The CDC Weather Station
A Bit About the Project
I’m a part time student at Goldsmiths University studying for a MA/MSc in Digital Sociology. The past term has been more hands on than previous modules. Scraping Twitter or analysing 1.6m million emails, we’ve been deep in code and I’ve absolutely loved it. Not that I’m a proficient coder, but having spent the first year delving into theory, It’s been good to get my hands on the tools of my new trade.
The Creekside Discovery Centre Weather Station is my final project for the ‘Sandbox’ module. An idea originally conceived by my good friend Jon San, it took one of those impromptu chats over a pint for me to find out it was something Jon had wanted to do for some time. But it took ‘Mr Enthusiasm’, as he kindly referred to me, to get the idea of the ground .
The Sheffield Pi Station was my guide. A beautifully presented Raspberry Pi project that gave me the starting point for my code and hardware needs. A mixture of technologies have been called into operation: Python, Raspberry Pi, i2c, 1Wire, Power over Ethernet and even a mattock, all of which are documented in the blog on this site.
The initial aim is to provide water and air temperature readings that are published online and embedded into the Creekside’s website. Assuming all goes well I hope to expand the project for my dissertation by including more sensors and installing a similar setup else where. The Greenwich Ecology Park have already shown interest, once this proof of concept project is completed I’m looking forward to visiting them.
The digital revolution seems to be moving at a considerable pace. The familiar quip ‘That’s so last year’, synonymous with high-fashion, became ‘that’s so last week’ in Silicon Valley. Weather, on the other hand, is the prerequisite to life it’s self. Humans have probably been attempting to predict the weather for as long as we’ve been able to communicate. With this time scale in mind it’s somewhat of a surprise that the ‘weather forecast ‘ is comparatively very young, invented as it was by Admiral Robert FitzRoy in the 1860s.
Born in 1805, at the age of 12 he entered the the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth. At 13 he was in the Navy and went on to become Charles Darwin’s captain on HMS Beagle. Between 1855 and 1860, 7,402 ships were wrecked off the cost of Britian. This troubled FitzRoy who believed forewarning could have saved many lives. Using the new and expanding electric telegraph he was ‘given authority to start issuing storm warnings’ – and started ‘gathering real-time weather data from the coasts at his London office’ .
Sadly FitzRoy’s forecasts were unreliable (as forecasts are today) and he was ridiculed as a consequence. He took his own life in 1865.
I may not be saving ships from the rocks, nor am I necessarily aiming at national weather forecasts. Perhaps I can contribute to a better understanding of the environment at a local level which can lead to a better understanding of the impact at a national level, if not international.
I want the results of the project to enable open source access to the sensor data and the methods used for creating the weather station to be well documented and equally accessible. The sensor readings will be presented online as graphs, showing the changing conditions in the creek. These graphs will eventually be shown along side readings from other weather stations along the Thames and the coast, on the Creekside’s website. The raw data readings will also be accessible so users can interrogate the findings in their own way. I hope to work out the most elegant way of creating a inexpensive monitoring station that could be ordered online as a kit or as a DiY project, with my research turned into an easy-to-follow guide.
The opportunity to help people investigate their own environments is obviously at the heart of the project. The Air Quality Egg project presents a similar ethos:
‘A community-led air quality sensing network that gives people a way to participate in the conversation about air quality.’
A network of sensors, known as the Array of Things, are to be fitted to lampposts, traffic lights and other street furniture in Chicago to help provide a better understanding of the way cities work. The devices can measure a range of variables including air quality, temperature and light. About 12 prototype sensors were tested during the harsh Chicago winter of 2014 and the team plan to add further sensors later this year.
The Creekside Discovery Centre
Heading towards Greenwich from Deptford,along Creekside you’ll pass the unmissable, beautifully imposing set of gates that are the entrance to the aptly named ‘discovery centre’. The architecture and landscape is impressive, but what grabs your attention first is the extraordinary array of flotsam and jetsam that’s been pulled out of the creek and displayed all around the grounds. Entering the building you start to understand the science and research behind the centre’s activities. This is a description of the CDC’s aims, taken from their website…
We enable people of all ages and abilities, to enjoy the physical and natural environment, and help maintain and protect the local, urban wildlife. Creekside Discovery Centre provides fun, informative, environmental education for 3-103 year olds including:
- Guided low tide walks through Deptford Creek
- Informative walks and training sessions exploring local wildlife
- Daily educational visits for Primary and Secondary schools
- Holiday programmes for children and families
- Team building exercises and venue hire