Are Weather Stations Accurate?

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are weather stations accurate?

Are Weather Stations Accurate?

You have probably noticed that the weather report on the TV or radio doesn’t seem to have much to do with the weather where you live. So maybe you’re thinking about buying a home weather station. But wondering if they are accurate or just plastic junk. Let’s find out.

Accurate weather stations are available to satisfy any end user. The weather station manufacturer publishes weather station accuracy information. By determining the use and accuracy required, a satisfactory choice can be made. A weather station well-chosen and properly installed will be accurate.

Weather stations are available in a range of accuracy from satisfying the casual weather observer to the most critical scientist. The accuracy of a weather station is primarily dependent on three things; the stated accuracy by the manufacturer, how often the weather data is updated, and how well the station is installed.

For instance, if you are satisfied with the temperature indicated on the big round thermometer hanging on a nail on your patio, a low-cost weather station might be right for you.

On the other hand, if you are a weather aficionado and will get upset if you missed a high wind gust or a 10th of a degree that would mean a record high or low. Also, a home weather station of any sort is likely to be more accurate than a weather station at a distant airport.

What Affects the Accuracy of a Home Weather Station?

  • The placement of the weather sensors.
  • The quality of the electronic components.
  • How well designed the housing is around the electronics.
  • How often the data is read and sent.
  • The age and condition of the equipment.

There is a practical limit to weather station accuracy, and that is the wind speed, wind direction, and temperature vary on a second by second basis. Some weather stations will show an instantaneous measurement, but most will give you an average over 5 to 30 seconds.

All instrumentation data, weather-related or not, has a tolerance. Tolerance is presented as a range above or below the probable true value. The less the tolerance, the more expensive the device.

Consumers are more price-sensitive, while critical infrastructure managers and scientists are more accuracy-focused. This has a lot to do about expectations. Accuracy is dependent on a few things; the initial tolerance of the device, how it is applied, the environment, manufacturing tolerance, sample rate, power source.

Are you looking to buy your own weather station? Read my page on all of the benefits.

What Weather Stations are the Most Accurate?

Davis Instruments Vantage Pro II has a reputation for the best accuracy and durability in the consumer class weather stations. Acurite and Ambient Weather have introduced weather stations that come in a respectable 2nd place to Davis for a more affordable price. The middle-of-the-pack weather stations are the most popular with a good price/ accuracy balance. On the low end, weather stations are often missing some instrumentation and the proper solar shielding to ensure accuracy, but with careful placement, may serve your needs fine.

Comparing Top Popular Models

(update rate)Davis
Vantage Pro ll
-Viewed as the most accurate due to tolerance & rapid update-
Acurite
Atlas

-Best of Acurite-
Ambient Weather
WS-5000

-Best of Ambient Weather-
Ambient Weather
WS-2902C

-popular mid-range weather station for comparison-
Temp±0.5°F
(1 Minute)
±1°
(30 Seconds)
± 2 °F
(4.75 Seconds)
± 2 °F
(16 Seconds)
Humidity±2%
(50 to 60 Seconds)
±2% RH
(30 Seconds)
± 5%
(4.75 Seconds)
± 5%
(16 Seconds)
Wind
Speed
±2 mph or ±5%, whichever is greater (2.5 to 3 Seconds)±1 mph; ≤10 mph ±10%; >10 mph (10 Seconds)< 22 mph, +/- 1 mph ≥ 22 mph, +/-5%
(4.75 Seconds)
± 2.2 mph or 10% (whichever is greater)
(16 Seconds)
Barometer±0.03″ inHg
(1 Minute)
±0.09 inHg
(5 Minutes)
± 0.08 inHg
(4.75 Seconds)
± 0.08 inHg
(16 Seconds)

These weather stations are available on Amazon. Here are the links:

How to Improve the Accuracy of a Weather Station.

It may surprise you, but a well-placed low-end weather station will out-perform a poorly located high-end home weather station.

Wind

To get accurate wind measurements, the anemometer and wind vane must be exposed to open air for 360 degrees. This can be difficult to impossible in an area with lots of buildings or trees. Do the best you can.

Temperature

The thermometer must be shielded from the sun all the time and not near a heat generator or thermal mass like a building, roadway, or pool. The better weather stations include a solar radiation shield for this purpose.

Low-priced stations may not have a shield, so care must be taken to place the thermometer where it is shady all of the time or buy yourself a radiation shield.

Rainfall

The rain gauge should be placed where there are no obstructions to wind-driven rain, and nothing is around to drip or splash into it. The guidelines suggest mounting the rain gauge about 5 feet up, which allows you to clean out the inevitable junk that gets in it.
As you can see, having the rain gauge as a separate unit from the wind and temperature sensors provides for the best placement of the different sensors for the most accuracy.

Barometric pressure

Set your barometric pressure properly. This is the most confusing aspect of setting up a home weather station. If you live close to an airport with an official weather station, you can use that barometer reading to set yours.

If no official weather station is nearby, you’re not out of luck; check out George Alfert’s excellent post here: https://www.wxforum.net/index.php?topic=39088.msg402097#msg402097

The accuracy of the forecasting feature of your weather station depends on an accurate barometer.

What Weather Station Data is Most Important To You?

Which measurements are the most important to you?

Often, one aspect of the weather is of more interest to you than others. If you live in an area of weather extremes of temperature, wind, or rain, you would be more interested in the best quality data for that measurement.

Why it Matters

Real-time accurate weather measurements can be critically important to pilots taking off and landing, to farmers for freeze prevention, construction companies at vulnerable stages of a project. The list can go on and on.

Accurate weather data over a longer period is critical to weather forecasters who in turn help farmers, event organizers, and your vacation planning. These weather measurements come from weather stations that post their weather data online. They could be using your weather station!

That’s All Folks!

I hope you can see that the personal weather stations you see at your favorite box store or on Amazon can be counted on to provide the accuracy you need. Consider your purpose and expectations, and select your weather station accordingly.

Here are some links to other pages you may find useful:

Mounting and siting your weather station

Review of the Davis Vantage Pro II

My review of the Acurite Atlas

Look at the incredibly popular Ambient Weather 2902