November 25, 2011

Weather Gifts

Today is Black Friday when many people are thinking about getting that perfect gift for friends, loved ones, and even for yourself!

Why hit the malls for a sweater or electronic luxury when you can get a weather-related present? 
A weather gift is great for that budding young meteorologist or to determine the weather at one's home or business.  To connect in an intimate way with the environment around you. I have gotten a lot of questions over the years about the best weather stations or weather instruments--and I will answer some of them here.  You don't have to spend a lot of money on weather gear to get a good start, and remember many of the founding fathers of our country (Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin) were weather enthusiasts and took their own observations for years!  To quote Benjamin Franklin:   

Some are weatherwise; some are otherwise.

My own career in meteorology began with a Lionel weather station my parents gave me as a nine-year old.

Books and Calendars

     It is always good to read up on the subject.  Now, of course I am biased and recommend my own book:  The Weather of the Pacific Northwest, available in local bookstores and online (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc).  This book was written for layman and has lots of color pictures and graphics and is reasonably priced ($20-30).

 You want a general introduction to weather?   A good book, although  pricy, is the textbook I used in Atmospheric Sciences 101:  Essentials of Meteorology by Donald  Ahrens. The new books are an absolute rip-off (like $140!) but you can get used books for $20-30. (Some day I will blog about the corrupt textbook publishing industry).  Get an old edition...essentially the same.
AMS Weather Books also has an accessible introduction to weather and only costs around $25.00:  The Ultimate Guide to America's Weather.
A weather calendar is also a nice gift, particularly one directed towards your area, with information about daily climatology and records.  Well, the Washington Weather Calendar is available for only $14 and has local weather records and average conditions for each, $1 of each calendar helps support the UW Student Chapter of the American Meteorological Society.

Cloud Charts

   Want to learn the clouds and get a nice poster at the same time?  Get a large cloud chart! Perhaps the best was created by UW's Art Rangno and is available at many outlets and online for only about $7.00! 

Inexpensive Weather Instruments

  Want to start observing the weather but your budget is limited?   Rain gauges are both fun,  useful, and relatively inexpensive.  You can pick up garden rain gauges for $10-15 at garden stores or Lowes/Home Depot, or you get a truly high-quality gauge for around $30.  A good one is used in the Cocorah national rain gauge network and can be order online at (see below)

Remote temperature sensors are also reasonably prices ($20-30) and can be purchased at local stores (Bartell, Fred Meyer) or online.
These units are relatively accurate and give you high and low temperatures.

Complete Weather Stations

For real enthusiasts who have more available funds, a complete weather station might be what you want.  Such units measure temperature, humidity, pressure, precipitation, and wind speed and direction--and for more money you can get even capabilities (e.g., solar radiation).   The quality of these units range from modest to professional quality and prices extend from just over one hundred dollars to a thousand dollars and more.  Many allow you to interface your weather statoin to a computer for display and archival, as well as putting your data on the web in real time.

Based on our experience at the UW interacting with many networks and installations, probably the best deal (quality and price combined) is for the Davis Vantage Pro systems. The Vantage Pro 2 costs about $500:
Cheaper unit, but not as good, are available online, Costco, and other outlets. A good list of them is available at:

Few activities are as enjoyable as understanding and observing the weather, and these gifts give you a good start at it.


  1. I agree the Davis VP2 is a good choice. My wireless unit has been running flawlessly since 2006. Check the prices at Amazon and Ambient. I have built two websites around it using the WeatherLink software.

    I also appreciate your weather blog. Thanks so much.

  2. Thanks for these recommendations. I have a nephew who has been a fan of the Weather Channel since he was a tot, and though his adolescent tastes now run to the most destructive weather systems imaginable, that love of science and meteorology is still there. And his younger sister is getting a book called "The Book of Clouds" by someone with the last name of Day--she saw it in a store and fell in love with the images.

  3. Cloud charts are available from the National Weather Service as a public service "freebie." They may have other itmes as well - just ask.

    The Davis VP2 is a wonderful weather station. My wireless unit has been up and running for a number of years. Like DaveOnFidalgo, my blog incorporates the data live using Virtual Weather Station software via Weather Underground.


  4. Your book, ''The Weather of the Pacific Northwest'', is great. I moved to the PNW from NYC (also lived in Buffalo and Denver) and found the weather here very odd and sometimes mysterious. I learned a huge amount from your book. Some of the details were particularly interesting, like the various ways air moves over the mountains & passes, causing curious patterns of temperature of snow in sometimes counter-intuitive ways.

    I great gift for anyone who wants to understand the PNW's weird weather.

  5. I appreciate the links to the weather websites, such as DaveOnFidalgo's and Bob's our in Lincoln County.

    Not only do I enjoy watching over your shoulder to see your local weather, but also the related links and picts and blog entries.

    It would be nice to see more.

    All of which is getting me interested in getting my own Davis WX station and setting it up here on top of Bell Hill in Sequim.

    Closest personal station is about two hundred feet below me on the east side of the hill and sheltered from the westerlies. Might be interesting to see how the top of the hill observations differ from those part way down the hill side.

    John Marshall

  6. The Book of Clouds is available on Amazon & is relatively inexpensive. It was written by Prof John Day, a long time Physics professor at Linfield College. He also had a cloud screen saver several years ago.

  7. We also have a Davis VP2 and love it! I bought it for my husband for his birthday 4 years ago. He's a private pilot, so not only is weather an important factor to whether or not we can take a quick "$100 hamburger" trip for lunch, he's also fascinated by weather, as am I. In fact, I probably look at and study the weather station more than he does! ;0) We've never gotten it hooked up to a website though, even though we are both computer geeks.

  8. Hi Cliff, Love your site, started a similar one but the topic is avalanches., let me know if you like it. Cheers Wayne

  9. I really want a nice weather station so I can be an official spotter - but isn't Cliff Mass the best "weather gift" we all get on the internet?? Thanks again Cliff!! :-)

  10. Blogger DaveOnFidalgo

    Nice weather link, thank u.....

  11. Cliff-- Reading your blog gave me the idea to get my 9 year old granddaughter a weather station kit for Christmas. What would you recommend?
    Happy holidays,

  12. A comment on arthritis and heavyness, I notice a different effect. My head feels compressed during periods of low pressure, I hear things louder and am easily agitated, when the pressure is high I feel unclogged and noises are fainter. We have a weather station and I carry a weather monitor. My husband and I noticed that I am sensitive to pressure differences. I tell him the pressure is changing again. I also get agitated with thunderstorms as well. I get shocked alot even in all cotton fabric softened clothes. If cold weather is on the way I do get sore joints. I can sense weather changes easily. Your article is enlightening. I do enjoy a good windstorm like the 90mph one a few years ago that took out 1/2 of washingtons power for days. I lived in eastern washington for awhile too so winds here are not like wind over there. The same goes for the humidity during the seasons. I do not like winters in west wa. until it snows. It is warmer in freezing temperature's with dryer humidity, than wet ones same temperature. I am also more congested over here due to the humidity and mold spores.


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