ChaserTracker – following tornado chasers

Each spring and summer, hundreds of storm chasers, thrill-seekers, vacationers, and scientists search for nature’s wrath.  CharserTracer is a visual animation piece showing chasers’ movements as they traverse the midwest seeking twisters.  While over-hyped chaser TV shows like Storm Chasers show a heavily edited micro-view of storm chasing, I wanted to create an eye-in-the-sky view of how chasers chase.

Watch the swarming, dispersing, and migrating patterns of storm chasers in these animations:

2 Days in June    (101 sec – 720p, image)

30 Days in May    (203 sec – 720p, image)

 

What insights into storm chasing can you glean from these animations?  Post feedback and suggestions.

I created ChaserTracer with data from Spotter Network, who shared 7 months of 1-second GPS data from 100′s of chasers.  (Much thanks to Spotter Network.)  Storm damage reports from tornadoes, winds, and hail were obtained from NOAA.  I also created ChaserTracer to learn how to plot location data with Processing, made easier by the Unfolding library.  Audio help from Kevin Snyder.

Technology used:

  •   Processing software – a great data processing and display language.  Want the program? Just email me.
  •   Unfolding  – powerful and easy-to-use mapping library
  •   Chaser data from Spotter Network
  •   Damage reports from NOAA
  •   Audio tracks via GarageBand
  •   Map backgrounds from Microsoft

data.Wall()

data.Wall() is a dynamic light display that continuously updates based on information it reads from the web.  Originally based on WeatherDots, data.Wall() is autonomous wall art that can display any data set.  Most “data walls” are a cluttered mess of information, leaving viewers confused and frustrated.  data.Wall() lets viewers intuitively see and feel when conditions change – in this case, local weather.  Every hour, data.Wall() updates as outside temperatures warm and cool.

dataWall

data.Wall() measures 36” by 24” by 3″.  It’s entirely self-contained, with 24 RGB LEDs for showing up to 64,000 different colors and a micro controller (Arduino) with wifi (Wifly).  It’s constructed with wood, Styrofoam, and plastic.

Why I created data.Wall

  1. I wanted to replace a picture in my house with a live, dynamic display that changes hourly and provides simple, visually appealing information.    You can’t easily sense the weather by viewing numbers, charts, and digits.
  2. I wanted to better understand how to use WiFi to autonomously communicate via my home WiFi.

Technology used:

  • 1 – Arduino Uno – to control the lights and WiFi
  • 24 – ShiftBrite RGB LEDs – provide the list for each dot
  • 1 – WiFly Shield-for the Arduino and links it to my home WiFi
  • 36″x48″ sheet of Styrofoam insulation
  • 1 – 36″x24″ white acrylic (60% transparent from Tap Plastics) – for the front face of data.Wall()
  • 24 – 2″x2″ white acrylic (40% transparent from Tap Plastics) – for diffusing the light in each tube
  • Davis Weather Station (Vantage Pro II) – Measures temperature, winds, and precipitation  (pic of my weather station)
  • VPLive – Acquires data from Weather Console
  • Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP) - Shares weather data
  • WeatherUnderground - Archives weather data

I’d like your feedback and suggestions – please comment.

WeatherBeacon

WeatherBeacon is an optical weather indicator showing current temperature, humidity, and precipitation from my backyard weather station.  Updated every minute, WeatherBeacon is a conspicuous device designed to attract attention and display weather conditions as a single color.  While it’s not the first WeatherBall or Beacon, its round shape and colors are more natural than the glowing digits of bank thermometers often found on outdoor weather displays.

wxbeacon1 wxbeacon2

See a time lapse movie  of WeatherBeacon:

Why I created WeatherBeacon:

  1. Subtle changes in weather conditions are hard to feel.  You can’t easily sense the weather by viewing numbers, charts, and digits.  I wanted to create a physical devise to communicate slight meteorological changes in a simpler, more intuitive way.  I also wanted to combine three weather parameters (temperature, humidity, precipitation) into a single color, similar to other projects (WeatherDots and WeatherTrace).
  2. How does wireless communication really work?  I had no clue, but wanted to find out.  It’s really not as hard as you might think to both understand and program, albeit with some guidance (Tom Igoe’s Making Things Talk – a great book!).

How WeatherBeacon works:

Outside, weather conditions are continuously measured by the weather station and sent wirelessly every 2 seconds to the Weather Console (located indoors).

Inside, software on a computer queries the Weather Console every 2 seconds and updates a current conditions file (data.csv).

I wrote the WeatherBeaconHub program in Processing.  This program reads the current weather data, computes color values, communicates with the Xbee radio, and provides diagnostic and test information (such as color-range tests, turning off the LEDs, and controlling the LED intensity).  Every minute, WeatherBeaconHub sends the latest color values via Xbee back outside to the WeatherBeacon.

Outside, an Arduino microcontroller receives the signal and controls WeatherBeacon’s LEDs.  I modified a program created by Tom Igoe to receive the signal (red, blue, and green values); perform error checking; send confirmation back to WeatherBeaconHub; and load the RGB values into the LEDs.  I also adapted code developed by Garrett Mace to control the LEDs.   Several single-color LEDs attached to the microcontroller indicate if signals are being received (yellow) or transmitted (blue).

WeatherBeacon v0.5 was constructed with more hardware and software than I’d like – a bit of a kludge.  If Davis Weather published their weather station wireless transmission specs, I could reduce the kludgeness.  It would be nice for the weather station to transmit directly to a receiver on the Arduino; however, Davis Weather considers their wireless specs proprietary.

Plans for the next version of WeatherBeacon:

  • Weatherproof microcontroller and Xbee radio
  • Create a smaller footprint base and mount on metal mast
  • Mount mast on top of weather station
  • Improve error checking in Hub and Station software programs
  • Put light diffusers on the ShiftBrite LEDs
  • Have fun…

Technology used:

  • 2 – XBee 1mW Wire Antenna – for wireless communications
  • 1 – XBee Explorer USB – adaptor to connect Xbee to USB on computer
  • 12 – ShiftBrite RGB LEDs – provide 1024 different colors in the beacon
  • 1 – ShiftBrite Shield -for the Arduino and handles power
  • 1 – 18″ Polycarbonate White Globe – serves as the Beacon
  • 1 – Arduino Duemilanove – microcontroller for communications, driving the LEDs, and error checking
  • 4 – Single colored LEDs – to indicate actions (data transmissions)
  • Davis Weather Station (Vantage Pro II) – Measures temperature, winds, and precipitation  (pic of my weather station)
  • VPLive – Acquires data from Weather Console
  • Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP) - Shares weather data
  • WeatherUnderground - Archives weather data
  • Processing software – Fetches data, generates the display, and sends data via the Xbees to the WeatherBeacon.  Want the program? Just email me.

I’d like your feedback and suggestions – please comment.

WeatherDots

Show it with dots – WeatherDots.  Depicting each day’s weather, 24 dots show weather conditions with color, shape, and orientation.   Hourly weather readings control the shape’s appearance.  Calm winds create a circle.  As the wind blows circles change to ovals that are oriented by the wind direction.  Color corresponds to temperature values.  A green ring shows it’s raining.  Decoder legend.

The color scales are set based past climatological conditions at this station.  Each day, the climatological conditions are updated.

wxdots1

WeatherDots movie for May 2010:

Technology used:

  • Davis Weather Station (Vantage Pro II) – Measures temperature, winds, and precipitation  (pic of my weather station)
  • VPLive – Acquires data from Weather Console
  • Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP) - Shares weather data
  • WeatherUnderground - Archives weather data
  • Processing software – Fetches data and generates the display.  Want the program? Just send me an email.

© DataTechArt 2010