Predicting Weather in SHTF- Part 1, the Acu-Rite 01036
People have been trying to predict the weather since the beginning of time. They’ve often wondered why yesterday was hot and sunny and today is cold and rainy. Through the centuries, folks looked for clues and patterns to predict tomorrow’s weather. Ever heard “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning”? The saying is based on observation, the truth behind the saying is based on science. In short, a red sky at night (in the west), indicates a high pressure system (good weather) approaching. A red sky in the morning shows that the high pressure system has already passed. Folks of yesteryear needed to predict weather for numerous reasons, lots of them involving possible life or death situations. For example, would you attempt a trip on foot to barter in a nearby town if you knew you would get stuck in a storm? Would you try and finish outdoor activities today while the sun is shining if you knew it would rain tomorrow? Today, we use weather forecasting to choose whether or not Tuesday will be a good day to head to the beach. If modern weather forecasting became unavailable for any reason, we can also be we will be thrust back into needing a weather forecast to make decisions on matters that actually mean something.
For me, I have added reasons to forecast the weather. If you missed it, I just added a complete off grid solar system in order to maintain some modern electrical conveniences should commercial power go poof (if you are entertaining off grid solar, you might want to check out the series. It is one of the best out there on the subject). While the sun’s nuclear furnace continuously burns, the energy doesn’t always reach my panels. If I need to spend a large amount of electricity on a task, I need to know the weather. I don’t want my “energy bank” balance to dip too low. Knowing that the sun will be out helps me decide when to spend my energy capital. If a storm is coming, I might have to put off my electrical activities to a later date.
We’ve been accustomed to accurate weather forecasts for decades. Driven by satellites, radar, and myriads of weather stations, weather forecasting today is about as good as it is going to get. If the grid were to go down we would lose all of this information…or would we? This article is the first part of a loosely tied together series here on the website and YouTube. Over the coming weeks we will touch on certain means to get accurate weather predictions should traditional methods of weather forecasting disappear. Some of these methods include the AcuRite 01036 tested here, receiving data directly from satellites, and weather data relayed via HAM radio, and even the AcuRite 02020 lightning detector for imminent electrical storms.
The AcuRite is the easiest method we will be looking at to forecast weather. Operation is simple, it’s myriad of sensors: temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed and direction, and barometer paint a picture of current conditions. This data is then used to predict weather conditions in the next 12 to 24 hours via the same types of computer algorithms used by meteorologists. While the AcuRite doesn’t actually teach us anything about forecasting the weather, it does it for you, it is a simple and relatively inexpensive tool that every prepper should have on hand. It’s a first line of defense, if you will.
In the world of limitless power in which we now live it would be almost pointless to looks at the AcuRite 01036 through the lens of power consumption, but it will be the first thing we look at:
Seeing as how I am using the Accu-Rite to help predict power usage of the solar system, it wouldn’t make sense if it was a power hog. Luckily, the Accu-Rite is quite the miser when it comes to power. The system has two components, the remote sensor and the receiver/display.
The remote sensor is powered by batteries, 4 AA Lithium batteries to be exact. While a battery powered remote sensor might sound like it doesn’t make sense, AcuRite claims a two year battery life on the sensor. Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries claim a 20 year shelf when not in use, so stocking up know could provide a few decades of weather forecasting.
The receiver/display was my biggest concern. Being powered directly from the solar batteries, I didn’t know what to expect, nor could I dig up information on power consumption. I knew the kit shipped with a 4.5 volt AC adapter, but the documentation didn’t lead on to what the amperage might be. I took a leap of faith on this one, if the receiver drew too much power it would negate any benefits I might receive from forecasting the weather. Luckily, when I plugged the unit in my Kill-A-Watt meter showed a draw of 2.5 to 3 watts, or the equivalent of one half of an LED light bulb. I could work with that. The receiver also has slots for 6 AA batteries for backup, optional for power outages, but would only power the receiver for a short time. Considering I’m connecting the receiver to a last line power source, the receiver batteries aren’t that important.
Initial setup of the AcuRite 01036 is somewhat of a no-brainer. The 5 in 1 remote unit is best installed as high as possible on a 3/4″ pipe, PVC or metal gas pipe. The unit does come with a mounting bracket if you cannot install on pipe, but keep in mind professional stations are generally 30 feet or higher. I didn’t go 30 feet, but I did mount it on top of my solar panel stand at about 14 feet. If mounting to a pipe, make sure it is plumb using a level (measure on two sides). The 5 in 1 does come with a bubble level built in, but it is situated on the top of the unit. Unless you have a really tall A frame ladder, it would be best to plumb the pipe itself.
Since the unit reports via wireless to the receiver, take care not to place the 5 in 1 too far from the receiver. I’ve actually placed the receiver in the basement, about 50 feet line of sight and receive a strong signal. Take care not to go through too many walls as well, when I initially setup to receiver I tried it in different locations around the house. Moving to the side opposite to the transmitter I did see a drop in signal strength (as indicated on the receiver).
If you can handle mounting a plumb pipe and can manage to keep the wireless signal strong, your part is pretty much over. The AcuRite now begins gathering weather data for your location.
