Weather journal assignment

Comments on the weather are commonplace in personal journals. These notations can provide insight into the nature of the weather at a particular location–especially when the author keeps a long-term record. Anecdotes from diaries, be they from famous people or those less well known, have been used by historians to gain insight about historical weather events. An example from an actual journal is shown below.

Image of a single hand-written journal page with comments on the 21 October 1934 windstorm.(i posted this picture in the files next)

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The author, a woman living near Winlock, Washington (WA), wrote:

“Oct 21 [1934]: Windy and rainy all day. Lots of trees fell and some twisted off. Old buildings fell and wires broke. I rode to Napavine on the train. Dad met me with Alice’s rain coat. I didn’t get very wet.”

Here she describes the outcome of one of the largest windstorms to strike the region in the past century. This storm caused widespread destruction including in Seattle, WA, and Vancouver, BC. For the latter location, strong southeast winds eventually gave way to a punishing westerly gale as the intense low-pressure centre moved inland over southwest BC. The lashing from two compass points likely exasperated the damage.
Such records provide insight into the climate and weather of a particular region.

(2.0) Weather Record Instructions

(2.1) Pick a week during June, starting after Sunday the 7th. You are asked to keep a weather journal of your own during one week of your choice within the period 08 to 28 June 2020. You can start the seven-day stretch at any point during a given week (e.g. Sunday to Saturday, or Wednesday to Tuesday).

(2.2) Take observations for a minimum of five days during your selected week. During your selected week, take observations on five of the days. They do not have to be consecutive–to allow for busy schedules–but five straight days may be the most desirable route to go. Because some analysis is required at the end, it is best not to wait until the last week.

(2.3) Pick a local weather station near your home. You must go to this WeatherUnderground (WU) website:
https://www.wunderground.com/wundermap

The link above brings you to a map of personal weather stations that are available online. These are indicated with a coloured circle that has a number in the centre. The number is the current temperature in ºC. Some circles may have a wind direction and speed arrow associated with them.

Use the +/- buttons on the upper left of the map to zoom in to the Lower Mainland (Vancouver Metro). Once this is done, you can find a weather station that is near to where you live. Pick one and click on the station circle. When you do so, you will find some information about the station. Be sure to note these things on the first page of your journal:

(2.3.1) Include the station ID – The station identifier. It will look something like this: ICOQUI16. Include the community name (for example Richmond, Surrey, Abbotsford).

(2.3.2) Include the station location – The latitude and longitude. This is found in the upper right of the same window that provides the station identifier.

(2.3.3) Include the station elevation – The station ID has a link–click on the ID. This will bring you to a data page. At the top of the page, above the large-print name of the weather station you will find the elevation in meters in small text. Be sure to note the elevation of the station.

Again, for this assignment you are required to use the WU stations. Do not rely on any other weather app or other source.

Note, there is also a free app for the WU which will also let you access the weather station information. If you use the WU app instead of the web browser version, how you find the above information is a bit different. Tap on the map that is displayed on the weather information screen that appears after you open the app–here you can find other weather stations that are nearby. If you click on the station, you will get an information screen that includes current weather conditions and also station information like lat/long. You may have to experiment in trying to find a nearby station to your location.

Important – Make sure the weather station you select provides all of the variable that are required for the assignment. These are listed in (2.5) below.

(2.4) Pick a time each day where you will make an observation. Ideally, you will be consistent, such as conditions at 10:00 am during each day that you record a journal entry. However, the time can vary between days–just make sure you note what the time of the observation is on each day. Which is a reminder to be sure to include these at the start of each entry:

(2.4.1) Include the date – Record the date of the journal entry.

(2.4.2) Include the time – Record the time of the weather observation. Ideally the time will occur as close to the top of the hour as possible (for examples 11:00 am, 12:00 pm, 7:00 pm). This is not a strict requirement.

(2.5) Journal entries must have a specific set of information. There are some very specific weather-related details that are required in each journal entry, listed below (2.5.1 to 2.5.7).

(2.5.1) Temperature – Note the current temperature in ºC. You can also note past trends, such as morning low and afternoon high, but this is not necessary. Temperature is the most important variable for these journals as it is used in the analysis later on, so be sure to include this one.

(2.5.2) Dew Point – Note the current dew point in ºC.

(2.5.3) Relative Humidity – Note the current relative humidity in %.

(2.5.4) Barometric Pressure – Note the current barometric pressure in hPa or kPa. Also, note the pressure trend. How much has it changed since your last journal entry, and in what direction. Is the pressure higher, lower or the same as the previous observation?

(2.5.5) Wind speed – Note the wind speed in km/h. Wind is often reported as a long-period average speed (typically averaged over 1 minute, 2 minutes or 10 minutes) plus short-period gust (G), like so: 5 km/h G 8. Feel free to include both. Not every weather station reports wind, so make sure the one you selected provides wind reports.

(2.5.6) Clouds – This is where you will have to get outside, or look out some nearby windows. Report sky cover in terms of: clear (0-10% of the sky covered) to mostly clear (10-25%), partly cloudy (25 to 75%) and cloudy (75-100%). Also, provide an idea of cloud thickness: Shallow depth (depth = thickness of the clouds) is where you can easily see the sun/moon through the clouds, medium depth is where the sun is only dimly visible and thick depth is where the sky appears very grey, sometimes approaching black for very tall clouds, and the sun cannot be seen.

