Plymouth State meteorology students will soon be checking their practice weather forecasts with data from a sophisticated new weather station mounted high above Boyd Science Center. The device will be replacing a 16-year-old model that began to falter earlier this year.
The installation of the new weather station is the result of a collaboration between Andrew White ’09MBA, whose precision instrument company, Comptus Inc., just happens to be up the road in nearby Campton, NH, and Professor Eric Kelsey, who climbed high above Boyd to install the unit.
“Something happened to the older weather station this summer and it stopped working,” says Kelsey. “We fixed it and it’s working again, but we can’t rely on it forever.” The new weather station will eventually replace the older unit and represents an upgrade with newer technology. “The older one is more of a ‘home model,’” he adds. “We’ve moved up to a more professional, research-grade instrument.”
The Comptus instrument measures a wide range of data, including temperature and rainfall, wind speed and direction, humidity and solar radiation, and barometric pressure. Boyd weather station data are critical to courses across the Plymouth State meteorology experience, from Introduction to Weather Analysis and Forecasting through advanced seminars and practicums. The data are largely used for weather briefings (e.g., what weather occurred in the recent past and what the current weather is, and to infer atmospheric processes that occurred), and in learning about forecasting (i.e., for student forecast verification).
The new weather station, located on campus in downtown Plymouth, is complemented by a second PSU weather station at the Plymouth Municipal Airport, near a cornfield in the river valley. The airport station has sensors measuring the same variables as the new station, plus additional sensors that measure precipitation type, visibility, and cloud height. “It’s great having a pair of weather stations here in Plymouth, offering weather data from two very different parts of town,” notes Kelsey. “It illustrates how great differences in weather can occur across a short distance.”
Kelsey made the Boyd Science Center installation recently, climbing the 30-foot tower on the building’s roof (about 100 feet above ground altogether). He’s made similar climbs on behalf of PSU’s meteorology program, including up a 110-foot flux tower at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest that rises 15 feet above the forest canopy. Comptus previously donated wind vanes (direction sensors) for a special topics course that Kelsey led at that site.
Both the old and new weather stations are running concurrently at this point, providing PSU with two data sets concerning the same meteorological events. “When you change instrumentation, it’s really important scientifically to do this,” explains Kelsey. Knowing their differences will allow the ability to use the old weather station data of the past 16 years with the new weather station data moving forward as one continuous record.
Plans call for the new device’s data to flow to a new public webpage, similar to that of the older weather station webpage (https://vortex.plymouth.edu/). The new webpage will be up and running in January.
Andrew White is president of Comptus, a leading producer of quality wind and environmental sensors, transmitters, and controls. The instruments are designed for commercial and industrial applications where accuracy, durability, and reliability are crucial.
White’s well-rounded perspective on PSU is informed by multiple touch points. He has served as a teaching lecturer in the business program, is a member of the discipline’s advisory board, and is currently mentoring a student intern. White is also a regular career day participant, sharing his business acumen with tomorrow’s graduates.
“Plymouth State students are engaged and get to work on authentic, real projects, and we need to have connections like this in New Hampshire,” he says. “I also find PSU students to have great work ethic.”
White believes PSU’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning is on the right track to meet the needs of business owners like himself. “I participate in mock interviews with PSU students and always ask them about their extracurriculars and other interests beyond their major. The undergraduate experience should be a ‘harvest soup’ that provides graduates with many different skills.”
PSU’s bachelor of science in meteorology program is unique in the state of New Hampshire, exceeding all recommended American Meteorological Society guidelines for undergraduate degree programs. The program was recently awarded a $528,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support the four-year continuation of an undergraduate research program that explores atmospheric and related sciences, and provides students research and related professional development opportunities. PSU also offers an applied meteorology graduate degree program, preparing graduates to provide modern weather support to a wide variety of customers.