Arcata Weather Observatory: a jam-packed, homegrown indie weather site

An Arcata Weather Observatory screen cap.

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – If knowledge is power, then Scott Carroll is countering the old saw about everyone complaining about the weather and no one doing anything about it.

Carroll singlehandedly operates the Arcata Weather Observatory, a website – arcataweather.com – and Twitter feed – @ArcataWx – that provides weather geeks with a wealth of information about the state of the skies.

And not just the skies, but everything to do with weather – current conditions, statistics, astronomical data, webcams, maps, links and more.

The retro-styled website – its banner appropriately enough in a distressed, archaic font – delivers the goods without a lot of fancy modern styling, and it’s ad-free.

This modest home weather station provides some of the real-time data. Scott Carroll photo

Much of the info feeds are drawn from the National Weather Service, where Carroll works as a meteorologist. The feed is augmented by a small weather station located at Carroll’s Bayside home. The commercially available unit includes a rain collector, temperature and humidity sensors and anemometer.  

The website is mostly automated. Observations are refreshed every five minutes, with status updates and a webcam photo tweeted. Occasionally, Carroll manually tweets out interesting weather phenomena.

arcataweather.com also peers above and below. The page sports a running read from a seismograph Carroll built himself, plus a set of links to astronomical sites. 

While all the scientific disciplines interrelate, weather is Carroll’s core jam. “Weather is more important to astronomy than the other way around,” he noted.

The Twitter feed.

The whole project is a labor of love, carried out  as “a service and a hobby,” Carroll said. It’s one he has pursued since age 8, just for the fun of it. 

“I don’t make any money off it,” Carroll said. In fact, given the site’s back-end complexity, he said, “It costs me money to maintain it. I try to keep it functional”

It’s a bit like drinking from a firehose, though. “There’s more data than ever – vast observational networks and faster computer models,” Carroll said.

Predictions are getting better too, though they still aren’t granular enough to tell you what the weather will be like at your street address at a specific date and time, as some weather service callers request. “We’re steadily moving forward with that,” Carroll said.

While he’s fascinated by everything from thunderstorms to fog, Carroll’s favorite weather, is, fortunately, a Humboldt staple: “Partly cloudy and showery,” he said.

 







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