Episode 5: The Fascinating Backstory: ATMOS 41/ClimaVUE 50 Weather Station

Episode 5: The fascinating backstory: ATMOS 41/ClimaVUE 50 weather station

Stories, challenges, bloopers, and successes behind the development of the ATMOS 41/ClimaVUE™50 weather station: a METER/Campbell Scientific collaboration.

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Hi, everyone, welcome to our podcast, We Measure The World, a podcast produced by scientists for scientists.

No ants, fire ants, just crazy creatures that can just get in any kind of crevice hurdle, small, small space, and they get in there and they just wreak havoc. They will eat anything it is. It’s impressive.

Yeah, it’s amazing. They love cable jackets, like what is it about plastic that they want to eat?

They eat it for yeah they eat it for dinner. It’s just it’s nuts like that, that can not be good for you. And you’re just like rodents, oh, it’s so crazy.

That’s a small taste of what we have in store for you today. We Measure The World explores interesting environmental research trends, solutions to research issues, and tools to better understand the entire soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. Stay current on applied environmental research, measurement methods, and more. Thanks for joining us. Today’s guests are Campbell Scientific Environmental Product Manager Chod Stevens, and METER Director of Environmental Development Doug Cobos. Thank you both for being here today.

My pleasure.

Doug, can you tell us a bit about your background and role with METER in terms of instrument development?

Sure, I can tell you a little bit about my background. First, I am a soil scientist by training, but all of my advanced degrees crossed over into the boundary layer into the atmosphere. So I’ve got, you know, some educational background and in micro-met, which I think is applicable to this particular podcast and this project. And I’ve been with METER for 18 years now. Doing instrumentation development for that entire time and research and development work. So yeah, so this would be super fun.

And Chod, what about you? What’s your role with Campbell Scientific and what’s your background in the realm of environmental science?

Thanks, Holly. My background is also similar to Doug’s. I did soil research, primarily soil physics at Utah State University. Had earlier degrees in agronomic research, crop science. So I have a lot of ag background, but found a love of soil and in my graduate work, and was able to come to Campbell Scientific, working with soils, primarily initially, and then eventually becoming a product manager over our environmental sensors. That includes our meteorological, soil, and our water sensors.

Today, we’re going to be talking about sort of the story behind the METER ATMOS 41, all-in-one weather station. And it’s also sold by Campbell Scientific as the ClimaVUE 50. And this is really just where it’s been repackaged to run optimally with the Campbell system. I know that one of the main drivers behind the design of this weather station was the involvement with TAHMO. So can you talk a little bit about what that program is and kind of how that all got started?

Sure, I can field that one. So TAHMO is a really interesting story and actually a super fun organization and a super fun mission. So we’ve been friends with John Selker with Oregon State University for a lot of years. And John is a kind of the consummate gadget guy, right? So he kind of gravitates toward toward us, because we’re also instrumentationalists. And, and so we’ve, you know, talked with him about instrumentation for four decades, basically. So, you know, one year, John comes up it probably AGU meeting, he’s like, Hey, I got this new initiative starting, it’s called, you know, TAHMO, the Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory, and we’re gonna put 20,000 weather stations, you know, across all of sub-Saharan Africa. And and we heard that you guys are working on this all in one weather station. So we want it to be the, the, the instrument that we put all over Africa, and we’re like, okay, John, whatever. And, you know, of course, in typical John Selker fashion, if you know, John, he’s very charismatic, and a very persuasive guy. And so, you know, he kept at us, and we’re like, ‘Okay, well, let’s talk about this. We’re working on this weather station anyway.’ And so we got involved with those guys, and really let the goals of their organization steer some of the early development and some of the design goals for the, for the instruments. So what what TAHMO wants to do is, is basically revolutionize weather monitoring in Africa, which there is extremely spotty, you know, very little surface observation in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, at this point, the TAHMO network, which I believe is running 600 stations or something like that in a bunch of countries is by far the largest operation of weather network in Africa at this point, and so there’s a dearth of information and they wanted to fill in all those gaps, both from a, you know, forecasting point of view, but really one of their overriding goals was to try and help the African farmer. So insurance companies will not extend crop insurance to farmers, if they don’t have a way to actually verify that some catastrophic weather event has happened to destroy the crops. And so this really puts the African farmer in a bind, they can’t get any crop insurance, which is I mean, that’s an integral part of the farming systems in the developed world. So if they have a failed crop, they’re out of luck and you know, people are starving. So there’s no way to balance out those cycles without good weather observations. And so that was one of the main reasons that TAHMO wanted to develop this large network.

