The 10 Best Weather Stations
10. La Crosse Vertical
9. Kestrel 4500
8. AcuRite 00589
7. Netatmo Personal
6. Oregon Scientific
5. Ambient Weather WS-2801
4. Davis Instruments Vantage Pro2
3. AcuRite 01512
2. Ambient Weather WS-2902
1. Davis Instruments Vantage Vue
Four Good Reasons Why You Should Buy A Personal Weather Station
If you're a weather geek, you don't need us to sell you on the benefits of having your very own weather station recording, analyzing and predicting the temperature, wind speed and rainfall in your backyard. But if chasing storms and measuring the dew point are not among your hobbies - and you're not a farmer, or in a similar field with a professional need for monitoring the weather - you might be wondering whether you really need a weather station in your life. Well, we think you might do - if...
1. You want the weather forecast for your home - not just your county. Despite advances in the technology used and the data available, the weather forecast you see on TV is never going to be completely accurate or specific to your exact location. Weather reports are based on the data picked up by sensors, so they're only accurate for the area where those sensors are, and not necessarily for the area where you live, host barbecues, and send your kids out to play. What's more, an area as small as your garden could be affected by a microclimate, which means the weather you experience will be way off the weather that was predicted for your region.
2. You want real-time weather insight. Sure, these days you don't need to wait for the TV weather forecast: just ask Google or Siri whether it's going to rain. But the kind of forecast you can find online is no more specific than what you're going to hear from the weatherman - and it's probably even less detailed. If you're about to start building a deck and you want to know whether the weather is going to hold, you need to know the rain forecast for your backyard, and you need to know it now.
3. You want your kids - or yourself - to learn more about how weather works. There are a lot of educational opportunities to be gained from running a personal weather station - have a look at the list on this website. It's literally an ideal rainy day activity! And even if you're not a parent or teacher, it's an interesting field to explore for yourself.
4. You want to make weather reports more accurate for everyone. Thousands of people share the data from their personal weather stations to weather networks like the WeatherLink Network, the Citizen Weather Observer Program or Weather Underground. This data is then used by the National Weather Service (and others) to make weather reports more accurate and more specific. In the UK, users can share their data using the Met Office's Weather Observations Website.
Ask Yourself These Important Questions Before You Decide
How much weather data do you really need?
Almost all personal weather stations will measure, display and record the basics: temperature, humidity, and/or dew point, wind, precipitation, and barometric pressure.
Side note: If you've been wondering what the difference is between humidity and dew point, you should read this.
If you're a private homeowner, this is all the weather information you will really need. However, if you're buying a weather station to help tend your garden or even an entire farm, you'll want to look for one that measures soil temperature and/or moisture.
Also, some weather stations measure solar radiation, which could be useful if you want to make sure that you and/or your family are wearing enough UV protection.
What are you going to do with the data?
Again, if all you want to do with your data is look at it, then almost any personal weather station will work: but some stations can store data and record trends for much longer than others, so bear this in mind if you want to be able to analyse weather patterns over a period of time.
If you'd like to share your weather data with wider networks, like we discussed above, then look for a weather station that can upload your data easily, either to your computer or directly to the internet.
Where are you going to place the equipment?
For accurate results you need to make sure your weather station sensor is not in the shade, not where precipitation can fall into it, and be positioned where it has a direct line of sight to the receiver. If all of those things mean you're going to have to run it across your backyard, then you should definitely consider a wireless weather station. Otherwise, the cables could fall prey to wildlife, as described in this useful article about weather stations in the New York Times.
How is your station going to be powered?
You can buy a weather station powered by ordinary batteries, but if you'd like to save power it's worth investing in a solar-powered station: hey, the thing's going to be sitting in the sun all day anyway!
But Seriously, How Do Weather Stations Even Work?
There's some really detailed technical information here about how weather stations collect data about various aspects of the weather, and while it is kind of interesting, we think there are really only two reasons why you'd want to know more about how weather stations work:
First, you have a crush on a weather geek and want to be able to impress them by asking knowledgeable questions, like "So, let's talk temperature...do you use a thermocouple or do you prefer the RTD probe method?"
Second, you want to know how to find and use a weather station that will work best for your needs.
Assuming that what you want is the latter, here's our breakdown of what you need to know.
Temperature: There are, as we mentioned above in our characteristically whimsical fashion, three slightly different ways in which weather stations measure temperature. But they can all be affected by radiation - i.e., if they're out in the sunshine, they might record temperatures that are warmer than is accurate - so for the best results you'll want to make sure your weather station comes with a radiation shield, or buy a separate one.
Barometric pressure: This is measured using electronic pressure sensors, and it's probably the most important part of your weather station for actually predicting the weather - check out this interesting information from the UK Met Office to learn more about how air pressure can predict weather patterns.
Rain: Most weather stations have a 'tipping bucket' rain gauge, where every 'tip' represents a certain level of rainfall. This is usually , although some weather stations are less precise, so check before buying if measurement of rainfall is a priority for you. The precision of these measurements varies - generally speaking, the bigger the surface area you have for collecting rainfall, the more accurate your rain gauge will be.
Bear in mind that it's very rare to find a weather station with a rain gauge that can cope with snow.