(2.5.7) Precipitation – If precipitation is currently falling, note the type such as drizzle, rain, snow, hail, sleet. Also note the intensity: light, moderate or heavy. You can visually estimate intensity by looking outside the window, just like with your sky cover. Does the rain appear very light with small drops gently pattering down, or is it a heavy thudding rainfall that soaks everything within minutes? If your selected weather station reports precipitation, you can write down the daily total. A rough rule of thumb is 0.3 to 12.7 mm = light, 13.0 mm to 25.7 mm = moderate and 26.0 mm and higher = heavy.

By way of background, rainfall is measured in a gauge that determines how deep the accumulated water would be if it did not drain away into the ground and in creeks and rivers. Depth is usually reported in mm. So precipitation amounts are reported in terms of depth like these examples: 2 mm, 2.3 cm, 1.8 m, or even with units like inches or feet. Precipitation is not reported in terms of %. If you do see % associated with precipitation in a weather-related app, it is just a probabilistic weather forecast, not an actual precipitation measurement.

(2.6) Journal entries must be full. A complete journal has specific details about the weather conditions (2.5 above) and a full descriptive paragraph describing current and past weather conditions. This can include reporting any changes in the weather that you have observed during the day up to your entry time. You do not need to go beyond one paragraph for each entry: 50 to 150 words per entry is all that is necessary. An example journal entry is provided below:

“April 25, 2020: Saturday – 08:38 PDT: (Coquitlam, BC) A steady moderate rain is thudding on the roof. The rain began in earnest after 06:00. Occasionally, there have been embedded heavy showers. This includes one that brought a peak rain rate of 11.1 mm/hour at 07:29. The precipitation falls from a low, grey overcast sky. The thick nimbostratus clouds add a winter-like gloom to the morning. The raindrops are falling straight down, as the wind is very light with occasional gusts to 2 km/h. The temperature is a mild 9.8ºC with 9.0ºC dew point and 95% RH. The pressure is 1012.4 hPa and had fallen 1.9 hPa over the past 3 hours.”

(2.7) Intercomparison with Vancouver International (YVR). This must be a separate section in your journal–ideally at the end of the document.

For this short exercise, compare your temperature readings with the readings from Vancouver International. To do this, you must use airport observations from the same day that were also taken at nearly the same time as your own. Since official weather stations usually just report once an hour, this means that there may be some time disagreement with your observations. This is okay. Pick the YVR observation that is closest in time to your own. For example, if your observation occurred at 10:15 am, you would use the 10:00 am report from YVR.

To see the past 24 hours of observations at YVR, use this URL:

https://weather.gc.ca/past_conditions/index_e.html?station=yvr

To get data that goes further back in time (historical data), follow this URL:
https://climate.weather.gc.ca/climate_data/daily_data_e.html?StationID=51442

This link will get you to a page that shows the daily record for the current month. To get hourly observations for a specific day, click on the calendar day number–located in the left-most column–to get the hourly reports for that day.

For your intercomparison, ideally you would put your temperatures and those from YVR in a data table, or create a chart such as can be done in a spreadsheet. At a minimum, all numbers must be listed together in some fashion, with the day and time of occurrence. Important: Be sure to also include the temperature difference in ºC between your location and YVR for each entry.

Once you have the data compiled together, write a short paragraph describing the similarities/differences between your chosen station and the readings from YVR. Were the readings similar? Or were they strongly different? Was your location warmer or colder? Did readings agree/disagree on every day, or did agreement vary between days. What do you think are the reasons for similarities/differences? Geography–such as being on a hillside or located close to a large body of water–can have a big influence on local weather. So can the presence or absence of clouds. Think about what might be influencing temperatures across the Lower Mainland.

For those who chose to include the YVR temperature data in the regular daily journal entries in lieu of a data table at the end, remember to address the above questions in a section at the end of the journal. In other words, be sure to remember to include a YVR analysis section.

(3.0) Journal Format

There is no standard template for the journal format. Take any approach that seems interesting–be creative! Creativity can include artistry both visually and through writing. Prose, poetry, photos, drawings and scrapbooking are all fair game. Many students in the past have included photos and/or drawing of the weather conditions at the time of their entries. Creativity can also include how much thought is put into the weather data organization and indeed the entire organization of the journal.

You can use a word-processing program like Word, or an image-processing program like Photoshop, or a page-layout program like InDesign. You can hand-write the journal and then either scan the pages or take pictures of them–though this can lead to some complications. See the instructions for handing-in below (4.0).

An exception to the “take any approach” is simply creating a basic spreadsheet and handing this in as a “journal”. Using a spreadsheet is okay, but if you are going to use a spreadsheet format you must still go some extra distance and add a creative touch. Make it seem like a journal. This approach would also allow you to set your entries up for any calculations for the Vancouver International analysis (2.7). Include some interesting charts. If you are doing a hand-written journal or some other format, a spreadsheet is a good way to initially record your data to make sure you do not miss anything. Then transcribe the data into the book at your convenience.

Important: Whatever format or approach you chose, make sure all of the required information, as laid out in section (2.0) above, is present.

For those seeking inspiration, some weather journal examples can be found at: http://www.x98ruhf.net/journals/weather_journals.htm.

(4.0) How to Hand-In Your Journal

Whatever approach you use, make sure that what you hand-in is contained in a single document. Ideally it would be saved as a Adobe PDF (.pdf) format, though I allow some other formats as well, like Word (.doc or .docx), or straight images files like .jpg and .png. Just remember that all pages and information in the weather journal must be contained in a single document. I will not accept multiple independent files. For example, trying to submit five single-page scans from a hand-written journal will not work. You must instead combine all of these into a single file, such as a .pdf. If you try to submit more than one file, you will not be able to do so. The system is set up to only accept a single file from each student.

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