There’s quite a few all-in-one stations kind of on the market already. Do you think that this sort of unique approach of involving this organization really yielded a more unique or robust design? What were some of the things that they had as a goal that we might have not included otherwise?

Yeah, great questions. I mean, the realities of running field sites, continuous field sites, and trying to maximize uptime on weather observations, in many countries in Africa is is a bit different from what many of us are used to here. It’s difficult to make field trips that sometimes there’s civil unrest, and things are, are quite dangerous. In many countries, it’s difficult to find really skilled field crews to go out and maintain the instrumentation. And so the, the A number one goal is low maintenance. And so that’s what they brought to the table. They said, “Look, guys, we can’t have any moving parts on this, we can’t have any stuck tipping spoons, we can’t have any frozen bearings on our anemometers. And we’ve got to make this thing as robust and maintenance free as we possibly can, we also have to have seamless remote data transmission, that, you know, doesn’t take any human intervention to get data from point A to point B. And so that’s why we came with the design with the with the drop counter, which is a bit of a unique feature that has no moving parts on on the rain gauge and, and the sonic anemometer instead of a propeller or a or a cup anemometer. And so, you know, those were the things early on that we put as design goals. But I will tell you that. Well, let me let me run off into into storyland here. So at METER we when we when we want to change an instrument and improve it, we run what’s called an ECO, an engineering change order. And ECOs, you know, they take a bit of overhead to get all these changes that we want to make. And these improvements done worked through our production team, you have to change all the work instructions, you have to get everything in order all the new parts, but we have probably run 40 ECOs, on the ATMOS 41. And many of these are in response to various things that we’ve seen from TAHMO. Okay, so our processes is generally, ‘Hey, we see something fail or we see a problem. You see it once, it might be an anomaly, you see it twice, okay, well, there’s something there, that’s kind of yellow alert time.’ And so it’s time to think about responding to that and making a design change or, or mitigating that. And so as we see these things crop up, in TAHMO. So some of the interesting examples might be, ‘Hey, guys, the whole rain funnel, and the the drip counters are full of termites and termite eggs.’ Okay? And they send these pictures through just these horrendous, you know, colonies of ants and termites, and inside the instrument itself, which really doesn’t help instrument function. Okay, it might surprise you that having a whole a whole termite nest in your instrument doesn’t help. So you know, you see that once you’re like, Okay, whatever. And then you see it a couple times, you’re like, Okay, well, it’s time to fill in some holes and put add some screens and some different bits to keep the bugs out. And so it’s just been a whole series of things like that, that have come back. And I think at the end of the day, it’s made the instrument way, way, way more robust. So I mean, if they’ve got, you know, 600 of these or so in Africa, and they’re running with more than 90% uptime, which is their gold, and then that bodes pretty well for the success of the instrument where you can actually get to it and maintain it.

So that the termite situation was not an isolated incident is what you’re saying.

It was not an isolated incident and the flies, you don’t expect you know, fly nests in your instrument. Yeah, just all kinds of crazy stuff. I should put together a a PowerPoint with a collage of all the pictures that they’ve sent us of like creepy crawlies that are attacking her stuff, and Chod, you I’m sure you can probably relate to this. You guys, I’m sure have, you know, a whole album full of pictures of bugs in logger enclosures and things like that, right?