So you don’t have power? While I use a complete off grid system not only to power the Acu-Rite but to predict usage, you don’t necessarily need a full blown system. Self-contained solar power systems are becoming more and more popular. We will soon be testing the Renogy Firefly all-in-one system. The Firefly should have enough juice to power the receiver 24/7 with power to spare for other tasks.
Even with satellites and radar, the best way to predict weather is using barometric pressure. For those of you new to weather forecasting, a barometer measures air pressure. Whether (no pun intended) you know it or not, barometric pressure has been used for centuries as the primary method of predicting the weather. We won’t reinvent the wheel here, as we’ve already dedicated an article to the subject. The AcuRite’s primary method of predicting the weather is barometric pressure as well.
Once the system connects it begins a 14 day learning period to tailor the on board algorithms to your altitude and location. In my case, it appeared to start forecasting almost immediately. Once this learning period is over, it continues to log data for up to 30 days, increasing the accuracy of the forecast.
Again, not getting into the mechanics of weather forecasting, a drop in air pressure will proceed a storm. Wind direction can tell you the general direction of the storm. As an aside, if you had a weather satellite in the sky you might be able to take a look at the size and type of the storm that was approaching. As a matter of fact, you DO have your own personal weather satellite, but more on that in another article. Once the storm is nearby, you can use radar to determine the strength of the storm (I haven’t found an inexpensive solution to SHTF weather radar..yet).
Does It Work?
In short, yes. It is very accurate in predicting the weather in the next 12 to 24 hours, sometimes more so than the blanket weather statements made in regional weather forecasts. Take right now for instance, the band of rain in this picture has already passed through my area.
The forecast for my area shows rain and thunderstorms for the day. Without giving up my OPSEC, this line of rain has already passed through. A little interpretation of the above picture tells me, barring pop up thunderstorms, the rain is over and the skies should be lightening. Even so, my local forecast hasn’t updated:
The Acu-Rite has it correct. As you can see, the pressure is rising (as denoted by the 29.95 in of Hg and the up arrow), indicating clearing weather. The low pressure system is off to the Northeast, the Acu-Rite gives me a an indication of this with a wind shift from Southwesterly to Northeastern winds, as we are on the trailing edge of the low. If you look in the center of the below picture you will notice an icon showing a cloud and sun. This tells me to expect partially clearing skies. Given past observations (rain that has stopped), current conditions (lightening skies), and the Acu-Rite forecast, I would bank on better weather for the rest of the afternoon into tomorrow. I could expect this to continue as long as the Acu-Rite indicates so.
I’ve had the Acu-Rite for a few months now, and in predicting the general conditions it the next day or so, it has been pretty much spot on. What does general conditions mean? Simply put, the unit can differentiate between basic weather events. It will tell you if it will be sunny, cloudy, and can even differentiate between a rain event and a storm. In fact, here are all of the possible forecasts(in addition to sunny):
What it doesn’t do
Today, we are used to weather statements such as this; “Tomorrow will be turning cloudy with rain moving in the afternoon, we are expecting up to a half an inch of rain and a high of 82″. Since the Acu-Rite only has one perspective, your back yard, it is nearly impossible to predict a few aspects of the weather, namely temperature and precipitation amounts. More information is needed, other tools need to be employed. In the above scenario, the Acu-Rite has enough information to show you that rain is likely. For most SHTF tasks, knowing that tomorrow there will be a storm might be enough. In fact, you can set alarms on the unit if there is a storm approaching.
Beyond basic weather forecasting, the Acu-Rite logs a lot of data; temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, plus rainfall rates and totals. This information is kept in a rolling buffer and can be downloaded to a PC. If you so chose, you could periodically connect a PC via USB and have a total historical weather log for your area. Since weather is somewhat unique to your area, with enough data, you can begin to predict future results on past performance. Weather data also has a different significance depending on the season. A rise in barometric pressure in the winter might mean colder temperatures, as the thermal energy escapes into space. In summer, it might mean the exact opposite. All of this depends on past observations.
If you want to go full boat with Acu-Rite you can purchase the Acu-Rite Bridge. This device connects your weather station to the Internet and allows you to check your weather on your phone. I don’t have one and it would be somewhat frivolous in SHTF, but it’s out there.
As I mentioned, the Acu-Rite is a snapshot of the weather data for your immediate area. It is a good first step for anyone interested in forecasting weather, but it isn’t a complete picture. There is more that can be done to predict the weather. As I alluded to earlier, there are other tools that a prepper can employ. Stay tuned, we will be showing you how, with a $25 USB dongle and a home made antenna, you can download weather images from satellites, just like this one:
Coupling images like this with data from your Acu-Rite and you can see the storms coming. Add in historical data or observations from folks in other areas of the country via HAM radio..and you have a network that can provide detailed weather forecasting.
Knowledge is power they say, there are over 50,000 people who follow the Tin Hat Ranch. I wouldn’t expect even a tiny fraction to read this and decide they need to predict the weather. BUT, some of you will. We do a lot of “out of the box” stuff here at the Ranch, this included. If we can get enough folks to pick up on just some of the quirky things we do, they will become invaluable to their respective communities. When you hold knowledge like this in your head you will be worth something to your neighbors. I feel you will be less likely to be a target. Whether it be HAM, Solar, Weather, or you name it…get a SHTF specialty.
How will you predict weather in a grid down scenario? Tell us in the comments below:
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