Furman’s new weather station offers hyper-local storm and flood data
Whether the question is sweater vs. coat, or how much rain fell compared to what was predicted, the answer is now on Furman’s campus.
A new weather station installed this past summer is providing rich, hyper-local data for student and faculty research. Plus, it offers the convenience of up-to-the-minute campus weather information for general use.
The station is located near the Townes Science Center greenhouse. Gustavo Coelho, assistant professor of water resources, used some of his research startup funding to purchase it. The station is rated for research use.
“It’s not as expensive as a National Weather Service station, but it still provides accurate and reliable data for research,” said Coelho, who is in his second year at Furman.
The new station reports on rainfall, wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure and radiation from the sun. Coelho is in the process of applying for other grants to expand its capabilities to collect data such as soil moisture and soil temperature.
Marie Cecil ’24 worked with Coelho for two months this summer. She helped install the station and sensors and also conducted research for her senior thesis on precipitation and its impact on the watershed around Furman.
Cecil is studying both temporal and magnitude data – that is, how long did it rain and how much rain actually fell.
“The amount of information that I processed in those eight weeks is comparable to an entire semester course,” she said.
Besides collecting data on precipitation, she learned about coding, modeling and fieldwork, skills she hopes to take into graduate work in oceanography.
Coelho’s expertise is in flood modeling and forecasting. He grew up in a part of Brazil that has a long history of significant flooding. Working to help people understand and prepare for flooding feels like a mission for him. Before completing his doctoral degree, he spent nearly a decade working in industries related to water resources and hydrology in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
When he learned about the issues with coastal flooding in South Carolina, he was eager to apply his knowledge to similar problems.
“We really want to understand how floods happen and when they’re going to happen,” he said.
The National Weather Service might issue a regional warning for heavy storms and flooding, but it’s hard to know how those forecasts will play out locally.
“The idea is that with my research I’m contributing to the development of this flood forecast system,” Coelho said.
By using National Weather Service precipitation forecasts in the modeling system, Coelho and other researchers can more accurately predict flood risks from approaching storms.
Cecil is double majoring in music and earth and environmental science. The music department drew her to Furman, but environmental science is driving her future.
“I fell in love with the department and the people,” she said.
She was delighted when Coelho joined the faculty her junior year, giving her the chance to explore new classes in hydrology.
Connecting with Coelho and others in the department helped her pinpoint her own interests in environmental science. Cecil is working now on her senior thesis, with Coelho serving as her research advisor.
The new weather station is part of a network of connected stations. Coelho and his students have access to data collected across the region and the country. Because weather can vary widely even within a few miles, the more stations and sensors in place, the better the precision of the research.
“Hopefully that data is going to help us to develop enough research to keep expanding that network,” Coelho said.
Check out the weather station online.