Oh ants, fire ants, just crazy creatures that can just get in to any kind of crevice or little small, small space, and they get in there and they just wreak havoc. They will eat anything. It is, it’s impressive.

Yeah, it’s amazing. They love cable jackets, like what is it about plastic that they want to eat?

They eat it, yeah, they eat it for dinner, it is nuts, like that, that can not be good for you and just like rodents. Oh, so crazy.

So how do you keep termites out or bugs out or flies out or fire ants out of a weather station?

Well, you got to plug every hole with either some mesh or just, you know, make the opening small enough that they can’t get in. And so, you know, the the main culprit with the ATMOS 41 was where the rainwater would come through the funnel, and pass the electrodes to count the drops and measure the rainfall and then a little trough and then those that just, you know, pours out to exit. And they were getting in that exit hole. So we had to put a screen over that, which is just, you know, another step in the production process. And we also had to change the screen for the rain water intake right at the top of the funnel. So that wasn’t tight enough, and they were getting in through there as well. So those were just a couple of pretty small iterations that we had to do.

I know that bugs are a huge issue, but also birds, in terms of wanting to nest in the top of the rain funnel is, is that kind of a different battle?

I know it’s a podcast, so you can’t see the really grumpy look on my face. But yeah, birds are the bane of the existence of any rain gauge. I mean, Chod back me up here, please, that that it is very difficult to keep them from perching on a rain gauge.

Oh, no! Rain gauges, rain gauges are really, I think the one of the biggest problems that we have with birds. They eat anything that we’ve had them eat wind sensors, we’ve had the eat, you know, just pecking and just destroying all sorts of things. But you’re right, that rain bucket that opening, it just says hey, I’m an outhouse that you want to want to use.

Yeah, and they’re very persistent. So you know, we did come with a crown, a bird spike ring that sits over the top of the ATMOS 41 or the or the ClimaVUE. And you know, it’s got pretty light gauge wire on it in the reason for that is we don’t want to block any more solar radiation than we have to because of course, we have a pyranometer sitting up there. And you’re going to shade that if you have, you know, big old thick spikes. But you know, that works super well, from my experience, and from the experience of some of the folks like Kevin Hyde at Montana Mesonet that, you know, they’ve, we’ve had really good success with small birds with that, but you really have to beef up those those wires if you want to keep the large raptors off. Chad, do you guys have any better methods for keeping birds off? I mean, then just spikes?

Well, I think they probably work better. The problem is, and you did mention this with the pyranometer, you have to be really careful when you’re talking about instrumentation, that you don’t want to put something there that is going to alter the measurement. And you know, the precision of that instrument. Putting something with lots of spikes, is probably going to not only hurt the pyranometer, the on the ATMOS and the ClimaVUE, but it’s also going to probably affect the precipitation measurement, it’s going to create errors that way. So I think there’s always just that, that trade off. What are you going to do to keep, at minimum, the birds and other problems like that at bay? And still keep the measurement as pristine and as high quality as we possibly can? And it it’s that trade off? And it’s going to it’s going to just depend on the location, what kind of bird species you have around the area. And what what precision and what kind of accuracy are you expecting out of the instrumentation.

So that strategy of, you know, giving them something else to perch on is kind of similar to, you know, a lightning rod that’s up above the level of your weather station so that you get your strike and you get it grounded there instead of you know, basically a sacrificial spot for to get fried. So you could do the same with the birds, I guess, just a sacrificial spot.

Creating and designing a piece of scientific instrumentation is a different type of experiment than what many of us as researchers are used to. So usually, you’re using a tool to collect your data to reach your objective, but how does the process differ when you’re actually designing that tool?

