one will.

Heater
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Re: Weather station in freezing weather: questions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 3:40 pm

klricks,
...sonic with built in heaters...Not a cheap option however.... ~$3K USD.
Ever since I first saw some sonic anemometers made by Vaisala a couple of decades ago I have wondered what it would take to build ones own

I imagine buying a bunch of ultrasonic transmitters/receivers off ebay for a few dollars and putting them together with a cheap micro-controller/Pi with suitable analog drivers amplifiers. Should be able to do it for 100 dollars.

Calibrate by driving it along on the roof of a car!

Of course whilst I was day dreaming about it somebody has actually done it: https://soldernerd.com/category/arduino ... nemometer/
And put years of work in to it along the way.

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scruss
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Re: Weather station in freezing weather: questions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 4:40 pm

1101 wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:16 am
… But I'm moving to Toronto, Canada, in a month or so. So yeah, big difference.
Hey, welcome! I'm in the east end of Toronto. It's warmed up to a balmy -3 °C, and the 30+ cm of snow we got over the last few days means we have car-sized snow piles. What made things really interesting was the pellets (very fine hail: falls like glass beads, clumps together like snow forming rock-hard white glaze) followed by freezing rain (clear glaze ice, maybe 2-3 mm). Freezing rain stops everything.

I used to install and maintain weather stations across Canada, and before that, in Europe. Most anemometers you can afford will ice up. klricks' employer MetOne makes a good series of cup anemometers, but they weren't commonly used in my field, wind energy¹. Anemometers coloured black tend to ice less. I mostly deployed RM Young propeller anemometers and WindSpeed Porton-style cup anemometers. Both of these are in the 3-4 digits price range each. In a station near Toronto, you might lose a couple of days of data from icing every year. Rotating anemometers tend to ice up slowly, so there might be an 8-12 hour period before and after a freezing event that you can't trust the wind speed.

--
¹: for $REASONS, mostly that wind meteorologists tend to stick grumpily to their favourite, tested brand and will add huge uncertainty bands to site assessments that used brands they don't know. Yes, I've seen respected meteorologists get drunk and start yelling at each other over cup anemometer hysteresis, off-axis response and bearing chatter. Unfortunately.
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echmain
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Re: Weather station in freezing wheather: questions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 4:52 pm

W. H. Heydt wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:28 am
It quit working at -180C.
In Minnesota this is called “January”

Paul Hutch
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Re: Weather station in freezing wheather: questions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:30 pm

W. H. Heydt wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 2:42 pm
At this point, I think it's reasonable to think that any random Pi will *probably* function in moderate below freezing temperatures...and if a given Pi doens't, the next one will.
It's just as reasonable to think that any given Pi will *probably* NOT work reliably below freezing. So it's a gamble, the first one you try might work reliably at your chosen extreme but you might have to try a dozen before you hit one that is reliable. If buy an SBC rated for the low temperature range you want, or use a heated enclosure, you can be sure it will work.

Oh and by the way, based on the thread where the person from CERN asked about low temperature usage it was not even tried let alone succeeded in operating at -180°C (it was 180°K = -93°C).
https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/view ... p?t=212747

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1101
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Re: Weather station in freezing weather: questions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 7:52 pm

scruss wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 4:40 pm
1101 wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:16 am
… But I'm moving to Toronto, Canada, in a month or so. So yeah, big difference.
Hey, welcome! I'm in the east end of Toronto. It's warmed up to a balmy -3 °C, and the 30+ cm of snow we got over the last few days means we have car-sized snow piles...
Yeah, thanks! We're really looking forward to it. Absolutely massive change in lifestyle, probably the best thing that could happen for my wife and I. But I digress.

Anyway, thanks for all the replies! The ultrasonic option seems the best solution, at face value. Although the price will make a grown man weep. But won't the stalks/antennae also ice up, anyway?

Has anyone had experience with precipitation measurements, though? I only know of the bucket type rain meter. But I think that, too, will freeze up.

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DougieLawson
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Re: Weather station in freezing weather: questions

Fri Feb 15, 2019 2:28 am

1101 wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 7:34 am
DougieLawson wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 7:05 am
My weather station is mounted on the outside of my "man cave". The lowest I've seen it in the UK winter is -5° (it may have gone lower while I was away when the UK snow grid locked Basingstoke). No problems with that, it's still running.
That's good to know! I'm assuming that you're using the standard components, as mentioned in the link of my OP? How does it manage snow?
Mine is the official RPF Weather Station as shipped to schools & colleges.
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scruss
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Re: Weather station in freezing weather: questions

Fri Feb 15, 2019 2:58 am

1101 wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 7:52 pm
Yeah, thanks! We're really looking forward to it. Absolutely massive change in lifestyle, probably the best thing that could happen for my wife and I. But I digress.
It was for us too when we came from Scotland in 2002.Ping me if you need any guidance: the first couple of months are heady and confusing - scruss {at} scruss [d0t] com.

Here's some normal winter weather:
scarb_snow.jpg
Winter trash day in the east end of Toronto (Scarborough). For scale, the smaller green bin ("raccoon proof") is about 1 m tall
scarb_snow.jpg (62.21 KiB) Viewed 653 times
glaze.jpg
Snow plus freezing rain glaze on a tree in my garden. No anemometer is going to turn through that
glaze.jpg (56.66 KiB) Viewed 653 times
Has anyone had experience with precipitation measurements, though? I only know of the bucket type rain meter. But I think that, too, will freeze up.
Yeah, they do. You can either have heated ones, or use a snow height sensor (expensive, not too accurate)
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bensimmo
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Re: Weather station in freezing weather: questions

Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:50 am

Even in the swealtering UK when it dipped below 0C recently, some of our Bosch BME280 sensor would fail with humidity and get locked at 100% which causes problems, I think our PM2.5/10 sensor coped ok, but then they're just in running spec .
I don't know how the DHT22 or BME680 cope yet (680 has VOC so has a heater)

Just something we noticed, I believe people around Europe have built heater (wire coils) for the boxes to keep humidity working ok.
I assume temperature must be measured elsewhere then.

chwe
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Re: Weather station in freezing wheather: questions

Fri Feb 15, 2019 3:40 pm

W. H. Heydt wrote:
Thu Feb 14, 2019 5:28 am
A researcher at CERN managed to make one fail by getting too cold. It quit working at -180C.
I can also dip my hand into liquid nitrogen, as long as it's only for a short time it won't even hurt me. But a -180°C experiment tells you nothing about durability at lower temperatures..

At least @DougieLawson weather station at -5°C gives you some insights that it works flawlessly.. I would put everything in a styrofoam (except the sensors of course) and test it. If the sensors aren't as expensive.. test it and see which one fails at which temperature.. I assume that moisture will be the bigger issue than temperature..

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1101
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Re: Weather station in freezing weather: questions

Sat Feb 16, 2019 2:09 pm

Many thanks for all the replies fellas. It's very much appreciated.

You've given me some food for thought - it's clear this isn't a trivial problem to solve - my OCD will vehemently protest if I lose data, so it seems I'll have to get over it, or summon some serious ingenuity. Time will tell...sooner or later, time will tell.

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Re: Weather station in freezing weather: questions

Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:17 am

You may consider a no moving part anemometer. I used sensirion thermal flow sensors (sdp810). Check out https://www.instructables.com/id/Handhe ... r-Station/.
https://developer.sensirion.com/applica ... ing-sdp3x/

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