November 16, 2005

Professor Duane Griffin, left, and junior Philip Marquis
perform maintenance on Bucknell's weather station.

LEWISBURG, Pa. - Current campus weather conditions are now as close as your computer screen.

The BucknellBug, a unique collaboration between Duane Griffin, an assistant professor of geography, and Philip Marquis, a junior computer science major, inserts information collected by Bucknell's state-of-the-art weather station in the lower right-hand corner of most computer screens.

Located next to the computer's time display, the BucknellBug constantly shows the latest temperature reading. Rolling a cursor over the temperature icon reveals expanded atmospheric information that includes relative humidity, pressure, and sun index. Double clicking on the temperature takes users to a Bucknell website, maintained by the geography department, with weather graphics, more current information, including wind speed and radiation, historical data, and additional weather-related Internet links.

"I had the idea for the BucknellBug over the summer," said Marquis, who works as a geography department Presidential Fellow. "I researched it a bit and was lucky to find some open source code that I could modify a bit."

The sophisticated Campbell Scientific Inc. meteorological station, which has been up and running for more than a year, transmits a host of weather data hourly to a campus computer for teaching, research, and archival purposes.

Griffin's programming sliced and diced the station's data and when Marquis came up with the idea for the BucknellBug it was a perfect solution for making Lewisburg weather data easily available to most anyone.

"Until we installed the weather stations, we didn't have hourly weather data available for Lewisburg," said Griffin. "The next closest station is over at Penn Valley Airport" in Selinsgrove and the 10-or-so mile difference between campus and the airport station can yield substantially different wind, precipitation, and temperature conditions, he said.

Typically, weather data specified as "Lewisburg" is actually data being pulled from the Selinsgrove airport.

Griffin uses the weather station data in his classroom as do chemistry, geology and engineering classes. "My weather and climate students use the live station data for their daily weather logs and weather reports," he said.

Over each 24-hour period, the station transmits via modem nearly 800 data points to a campus server for storage. Many of those data points are collected hourly and Griffin has collected data for about 18 months.

The station requires little regular maintenance. The biggest issue is keeping the rain gauge clean. Spiders, said Griffin, can clog the rain collector and prevent accurate precipitation readings.

The weather station data has generated positive feedback, said Griffin. "I've had a lot of people email back and say, `This is cool,' or, `Great.'"

Marquis noted that while there are other weather-update programs that can be downloaded free on the Internet, they come with issues. "First, you encounter the issue that there isn't any weather data for this area. And while a lot of those programs are free, they're written with spyware."

Current and archived meteorological data are available at www.bucknell.edu/weather. PC users can download the BucknellBug at www.bucknell.edu/weather/bug.html.

Posted Nov. 15, 2005

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