It’s it’s definitely a different peer-review process. I mean, we were talking earlier and you know, when you’re when you’re writing a paper while you do your you do your research, you write it up and you submit it, and you get probably three or four anonymous reviewers. It depends on the on the journal, maybe they’re not anonymous, and they, you know, critique your work and give you feedback and you respond to it, right? Well, you know, our job is a little bit different, we have to come with our best effort, right, we do the development you and you test, as thoroughly as you possibly can, right? With your in-house testing. And then we also send it out to beta customers in different climates and research partners that help us and that’s kind of like a, an internal peer review, but then when you release it, and you start selling it to, to, you know, the all the all the researchers out there, well, then that’s your real peer review, right. And trust me, if you have problems with your instrumentation, or if there are things that are issues or things that need to be optimized, those peer reviewers are our clients and our customers will be very happy to tell you that you that you need to, you need to update your manuscript and make it a little better so so we get continuous peer review from our researcher friends and colleagues for the type of research that we do,

You know, Doug, I love that answer. I also would just state that one of the other differences, you know, I’ve been involved with a lot of development projects and, and the ClimaVUE and the in the ATMOS, I think are some of the ones that have stood out to me as really being regimental on making sure, ‘Hey, we know this accuracy specifications, because we have a reference, we have things that we can go back to. That’s what I think that’s kind of changes a little bit with doing research and actually developing a sensor instead of just maybe a process to use the sensor in is that you do have references, you have standards, that you know what the real answer needs to be. But when you’re developing it, and you’re and you’re testing it, you have to make sure that you know, there’s ISO standards out there that that say this is how you can how you need to do this. And you just need to follow that it’s almost like a cookbook, but at the same time, there’s so much physics involved with it, and how to make sure that you’ve eliminated all other sources of error. So that you can take say, this is my uncertainty with this measurement. And this is how we’re going to describe it. It’s, it’s actually really quite complex. And it’s a whole field of metrology. You know, and how to how to take measurements and how to make good quality measurements out of it. And the meter team. You know, when we took that we took that sensor, one of our very first prototypes, and we started going through, and we started seeing sometimes like, okay, the measurement was great here, sometimes it was off a little bit, and making sure that how we were testing it, and in meter, and we were seeing similar things, and we could, you know, the design and change happened, you know, we could we could change some of the designs of the sensor, if it was something wrong with the sensor. Also, sometimes we found that the sensor was actually right. And our testing was wrong. And we got to go back. And we really nail down our testing and how we were testing and making sure that it was right. So that we aligned with where the sensor was already measuring wonderfully. I think the temperature sensor is one of them. It’s just the temperature sensors are really good sensor. But it’s, it’s actually it’s actually really good compared to some of our reference sensors that we maybe were putting put into a shield. And in low-wind situations, they would heat up where as the ATMOS and ClimaVUE it would, it would stay, really where the air temperature really was. And so we’d had to get like aspirated shields, we couldn’t rely on the old passive shields to be able to get that measurement.

So that brings up an interesting point, when you’re designing a piece of equipment, you’re not only designing it, but you’re designing a standardized method to test it and make sure it’s working. Can you talk about that? Because I know Doug, you mentioned that at one point, someone was driving down the highway with an ATMOS 41 on the back of their truck. Well, that’s a little bit unconventional, maybe, when people think about the professional process of designing equipment.

