I love data. It turns out there’s a lot to track around the farm and I keep a variety of databases to do the heavy lifting for me. My database of choice is PostgreSQL, a poster child for open source software, which probably means nothing unless you’re a geek like me. This post is the first in a series that shows the various ways that we do science at Pearl Creek Farm!
Let’s start with the weather. On 1 October 2010, I enrolled in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) program and started collecting precipitation data for the farm. This non-profit organization has an army of volunteers all over North America who collect precipitation data for their individual locations. You know the “official” rain amount you see on the evening news? Yeah, that’s something they get from a single location, usually the airport, which might be miles from your house. It turns out that precipitation amounts can vary greatly even over distances of a few miles. Our station is MO-GR-75 and we regularly see very different precipitation amounts than those recorded at the airport or in Springfield.
For Christmas 2010, I received a temperature and humidity data logger. I promptly set it up outside to record observations every 30 minutes. We have a continuous record of such data since 18 March 2011. It turns out that temperatures can vary quite a lot from the “official” values, too, so it helps to keep track of these locally. Lest you think this is just a raw exercise for a data geek, read how I use these data for controlled burn conditions and box turtle observations in later posts.
All of the temperature and precipitation readings are recorded in a database for weather observations. I wrote a fairly complex application using PHP, quite possibly the most loved and most hated programming language in existence, to summarize and display the data. It includes fun lists like the top 10 hottest temperatures, top (bottom?) 10 lowest temperatures, and top 10 precipitation amounts as well as not-so-fun lists like the top 10 snowfall amounts.
Last year, you might recall that we had a frightening stretch of extremely cold weather that burst our kitchen water pipes. It’s recorded here on 6 Jan 2014 and 7 Jan 2014 in the disturbing glory of 30-minute intervals. I also just think it’s absolutely incredible that it never got below 68oF during the entire month of July 2011, even at night!