Weather Station Net-book

Here's an engineering project for somebody and a reason for me to buy a netbook. A netbook would work because it is small and low-powered.
Written by Xwindowsjunkie , Contributor

Here's an engineering project for somebody and a reason for me to buy a netbook. A netbook would work because it is small and low-powered. An OLPC or an ASUS eee PC would be perfect because of the low power consumption. You'd still want to plug it into an external power source though for vehicular and continuous use.

Take an input from a GPS or a fix pulled from Google Earth or maps and then do a pull of weather information from a selection of sources. If you don't have a GPS receiver, you can get latitude and longitude and elevation off the display of your location from Google Earth. A selection of locations can be pre-stored in the system based on where you know you will be. Type it into a text box or push a button on the Google Earth application. That becomes the prime focus of what comes next.

Using the geographical fix you've just made, the software and hardware begins to collect weather data pertinent to that location(s). In the case of the US, the NOAA and the NHC (National Hurricane Center) would be primary data sources. Usual products available from the NOAA on their websites include satellite pix and loops, 3 and 5 day forecasts, rainfall, wind, tornado and flood warnings. They have regional radar displays for all over the country, most of them at least partially overlapping. It might be possible to add color doppler radar maps from the television stations in the area and handled on sub-channels depending on digital broadcast coverage. Add the audio warning announcements for the weather radio stations (presumably handled or available as an audio stream, I don't know for sure). All of this data could be streamed from multiple channels on a digital television transponder on direct broadcast satellites.

The hardware uses a satellite receiver connected to a netbook. The receiver is tuned to a transponder on the direct broadcast television satellites. Because the datastream is digitally encoded for redundancy and error-correction, the receiver won't require a large antenna like those used for video reception. The datastream coming down from the satellites is continuously broadcasting weather products for all regional areas. There will be multiple data sub-streams, one of which is selected based on your location fix. The netbook will be storing what is relevant to the current given location.

An attached GPS receiver would be especially useful for use in mobile vehicles, trucks etc. Another receiver for the sub-channels for the local digital television stations would be a bonus or accessory item. Use a web browser for a display application.

Upgrades to the software could include a way to generate a local micro-forecast. It would be especially helpful to predict possible flash-flooding in the immediate vicinity based on elevation and local terrain. It might even suggest a better location to move to so as to avoid floods. Every year a few teenagers and adults get killed by flash floods at summer camps located in rural locations. Winter and out-of-season snow storms strand travelers for days every year.

There was a precedent service. At one time the weather bureau here in the US had a continuous “broadcast” service that ran on telephone line connected teletype. Broadcast radio and television stations (and others) paid for the teletype connection to the local regional weather office and got all of the weather information for free. Of course a certain amount of it did not directly relate to the specific area the broadcaster covered but that was one job the weather announcer or staff was expected to handle. A service based on newer digital and Internet technologies similar to RSS could provide finely focused weather information for practically any endeavor.

Anybody see this as a practical FOSS project?

Obviously the big issue is the access to a transponder on a satellite. It might be something that can be tested with the cooperation of one of the satellite corporations. An alternative test would be a demo transmitter setup to simulate a satellite feed. Local sub-channel feeds could be setup in the same manner on unused local channel assignments with FCC approval.

The idea would be a public weather service using essentially the resources already in play on Internet web sites but setup as streaming feeds of data that are siphoned off onto a local "hard drive", probably a flash memory card. The use of the netbook is for low power reasons and the likelihood that the system will become a dedicated system.

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