I don’t think that’s what Chod was talking about when he was talking about the you know, ISO-certified test methods. Like driving down driving down the highway with an ATMOS 41. You know, latched to the top of the truck. Yeah. So a lot of that was, you know, we do some preliminary testing with the anemometer, the sonic anemometer on there before taking it over to the wind tunnel. So we have access to a nice wind tunnel that’ll go to 60 meters per second over at University of Idaho. But you know, you have to schedule that and get in there. And so sometimes for the, you know, the early preliminary tests we do have generally this is Gaylon Campbell, many of you who might listen to this probably no Gaylon, but he’ll be out there with one of his grandkids you know, cruising down the highway a little bit too fast. You know, they go drive one way first to make sure there’s no sheriff’s and then they come flying back the other way. And make sure that they don’t get any anomalies, you know, at the high wind speeds. So yeah, that’s, that’s a real thing, Holly. So one thing that Chad was mentioning earlier was the regimented testing process and you know, comparing against known standards, and in that is spot on that we do have standards for these weather parameters. But one of the big challenges with an all-in-one weather station is that we’ve got like a dozen sensors in there, right, that all have to be compared to the standard sensors. And so if we were just talking about, oh, an air temperature sensor, well, that’s a pretty easy comparison, right, but then keeping track of you know, the solar radiation and you’ve got your vapor pressure and you got your barometric pressure, and you get your wind speed, you got your wind direction, you got your gusts, you know, you all of these different measurements that you have to try and compare against those reference standards. And so that was, you know, a big part of the early work. And actually a big part of the, the later work. So what one of the things that that was interesting, when we partnered up with Campbell Scientific to, you know, continue the development of ATMOS 41 and turn it into the ClimaVUE was that my main contact, there was Alan Hinckley, who is a very experienced meteorologist, you know, late career guy, he’s since retired, but I didn’t know it at the time. But Alan has the reputation of being extremely exacting. So when he was putting this through its paces, he was really putting it through its paces. And so he, you know, he came back with some really great input that helped us, you know, improve the instrument and, and always did it with a very pleasant manner. So I, I doubt that Alan will probably listen to this podcast, but just wanted to give him a shout out that really appreciated his involvement with all that,

You know, it was kind of the continued development of the ATMOS and creating that the ClimaVUE. We did see a lot of, you know, early on some some issues that I know that the METER was working on, some of them that they they knew about, as well, you know, any development, you’re gonna have issues, you’re gonna have things that come up. But that was what I love about METER. And I think that that it just aligns really well with what Campbell Scientific, believes in, as well as just continual improvement, continually developing and making it better. You know, if see a problem when it’s reported, you investigate it really quickly, and you just drop everything else on listen and start looking at how we’re going to fix this. You know, we’re not trying to sweep it under, we’re not trying to say, ‘Well, you know, we’re just gonna have to live with it.’ No, we’re going to actually try to fix it. And that’s something that I really appreciate METER. You know, it’s just part of who they are. And it’s part of, Campbell Scientific, I said that, I think those values really align well.

Yeah, thanks, Chod, we appreciate that.

I know, Campbell Scientific and METER Group have some some of their origin stories that align, which is kind of facilitated a lot of the early collaboration. But I think it’s kind of unique that that collaboration has continued. Because I think it would be really easy for the two companies to kind of become rivals in this space. So can you talk about how it’s really easy for our scientists teams to come together, like you said, to kind of solve a common goal when it comes to just improving science and improving the way that we collect data?

Yeah, I can take a stab at that, because I’ve been immersed in it for many, many years. So you know, even in grad school back, what, 20 years ago, I used instrumentation from, from both companies. And, you know, I was actually pretty good Campbell Scientific, junkie, you know, loved programming, and Ed log back in those days, but then, you know, join meter and found that in many times, it was a an interesting relationship where there was almost a sense of, of competition there. But recently, I think we’ve gotten past that and then realize that the research community needs the breadth of offering that we have, right so Campbell Scientific has these wonderful configurable loggers that you can measure anything in the entire world with, right, but you have to have a learning curve, you have to learn how to program them. And we fit into a different space where we offer a turnkey system, that’s going to help a whole different set of researchers. And so there’s, there’s really not as much competition as you might, you might think it at face value. And, you know, at the end of the day, both organizations are here to help the research community do their job and trying to advance the science. And so we like Chod just said, we have really similar values, right? And so from that standpoint, it’s made it really, really easy to collaborate. And so, you know, I got to give some credit to Kyle Campbell, and in Joshua Campbell and Chod and Dirk Baker, and some of these guys that, you know, have have come to the table and we’ve, you know, formed a really great partnership that I think is still blossoming so I’ve been really pleased and really happy to be part of that.

