by Saurabh Chandra

We often wonder about how it sometimes rains in one part of Bangalore but not in another or how the temperature drops a few degrees once you cross the Hebbal flyover. Thus, we all intuitively talk about the microclimates that exist in the city but the weather data that we get to see online or on TV is from just a couple of weather stations that the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) runs in the city.

The Citizen Weather Network initiative aims for this simple never-done-before objective – capture real-time weather data from 25+ locations in the city and make it available for free over a web API. We believe it will give us fresh insights into our climate and allow us to trace microclimate changes over time.

We started out on this goal simply thinking that we should be able to buy some simple weather stations from abroad, convince fellow citizens to buy them and pool in the data online. However, this simple objective led us into a not-so-trivial chain of events. A subsequent post will detail the factors that we considered, and how in conclusion we ended up designing our own Automated Weather Station (AWS) in collaboration with a local startup.

The weather station will collect and publish real-time weather data onto a cloud server, where we can aggregate and do some useful analysis with it. Or we can simply expose it for someone to pull it and do something creative instead. We are almost ready to deploy the initial few units of the weather stations in Bangalore and will be publishing results of the field trial. Hopefully, the results will be encouraging enough for more volunteers to chip in and install this network of stations to create the data density we wish to achieve.

We also hope that this is a useful community project that will involve and promote citizen science. Weather is an amazing topic that brings together science, engineering, commerce together with the most mundane question – do I need an umbrella today or a most existential one – is it getting warmer by the day. A station at our home, apartment complex, institution or school will create a rare opportunity to associate around a community initiative centred around science.

We are excited and nervous. Whatever be the outcome, we will be wiser about our weather (amongst other things) in this endeavour. Stay tuned, and join us to form India’s first Citizen Weather Network in the city of Bangalore.

PS:
1. Frankly, even if IMD had more weather stations the data being recorded would have had the same fate as those in the existing stations around India – it would locked up in myriad formats and not be available through an API for citizens to use. The Karnataka Government has made a great effort in this front by setting up the Karnataka State Disaster Management Centre, which has deployed about a 100 weather stations in Bangalore. Unfortunately, the data produced from them is still not available for the public.

2. Pavan ran an interesting social experiment last April on trying to map rain in the city by crowdsourcing information.

Saurabh Chandra is a tech entrepreneur based in Bangalore and a weather enthusiast.