Portal Weather Station

Portal Weather Station







Our weather station is from Campbell Scientific and it is a very fancy beast. Admittedly, the windy, sandy, chewy-rodenty desert is not an ideal environment to be working with expensive and temperamental electronics. Especially at the end of a long weekend of rodent trapping, when you’re tired and dirty, the sun makes it difficult to see the screen, and it seems your laptop could melt at any moment. Countless RAs before you know your pain. Rest assured, there is documentation to help you with whatever you need to figure out or do. If you can’t find how to do something, just ask Glenda, or the previous RA. As always, if something isn’t clear enough or could use improvement, please feel free to update it or suggest modifications. And if you have any tips or tricks you discover along the way, please add them to help out future Weecologists!

Monthly RA tasks

The vast majority of the time, you will only be briefly connecting to the station to download data. Celebrate the accomplishment that is a simple month.

  • Do a quick ‘walk-around’ of the station and make sure everything is alright
    • nothing is knocked over
    • connections all look secure
    • charging regulator light is on
    • no cables are frayed or chewed
    • wind sensor is spinning freely
    • rain gauge isn’t clogged and is level
    • modem lights indicate power and a data connection
    • phenocam is sending pictures that are centered and focused
    • check the humidity meter in the datalogger enclosure
      • if it’s pink, replace the desiccant packs (in the “electronics bag” in the truck)
      • this shouldn’t happen often (every few years), if you replace them more frequently, check the enclosure for leaks
  • Download data from the 2016 station
    • Look at the current data before downloading to check it looks reasonable
  • Download data from the 2002 station
  • There is a manual rain gauge mounted near the station. It’s mostly a tradition at this point, but it is nice to get an in-person look at how much moisture the site got over the last month.
    • measure the mm of rain
    • dump it out and add new mineral oil
    • write the measurement on the rodent datasheet
    • enter it into the spreadsheet in Dropbox

Logistics - You Can Do It! :)

Glenda may ask you to do some more complicated maintenance, or you may discover something needs to be done when checking on the station.

  • If you have something complicated to do, don’t save it until the last day of your trip. The first thing you try may not work, and you’ll need some time for troubleshooting. It can be frustrating and difficult to focus if you need to leave soon to make a flight, or you’re tired and ready to be done for the month. It will be much more relaxing if you start the process earlier in the trip. And sometimes the solution will come to you if you just sleep on it!
  • Resources in the Portal area have fortunately improved in recent years. You may need to find wifi to look up directions, download drivers or software updates, etc. Or you may need to get supplies. It is likely you will be able to do some research or get what you need, and go back to the station to try it out. Trying one thing at a time over multiple trips is a long arduous process. It’s better to get it done in one trip.
  • Wifi is available at several locations:
  • Valley Mercantile is a harware store and has electrical equipment
  • We have a set of electronics screwdrivers, zip and velcro cable ties, a voltmeter, a combination wire tool, and of course a tool box in the truck. All the computer supplies you need for connecting to the equipment (connecting the Surface to the modem, downloading data, etc.) are in the ’electronics bag’ in the truck. If there is anything else you find useful, buy it with your P Card (or ask Glenda to buy it) and add it to the kit!

Guides and documentation

Read through the field guides and browse the manuals in the Portal Dropbox folder maze. It will feel less daunting if you’ve already studied up on what everything is and some basic procedures before something comes up.

  • Dropbox/Portal/FieldGuides/Weather_Station_Diagram.pptx - a diagram of how everything is connected and how you access it, locally and remotely. Password protected, ask Glenda to share the password with you.
  • Dropbox/Portal/FieldGuides/Weather_station_guide.docx - a guide to everything (also password protected), including:
    • a description of all the hardware
    • a description of all the software
    • an explanation of how the network is set up and how to use it
    • instructions for common tasks
    • how to troubleshoot
  • Dropbox/Portal/PORTAL_primary_data/Weather/Manuals - browse through these to see what each of the sensors look like. Some will be helpful in troubleshooting, in particular:
    • Modem-quick-deploy-guide.pdf
    • CellularModem.pdf
    • PhenoCam_Install_Instructions.pdf
    • Loggernet.pdf
  • When Glenda is at the site with you, have her give you an in-person tour of the weather station. Then, read through the guides again.



The phenocam is the only piece of equipment on the station not from Campbell Scientific. It takes a picture every day and uploads it to the Phenocam Network. Those data are publically available and published every few years. They generate cool time series like a stitched time series image or gcc. You can also access the live image remotely (instructions in field guide) where you can adjust the settings or focus.

2002 station

This station has been going since 2002 and is very basic. In the 20-teens it gave us a lot of difficulty and seemed like it was on its way out. Which is why we installed the newer fancier one in 2016 (the ‘2016 station’). But it hasn’t given up the ghost yet. As long as it lasts, we’ll keep downloading the data and adding it to the ‘Portal_weather_overlap’ file, so we have some adjustment between the old and new sensor measurements.