You Doug, I appreciate that, I would agree that at times we we’ve been competitors competing on some of the same projects, some of the same, you know, trying to present solutions, the same things. And absolutely, you’re still a competitor sometimes. And that’s, and I think that’s healthy, I think it’s healthy to some, to a lot of degree be able to say, Hey, we both want to present a solution, sometimes even the same customers, but the customer can decide, you know, what solution fits their needs better, because it’s all about making sure that the customer gets what they need. And I think that, that the meter solution has so many benefits, and then the open platform from Campbell Scientific, if they’ve got a weird sensor that they have to measure, well, the Campbell Scientific solution can help them with that as well. And I think that’s kind of where our strength is, and your strength lies as well, of a turnkey solution. And both of those solutions, they’re different, you know, you can’t have really great configurability. And keep it as easy, you know, those those things, they do kind of they counteract each other. And in recognizing that and recognizing that some some customers and some applications, they need one solution, one needs the other. And you know, as long as we’re I think we’re trying to move toward making sure that customers get the best solution that they need, then then we all win at the end, I think that that’s what we need is is always to help the customers.

Right. So when we think about the trade offs that researchers have to make in terms of how they want to collect their data, what are maybe some of the pros and cons of an all-in-one station compared to maybe a more customizable or, you know, piecemeal setup?

Well, great question. Yeah.

Chad, go ahead.

No, this is this is a great question. And I, I’m going to just kind of kind of back up just a little bit, maybe to answer this to just say, Campbell Scientific historically has always used individual component sensors. That’s almost every station that you see, that’s a Campbell station has the individual sensors, sensing elements, and we haven’t done a lot of all-in-ones. We haven’t sold a lot of them in the past. And primarily, it’s because when you’re dealing with standards, such as like EPA, weather, you know, or the Weather Service or other these other meteorological, like WMO, they have standards, then they WMO is a big one. And they have standards to say, hey, this sensor or this, you know, like wind, these being measured at these heights, temperature needs to be measured this height, you know, two meters, one meter, you get these kinds of specifications. And you can’t do that and can’t measure those heights, when you have a sensor that measures them all at one height. That’s a, that’s really one of the biggest issues. The other issue is that sometimes you have certain requirements that we need really tight accuracy on maybe this measurement, really, really tight on a temperature your that they demand, say we need like a PRT in an aspirated shield, well, you can’t do that really easily on an all-in-one either. And so those kinds of applications, you do need sometimes some individual components. But for the majority of researchers, and the majority of applications, where we’re trying to do gap filling in between. Maybe these reference stations where we call these synoptic stations, where they they’d have to meet these standards. It makes a lot of sense to be able to put them all on one, just install one sensor, one height, make it the best height that you can, you know, precipitation in the UK, they want precipitation at ground level, well, you can’t measure wind to ground level guys. He just doesn’t work. So, you know, we haven’t tried but I just just kind of working this through in your mind and in betweens spots in between stations, filling those those gaps and trying and make sure that we have a better spatial coverage, the all-in-one stations just make a lot of sense. And it’s just I think that’s just such a great, great achievement, you know, being able to put all of those measurements, precipitation, solar. That’s that’s huge, being able to put all of those measurements in one sensor.

Yeah, and they’re, they’re, you know, definite applications where it’s, you know, plenty good and actually the really the right solution. So, you know, reference evapotranspiration where you know that that all those measurements are at two meters for FAO so you know, that makes a whole lot of sense for an ATMOS 41 and you’re right the gap filling in those in those, you know, more widely spaced synoptic stations is is just a huge thing right now. So, you know, AgWeatherNet just came out with this is the Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet that runs a whole bunch of synoptic stations and also a whole bunch of ATMOS 41s and other all in one stations and They did an analysis of the microclimate effects and and showed that, okay, so you can interpolate between really high-quality stations that you know, maybe have 0.2 degree temperature accuracy. And by the time you’re a kilometer away, you’re off by two degrees C just because of microclimate effects. So you’re going to be way better off, in many cases, characterizing your microclimate at your field station, or your experiment or at your growing operation with a localized, you know, a hyperlocal measurement of, of weather and the all-in-ones are really well suited for that.

