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South Hill to gain hyper-local weather station

Ithaca College’s new RainWise weather station will provide up-to-the-second weather updates for South Hill residents.
By Kellen Beck and Katelyn Harrop

A new weather station is being installed on the Ithaca College campus, giving the South Hill area accurate and up-to-the minute weather readings through its connectivity with Weather Underground. The project is expected to be completed within a month.

Weather Underground is partnered with RainWise Inc., which manufactures the weather station. When the station is up and running in full, community members will be able to specially select the IC station on the Weather Underground website in order to get the most accurate reading of area weather.

Currently, the closest weather stations to the college are over a mile north in downtown Ithaca and over two miles south off Route 179. While both provide strong vicinity readings, neither provide information specific to South Hill, which varies in factors such as temperature and wind chill from other parts of the city.

“Living in Ithaca, the weather changes from downtown to going up the hill. Especially in the the winter, you can be downtown and it’s clear, and be up on the hill and it’s windy and snowy,” said Zoë Miller, student lab manager for the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, who contributed to the installation of the station. “For me, the importance kind of lies in awareness of your environment and what’s going on.”

The station, at under $2,000, was funded by the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Environmental Health and Safety, the Department of Biology and the School of Humanities and Sciences.

The project was first brought forward by Environmental Studies student Rachel Barone, who had interned with IC Environmental Health and Safety. EH&S and Barone were interested in getting Ithaca College certified as a “Weather-Ready Campus” through the National Weather Service, and thought a weather station could also double as an academic tool for environmental and science programs on campus.

“The StormReady program is the one we are trying to qualify for which is typically for communities, but an increasing number of schools are going for it now,” said Barone in an email correspondence. “I think there are currently only two other colleges in NY that are certified (SUNY Binghamton and Oneonta).”

Jason Hamilton, professor and chair for the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, saw the RainWise station as an opportunity to expand the department’s focus on hands-on learning while also providing up-to-the-moment information to the campus and surrounding communities.

“There’s a real focus in ENVS [Environmental Studies and Sciences] as well as in Biology for place-based learning and local knowledge,” said Hamilton. “It’s really useful to start gathering long-term data for your spot, not just at the airport, for example. The weather is very different there. The temperature is different, the rainfall is different.”

The station is located near the Natural Lands apiary off the Coddington Road back entrance to campus. The location was selected due to its proximity to the campus Facilities building, which will house the router required to transmit information to Weather Underground.

Hamilton said he’d like to get a couple more weather stations set up around campus so they can measure short-range variations, such as from where the observatory is on top of the hill compared to where the bee yard is, measuring rain difference, temperature difference and cold air drainage down the hill.
“At $2,000 a piece, while that’s certainly not pocket change, that’s definitely in the realm of having 2-3 over the next few years,” Hamilton said. “It would be premature to say there’s plans to put in more but that would certainly be the dream of the people working on it.”

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