Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone
The sleek, unassuming contraption meticulously tracks activity on campus from above: from the University Academic Center to the Hinton Center to Husky Village, nearly all of campus is within its sight. But this eye in the sky takes no interest in spying on students or analyzing campus happenings. It is here to report the weather.
Funded by the Welch Foundation and inspired by one student’s career ambitions, the weather station has been tracking the campus climate since February when Dr. Robert Towery, professor in chemistry, and senior Mike Winters anchored the device on the roof of the Cullen Science Center for their ongoing research project.
The station measures temperature, rainfall, humidity, barometric pressure and wind speed. “This is a treasure trove of data for one of the most severe weather years we’ve had,” Towery said.
He and Winters chose to track weather when the senior expressed to Towery his interest in meteorology. They received permission to establish the station last year from Dr. Doris Warren, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, and Dr. Treacy Woods, professor in chemistry and department chair.
Towery then contacted his friend Frank Billingsley, chief meteorologist at KPRC Local 2 News, to seek advice on equipment he should use to construct the station.
Billingsley recommended that Towery and Winters purchase Davis Instruments’ Vantage Pro2, which is equipped with a solar panel to measure temperature and a shield to protect against radiation.
In January, they obtained the equipment, which transmits data to a console in one of the on-campus laboratories every three minutes via its software, WeatherLink.
Data gathered by the weather station can be accessed at the Citizen Weather Observer website using the code “DW7082.”
In addition to daily data collection, Towery and Winters are currently working to expand the uses of the station.
Compelled by the severity of the drought, the team measured condensation emitted by the cooling systems of four campus buildings and estimated that the University could about $11,000 annually by reusing this water to landscape or refill the Lake House lake.
“Since we were doing this project and had this data, we thought it might be interesting to see how much condensation could be put into ponds and flowerbeds,” he said.
The pair also hopes to compare data gathered from the weather station in 2011 to local weather since 1900 to examine climate patterns and their impact on Houstonians.
Towery plans to incorporate the station into the meteorology unit of the Chemistry of Our World course he will teach to non-science majors next semester, a use of the station that Billingsley said has the potential to benefit all students.
“Weather affects everyone, and having a general knowledge of the atmosphere and how it works can serve a student’s all-around knowledge or inspire even further discussion,” Billingsley said.
Goals for the near future include working with Information Technology Services to make up-to-date campus weather conditions available to all University students through the my.hbu.edu portal. Additional plans include installing a lightning rod that will be beneficial for outdoor sporting events and a soil density reader for biology labs.
“This is more than just a research project,” Winters said. “This is something that could help the whole University.”
Winters presented the work at the Celebration of Scholarship Symposium in April and plans to present at the next event, by which time he will have collected data over three semesters.
He said this research has helped him prepare for his intended career by providing experience in weather tracking, analyzing graphs, Internet-based weather observations and forecasting. A double major in chemistry and Christianity, Winters plans to attend graduate school for atmospheric chemistry and earn a doctorate with the goal of teaching and starting a meteorology program at the University.