I think, to just back up, Doug, just to let everybody who’s listening know what synoptic stations mean, those are really, we have certain levels of stations of other stations globally, and let them still have what they call climate-reference stations, there’s not a lot of them out there, there’s actually very few, but they have redundant measurements, they have top-of-the-line sensors that you can buy that you that are available anywhere. In fact, sometimes they make their own sensors just to make sure that they get the specifications that they’re asking for. There’s not a lot of those. But right below that are these synoptic stations that we’re talking about, those are the ones that end up like at airports, or in your these large, high end networks that are measuring weather, the weather service pulls in that data from and is using for a lot of its records, a lot of its other that data. After that, there’s a lot of there’s kind of this open openness of a lot of different types of stations that are out there. And the ClimateVUE, like Doug said, has really good measurements for an all-in-one sensor, it has really high-end measurements, and those measurements are perfectly where you have these microclimate changes, researchers, or in areas where you’re trying to measure what it is in this, you know, this dislocation that it’s not being served by the synoptic stations. That’s a that’s that’s a huge win.

So what advice do you both have for researchers who might be considering whether or not to really start investing in this hyper localized weather data, you know, maybe if they’re just using local weather data at the moment, and they’re kind of not sure whether or not they want to take that leap into getting their own equipment set up

Do it. Get your own, measure your own, really trusting a local station that you don’t control and just pulling in that data, it’s, it can be kind of dicey. Sometimes the data that you pull is coming off of a low end station and you don’t know it. The ClimateVUE could give you a lot better measurements in your location, and your data is gonna, you’re not gonna have a lot of those errors that you’re gonna have to try to work through later, as you’re doing your analysis, because you’ll have had that local data to begin with.

So not only is there the risk that that local station is not really local to you, and it’s not capturing those microclimate effects. But you’re saying actually, the measurements themselves might not be as quality as you think. just assuming that you’re getting that data that it’s going to be coming from a quality setup.

Yes, absolutely. I, I know from experience, where I live here in Utah, that there is a station that’s just just up from me, not too far up the hill. And the station has a wind sensor, that the bearings have gone out. measurement is really poor. And I know because I drive past and I can see it, but let me just tell you, it’s pulling in one of the really common weather reporting services that you get online that they need a little sticker on that, you know, like the how’s my driving sticker on the back of trucks like?

How’s my observation? Call it call the hotline? If not spinning well, windy. Report.

If you see a bird on top, please inform us

Shoo it off at least. So can I tell a little random story here? Yes, please do it. This must have been about eight years ago, Gaylon and one of our other engineers were banging through schematics and circuit design, you’re like, oh, we’re gonna use a UART and you know, all these goofy technical terms that the engineers like to use to try and you know, nail down some of the nuts and bolts of the internals of the what would become the ATMOS 41. And so I was asking Gaylon about that and he’s like, oh, what but the origins of this are way earlier. Okay. Do tell. He’s like yeah, back when I was on sabbatical in England back in 1978. You know, develop this 1D sonic anemometer. And then the next summer after that summer of ’79. I was did a sabbatical at Campbell Scientific and and was working with the 1D sonic and the Lyman-alpha hygrometer. And then my brother Wayne, you know had this idea that if you bounce that sound signal off a reflector, you could actually get horizontal wind speed from that that sonic anemometer and that was kind of the the earliest genesis of wanting to do a you know, an inexpensive yet robust 2D sonic anemometer, which is really the special sauce of the ATMOS 41. So we’ve been working on this since 1978, guys. Okay, continuously refining full time since 1978.

