James Bay Weather Station
By Robert Hawkes
For more than a decade James Bay has had its very own weather station. High on a pole at the back of James Bay Community School, an automated weather station tracks our local weather. Online anyone can access the current weather conditions or browse averages from the last week, the last month or from year to year.
The James Bay Community School weather station is part of the Vancouver Island School-Based Weather Station Network of 156 automated weather stations covering Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and a few mainland locations. The James Bay Community School weather station has been operating since 2005, with the first stations in the network established a few years before that.
Anyone can access the network online at http://www.islandweather.ca/. Select the station (called James Bay Elementary School) from the menu. Current information displayed includes temperature, humidity, pressure, the UV index, rainfall, energy received from the sun, as well as the wind speed and direction. For temperature it provides both the current value and the low and high recorded in the preceding 24 hours. The weather information is updated every minute all day and night. A separate online table provides a comparison between the current day and the highest and lowest values recorded at that station.
A really nice feature is the ability to review information from the past year or more. For example, we show the plot of average monthly temperature for the James Bay station. The small rectangular box represents the average temperature along with its statistical uncertainty, while the lines above and below indicate the typical minimum and maximum temperatures for that month (not the maximum any date that month, but the average of the maximums for each day in the month). Our warmest month is usually August, although July is only slightly cooler. During August 2017 the mean daily maximum was 20.7 degrees Celsius while the mean daily minimum temperature that month was 12.6 degrees Celsius.
Because the James Bay station has been operating for more than a decade, it is interesting to look at changes from year to year. In this plot we show the average, minimum and maximum temperatures for the month of February on a year by year basis. You can see that February was indeed a bit cooler than average the last two years. The average temperature for the month was only 4.8 degrees Celsius in 2018.
One advantage of a network of weather stations is to compare weather across the region. When I was finishing this article I looked at how the early morning temperature varied with location. The website displays this in a contour plot with different temperatures represented by different colours. You can see that Sooke and Victoria are generally warmer at this time of day and year, while high up on the Malahat is significantly cooler.
It is no surprise to James Bay residents that we get most of our rain in the winter months. This graph shows the amount of rain per month in calendar year 2017, and December was very rainy with 107 mm total in James Bay during the month. In 2017 January and February were relatively light in rain, although that has not repeated in 2018. For example, January of 2018 had 129 mm of rain in James Bay, compared to only 23 mm of rain in January of 2017.
The Vancouver Island School-Based Weather Station Network was started by Ed Wiebe and Andrew Weaver from the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria, along with a group of graduate and undergraduate students. In a publication written in 2006 they say "Our ultimate goal was to engage and inspire children and young adults in science."
While the main weather unit is taught in grade four, there are aspects of weather in the curriculum at many grade levels. For example, grade one students study daily and seasonal changes, while older students study extreme environments. When children interact with their own school weather information, learning science and math becomes even more interesting and relevant. At all grade levels students use the information to enhance learning in math and sciences - such as in the upper grades learning about statistical measures and plotting.
At James Bay Community School the display unit for their weather station is located on a wall in the school library. The display shows a live readout of most measures from their weather station, including the temperature, wind and how the pressure is changing, an important indicator of upcoming weather changes.
The network, a partnership between different school districts and the university, has received grants and support from government branches, organizations and businesses over the years. The real time data from the network is used by CTV in their weather reports, while the climate and weather data assist individuals, organizations, and businesses in weather dependent decisions. A free app to access the weather data is available for both iPhone/iPad and Android devices, although I personally preferred using the web interface. Learn more about the network at http://www.islandweather.ca/, or follow them on Twitter @vanisleweather.
Indeed we are fortunate to have such a wonderful resource right here in our community. It is impressive that such a widespread network has been continuously operating for well over a decade. Why not explore the weather information at the site for yourself?