Catalyst Magazine

Wind of Change: UMB Installs Small Weather Station

The extended forecast is calling for a small weather station at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), bringing the city’s weather data even closer to home.

A small weather station, which is not yet operational, has been installed on the sixth-floor green roof of Health Sciences Research Facility III.

UMB’s Office of Sustainability worked with Operations and Maintenance to install a small weather station on the sixth-floor green roof of Health Sciences Research Facility III (HSRF III) in November. This weather station, which is not yet operational, will take measurements including temperature, humidity, solar radiation, UV, wind direction, and wind speed, among other data points.

The Office of Sustainability first explored the idea of a campus weather station after creating a Tree Equity story map highlighting the inequities that exist in the distribution of tree canopy in Baltimore. This inequity leads to the urban heat island effect, meaning that areas with fewer trees absorb more heat and thus feel much hotter than their more shaded counterparts.

When looking up weather for a particular city, the data displayed are typically readings from weather stations at the nearest airport. For Baltimore, these readings are taken at Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Marshall Airport, which is nearly 10 miles from UMB’s campus. Installing a campus weather station allows UMB to get more localized data on temperature and can help illustrate the effects of the urban heat island effect at the downtown campus.

Readings taken from the weather station also will aid the work of other departments at UMB, including the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Environmental Services (EVS) in responding to extreme weather events. A camera will provide a live feed of the weather on UMB’s campus and an additional vantage point for UMB Police and Public Safety’s monitoring efforts.

“Folks at UMB had looked into a weather station in the past, but I’m glad we were able to turn this dream into a reality,” says Angela Ober, senior specialist in the Office of Sustainability. “These data will not only benefit our office, but also groups on campus such as Emergency Management, Environmental Services, Operations and Maintenance, Public and Occupational Health, Public Safety, and others. It will be interesting to compare the data gathered to other nearby stations, and the hope is to find a second location on campus to compare micro-climates within the University’s campus boundaries.”

The Office of Sustainability decided to add a particulate matter sensor to the weather station based on feedback from faculty in the School of Nursing’s Department of Family and Community Health. A PM2.5 sensor, which measures particles that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter, was added to the weather station to provide localized information about air pollution. PM2.5 particles are so small that they can travel deep into a person’s respiratory tract, enter the blood stream, and cause symptoms including eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation, as well as shortness of breath. The sensor, for example, will be able to monitor smoke, which affected the region’s air quality in the spring and early summer when wildfires burned in Canada.

According to Karin Russ, JD, MS, RN, assistant professor at the School of Nursing, long-term effects of PM2.5 exposure include an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and adverse birth outcomes.

“This new campus weather station provides a unique opportunity to help improve the health and well-being of our campus community and neighboring communities. People can take extra precautions during poor air quality days, such as wearing a KN95 mask or staying indoors,” Russ said. “Over the long term, the air quality information collected on campus could help provide the data needed to bring more climate mitigation and adaptation projects to UMB.”

Once the weather station is functioning, the data collected will be available to view at any point in time via a link to the Weather Underground website that will be updated every 4.9 seconds. The Office of Sustainability hopes that members of the UMB and Greater Baltimore communities will find the data collected from the on-campus weather station helpful both personally for planning purposes as well as academically in support of localized environmental health research.

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Elizabeth Main

Elizabeth Main, MPA, is the director for the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability.

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