And it’s not done yet still.

It’s still not done, it will never be done. I mean, Chad will tell you, no, no, no instrument is ever done, I don’t think. And if it is, then well, either you’ve achieved perfection, which I haven’t seen it yet, or, or else you’re not doing your job, right? If you’re, if you’re just letting it sit out there.

Well, you’re either continually improving it, or you’ve, you’ve retired it, and you’ve you shipped it off, you no longer…

Yeah, exactly.

It’s done. We’re like, we’re done. We’ve moved on.

What are some of the research trends that you’re seeing right now in the field of environmental data collection, is there anything that you have in the works that you’re really excited about, or trends that you’re seeing that get you really excited about the future of environmental data collection?

So the research trends that we’re seeing, and one of the things that we’re most excited about at METER is kind of a shift from measuring water content in soil to measuring water potential. So water content in the soil tells you how much water’s there but for that, I would say the vast majority of research, water potential is more important, it tells you, you know more about water flow, it is integral to plant availability. And, and so I think we’re seeing a trend in that direction. And we’re trying to respond to that with some new water potential sensors that are field ready and robust and maintenance free. And in that those are some of the things that I’m most excited about in especially in terms of irrigated agriculture. I think that that entire industry, which you can’t really lump it into one industry, that’s I mean, a huge industry with, you know, multiple sub industries. But I think many of those could benefit from water potential measurement. And that’s the way that we’re that we’re kind of moving at METER is try and help help the water scarcity problems and help feed the world. I think that’s, that’s what our next couple of decades are going to be.

I would agree that water potential, I’m not going to use the word potential, but water potential, has the ability to give our environmental users and really eat not just researchers, but everybody who needs to know about water and the soil, give them a lot better idea of the state of that water, where it’s going, you know, you can’t tell where water’s going, whether it’s available for plants, or whether it’s moving in the soil without knowing the water potential. And ultimately, the reason we’ve always done water content is because it was easier to me see, yep, water potentials hard. And in because of that, water content, sensors have just flourished. And water potential sensors have kind of stayed stagnant, because it’s hard to make them and it’s hard to take the measurement. And it would really be I think, beneficial. And I think we’re seeing that kind of slowly, but I think it’s going to be something that we’d love to see change as well, where we start talking more about water potential in the soil, and really how it translates into plants as well, you know, whether ecologically or agriculturally or whatever, in any realm, those are the some of the most important topics to finally come to a fundamental understanding of is what’s happening to the water, where it is, and how are we going to optimize the scarce resource that we have?

That’s right. That’s exactly right. So you’re asking about other things that we’ve got going that we’re excited about, we are working on packaging, our telemetry, our wireless technology into the ATMOS 41. So it would be I mean, these exists, they’re on our roof right now. But you know, a fully wireless weather station that you just bolt down on top of a post and walk away and your data, you know, flow directly to ZENTRA Cloud with with no more installation than that.

I love that. The ATMOS really does. I just say this, because I think it’s, well, it’s true, but I also really believe it. The ATMOS really, I think it’s set up to be very successful in these IoT kind of situations. With the low power, every single measurement integrated into the one sensor. It’s, it’s just going to just makes a lot more sense than some of the other all-in-one solutions that really do have a lot higher power. There’s just no way to really have that plus the telemetry and keep it on a power budget.

Yeah, right. Yep.

Well, our time’s up for today. So thank you so much to both of you for taking the time today to talk to us about the ATMOS 41 research trends, birds, termites, and we wish you the best of luck in your future research and future collaboration. Thanks If you have any questions about this topic or want to hear more, feel free to contact us at METER Group comm or reach out to us on Twitter @METER_Env. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. My handle is at HL plants. You can view the full transcript from today in the podcast description. That’s all for now. Stay safe, and we’ll catch you next time on we measure the world

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