Displaying Weather Data on a Web Map

Recently one of my clients installed a series of seven weather stations around their extensive property.  The main purpose of the weather stations was to monitor precipitation to facilitate their monthly water reports required by the state.  Also, the weather data was useful for management and planning. 

The weather stations were working perfectly.  The problem was accessing the data in a easy and useful way.  My client wanted to show off their weather station data and make it available to the rest of the company but they had no easy way to do this.

One of my Master’s degrees is in Climatology.  I spent three summers doing field work that involved setting up meteorological stations, collecting data, and then writing algorithms to sift through it and analyze the results.

With my expertise in GIS mapping, this project was right up my alley!

Weather Stations Collecting Data

The seven weather stations consist of instruments from Campbell Scientific.  Each includes the appropriate instruments for measuring precipitation, temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction.

Weather data station

Campbell Scientific weather station.

The weather station data were being sampled via a datalogger at five minute intervals.  The dataloggers were sending the data to a virtual server using Campbell Scientific’s LoggerNet software.

How to View the Weather Data?

Though LoggerNet includes a basic data viewing program, it was not meeting the needs of my client.  Not everyone had access to the viewing software.  It required some know-how to use and it did not display the data in a user-friendly way.

This left my client with sending long commands to LoggerNet to retrieve the current weather data observations in an Excel spreadsheet.  The result was a row of numeric values representing the temperature, precipitation, and other weather variables.  Functional, but just barely.

Any data beyond seven days old was lost.

The Geographic Approach

My client wanted to see the weather data on a map.  They use GIS for environmental monitoring and so they know the power of a GIS map.  Not everyone at the company had ArcMap installed, however, and their ArcGIS for Server implementation is based out of their headquarter office over a hundred miles away.  It is slow and unreliable for employees in outlier areas, like my client.

Using a platform like Google Earth was not an option due to security issues.  They wanted to have control over the data and limit its access to only those within the company.

Building a Custom Web Map

We decided that a custom web map was the way to go.  Working with one of my partners, we devised a plan to make the data from the weather stations viewable on a web map that anyone within the company could access via a web browser.  We chose to use open-source software server called GeoServer to build the web map.

The first step was to design the web map interface.  This is where my background in climatology really came in handy.  Working closely with the developer, we came up with a beautiful, user-friendly, and scientifically meaningful way to display the weather data.

GeoMattix custom web map

The custom web map we made to display weather data from 7 stations.

We decided to use separate windows for each of the seven weather station sites.  All seven sites would be viewable on the main map with the seven windows showing each station’s observations stacked along the left side of the browser window.

The main map offers a choice of two different basemaps via a slider bar.  It also includes toolbar with basic navigation, measure, and identify tools easily accessible.

GeoMattix custom web map

Showing the Streets basemap.

Each of the seven inset windows on the left provides a way to view data from each of the weather stations.  A series of tabs across the bottom of a window lets the user select from current conditions, today’s accumulated readings, yesterday’s readings, and graphical displays of temperature and precipitation for the past seven days.

GeoMattix custom web map

Tabs on the data windows show various views of the weather data.

Behind the Scenes

To display the data in the web map meant that we first had to get the weather data into a database capable of storing geographic locations.  We chose to use a SQL Server Express database.  Not only would this make the data ready to feed into the web map, but it also offered my client more functionality with their weather data.

Data could be stored and archived, reports could be generated, and the data could be used in ArcGIS if and when there was a need to do so.

Before the weather data could go from LoggerNet into the SQL Server Express database, it had to first go through a LoggerNet database (LNDB).  We worked with Campbell Scientific to install this component and then set up a new SQL Server Express database instance and got the weather data feeding into it.

The new SQL Server Express database was installed on my client’s server.  The GeoServer web map application we designed was copied over to the same server location, so everything was stored in one secure location.  After a little tinkering to connect the web map application to the SQL Server Express database everything worked like a charm!

Happily Ever After

My client now has a beautiful and functional web map that resides solely on their server.  It is viewable by anyone within the company who has the link to the web map which opens in a web browser.

Now when there is a significant precipitation event, all they have to do is click a button to generate a report that contains everything the state requires.  And anyone in the company can see the current conditions as well as recent temperatures and rainfall amounts.  All of this is displayed on a user-friendly map that requires no technical expertise to operate.

My partner and I had the satisfaction of a job well done.  And my client scored major points within the company for coming up with such a popular and efficient way to incorporate weather data into their workflow.

To discuss how GeoMattix can help you display weather, or other data on a beautiful and functional web map, contact us.

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