Introduction

Welcome to the new home of the Elyweather website. Development of this revised site has only just started so content is limited as yet, but two main categories of content are planned:

To comment on these two areas in a little more detail:

Current Ely weather

The Current Ely Weather area provides a set of graphical displays of current weather in formats provided by the standard Davis Weatherlink software. (The live weather content in the layout previously available at www.elyweather.co.uk can still be seen updating regularly at: weather.fenland.net.)

Experimental area: Prototype weather graphs plus instrument studies

The Experimental area will contain a mix of pages on the best ways of presenting weather data graphically together with others on studies of sensor performance and associated weather parameter calculations. Although these are two rather distinct areas they are both experimental in nature and may overlap - for example when studying a particular issue with an instrument generating live data there's often a need for a custom chart to highlight certain aspects of the data - so it makes sense to group them together.

The prototype graphs area perhaps needs further explanation. The aim here is to explore novel graphical approaches to presenting current weather data on web pages. We're talking here mainly about data generated by an automatic weather station  and so focusing on how best to present weather reports from a single observing site graphically (ie rather than broader topics of weather forecasts or overviews of regional or national weather). But within the general ambit of single-site reporting, pretty much anything on the general topic of graphical data presentation as trends over short  and longer periods, and relating - where possible - these recent data to historical values will be fair game.

You may (or may not!) be curious as to the reasons for running this part of the site. One of the main spurs is the limited charting quality provided by the major software packages available for affordable weather stations such as the Davis Vantage Pro models. Some of these programs provide an amazing array of features and are very impressive achievements. But they are arguably still a little let down by their charting capabilities** - especially for those of us who believe that 'less is more' (ie a chart should contain the minimum amount of information and clutter compatible with communicating its data clearly.) There's also a tendency to make one standard rectangular chart format do too many jobs when some variation even just in the detail of the chart style could enhance its clarity. I should add that only a small degree of criticism is actually implied here - it's no easy task, for example, to fit a large dataset of detailed data into a trend graph of small pixel dimensions and the designer is additionally often limited by the charting toolkit that they happen to be using. So it's perhaps unsurprising that optimising charts hasn't always received the highest development priority.

(**The various 'Live' programs such as Weather Display Live are a notable exception and can generate web pages that are cosmetically very accomplished and appealing, although even here the charts are perhaps the poor relative compared to the attractive aesthetics of the graphic elements for displaying current weather readings.)

Overall, exploring ways in which the charting of weather data could be improved further and extended is a topic of some interest, both to me and hopefully to a least a few others in the wider weather observing community. As mentioned already, it's no easy task to enhance charting formats and I don't pretend to have any magical solutions for instant improvements. But hopefully the pages here will grow into a source of ideas for others and will include some more general notes on why I think certain design approaches make sense, on charting constraints that any developer of new weather station software will face and on other similar themes. The charts shown here are not written with a view to including them in any comprehensive commercial software - that would be a major undertaking - so these aren't really beta images from a package that's going to be made generally available. But if there was sufficient interest in any particular aspect of the charts I could maybe think again about releasing a very focused and specific add-on for the Weatherlink software.

In a sense also, this area will be a graphical blog with progress reports on charts under development at reasonably frequent intervals. So every couple of weeks (sometimes more often) there should be something new to read on particular charting projects.

Finally, this experimental area should serve one other function in providing a demonstration of the range of live charts that can be used for custom presentations of data using a feed from the Davis Weatherlink software. Feel free to contact me if you have any possible commissions for custom software or ideas for collaboration that you would like to discuss further or simply suggestions for other topics to cover.

Other Background Comments

The data used to drive the prototype graphics in this area is collected by standard Davis Vantage Pro weather stations and logged by the standard Davis Weatherlink software. However, the data presentations that you see in this experimental graphics section are all generated by custom software using live data from the Davis database archive files. As far as possible, most if not all of the graphics on view here will be updating frequently (eg every 10 minutes) and automatically. (Of course it's in the nature of experimental studies that things go wrong from time to time. So inevitably there will be times when specific images won't be updating actively and maybe occasionally the whole configuration will crash! But the intention is to maintain continuous updating whenever possible.)

One comment also on the design of this website - it's deliberately fairly plain in presentation. The topics will hopefully be clear and comprehensible but, beyond this, most of the time available for developing the site will be spent on content rather than cosmetics. In due course, a little more time should be available for enhancing site design and presentation - but if you think it should be done sooner please let me know!

It's obviously going to take some weeks (and probably months) to build up an initial portfolio of prototype topics and pages. But here are a couple of areas to set the ball rolling: