Scanning Weather Observation Platform
HITS TO THIS PAGE SINCE AUG. 04, 1996.
This is just a basic overview of an idea for an ATV scanning weather platform that popped into my head just a few weeks ago (during one of my half-asleep "dazed-dream" modes that I often settle into just before falling into "snore" mode) when the late afternoon thunderstorms began to appear on a fairly regular basis. I'd been monitoring The Weather Channel during the time when they were apparently going `storm-chaser-happy' - showing videos taken by various storm chasers every day of the severe storm events the chasers had been bumping into across the country (mostly the Plains States in Tornado Alley). I thought, `WHY in the world are those people out there risking their lives chasing things that often can kill them?!' If they want to catch a video of something, why doesn't the Natl. Weather Service (or some other like government organization) just set aside a budget and set up multiple scanning weather observation cameras in lots of `weather busy' locations? Then they wouldn't have to chase, they'd just have to flip a switch and look at the video of that area. Of course, I realize that this wouldn't actually stop the dare-devils from driving up to the storms anyway; but I'm sure it could help the science of weather in its own way still, as well as quite probably help to save lives in the event of an actual severe weather problem that could occur in our own localized area.
Actually, I was thinking of using this idea mostly in terms of the local area (Gainesville and Alachua County and possibly the surrounding areas depending upon what the actual range of the camera turns out to be) where we could then have our own severe weather storms monitoring system using a camera (or cameras) mounted upon a slewable alt/azimuth drive platform (or platforms).
This is not a new idea, of course. WJXT Channel 4 in Jacksonville has their own Sky Tower, as does WESH Channel 2 in Orlando [e-mail]. (And there's a rumor going around that WCJB-TV Ch. 20 [e-mail] here in Gainesville will soon be putting up one of their own cameras on a local tower. I'm sure there are by now countless other TV News stations with the same setup. BUT, they are pretty much used primarily for traffic situation monitoring (WJXT's platform is a variant in that it also takes pictures of the sky every few seconds in order to get a fast-motion quick movie of the day's weather action over the city). I am NOT aware of very many like AMATEUR RADIO operations going on at this time. Perhaps we Gainesville area hams should take advantage of that and take the initiative in that arena? But if anyone knows of similar amateur radio-related projects and or likes this idea, please let me know at my e-mail address at the end of this document. [See Correspondence Section below for e-mail correspondence regarding this project idea.]
Though I am an amateur radio operator, I must admit I am NOT the technical wizard most people equate to being a "ham." When I tried for my first license, I may have learned the Morse Code in less than three WEEKS (and then I was already up to 15 wpm); but it took me what seemed like *forever* -- a few MONTHS -- to get the theory part of the test down. And then, it took me a number of tries to obtain my General. Quite the opposite of most of the other hams that I know. (Mathematics just isn't my bag, and it gives me migrains, unfortunately.) Thus, you will find neither technical schematics nor any design blueprints for this project here. What you will find here is a simple verbal description of an IDEA -- one with which hopefully someone else -- who has both the technical skill, the will, and the drive to get such a project going -- can see it through from here. I must admit that seeing it indeed take off from just an idea and turn into a reality would make me proud.
I haven't actually thought of a permanent name yet for the platform - though I guess the one in the title of this document is probably the most descriptively accurate one. Its basic purpose would, I guess, be to allow scanning of the horizon back and forth for cloud formations, allowing anyone to observe these cloud formations from the safety and cover of the home or some building, and allow the observer to determine if/when/where the possibility for dangerous severe weather effects could occur. In the event of an actual severe weather event, in some cases, the camera MAY be able to be used to track severe weather events like tornados that have touched down in the area, among other possibilities.
The latter two ideas present a problem. I'm not a mathemetician, but, it would seem to me that in order to determine a cloud's height, we have to first know its distance. So, we'd have to first calibrate the distance tick marks to indicate the correct distance along the ground. But how do you find the distance of a cloud using a TV camera, and where the cloud base does not touch the ground the ticks were calibrated for? I think its not as difficult as it first appears. It seems to me that all one would have to do is to find the center of a cloud mass and draw a line through it down to the cloud base. Then, draw another line from the center of the cloud base to the center of the screen at the horizon? Then you draw another line back IN the exact same distance and at the exact opposite angle that was made by the line from the cloud to the horizon - but along the ground, and this will be the position of that cloud relative to the ground. (Somebody help me here.) This could be done with the eye and so we shouldn't have to spend any additional money on expensive, fancy programming. Now find the distance to that point on the ground using the above-mentioned distance scale.
If I'm correct...my mouth is gaping in surprise. Though, because I was never good with math I do seem to have apparently developed this adaptive compensatory ability -- which often amazes me -- and for which I haven't yet come upon the appropriate descriptive word for, much less understood. That might explain it. (I'm often able to `see' how things work -- when I can't for the life of me begin to try to describe their workings to anyone.)
If I'm wrong, please send me email and correct me so that I can quickly delete this scientifically illiterate mumbling and save myself some face. 8-)
Some possible uses
Obviously, there are many, many more applications in there - some of which you probably have right now in the back of your own mind. That's good. Keep going with it. Maybe you'll be the one to get the project started...the one who takes it out of the dream stage and makes it turn into a reality. I'd like to ask one favor of you if you do make it a reality...let me know so I can follow its progress.
Color ATV Scanning Weather Observation Platform (SWOP)
Todd L. Sherman/KB4MHH
Gainesville, Alachua Co., Fla.
Page Created: June 18, 1996.
Last Updated: November 20, 1999.
© Copyright 1996-1999 by Todd L. Sherman. All Rights Reserved.
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