Glencoe: Groundhog Day

As of Monday afternoon all the Glencoe webcams were back up and running, including the Summit Cam at the top of the Main Basin.  At this point I must say a big thank you to Nigel and the team at the Glencoe Hotel, who’s hospitality and support has been a great help to quickly restoring the webcam service once the physical damage on the hill had been fixed.

After spending much of last Thursday and Friday marching up and down under the Access Chair, searching for cable joints, then for complete pairs and joining the parts of the cable jigsaw together, as dusk began to fall on Friday afternoon the ADSL modem at the top of the Access Chair synced up!!

Colourful Dusk Sky on Fri 13th Jan

Colourful Dusk Sky on Fri 13th Jan

With that (and some server side stuff) the majority of the Glencoe webcam views came back online for the first time since Hurricane Bawbag turned 200 odd individual wires into a cable soup at the foot of the Access Chair – the wind at the Car Park having attained 106mph before the power failed – for more than a week!

The unrelenting sequence of storms since Hurricane Bawbag has caused further damage to buildings on the hill, the  concrete  hut at the top of the Main Basin T-bar losing 2 walls! With the repairs  completed early last week, the Summit webcam equipment could be returned to the hut and a new shelf put in for the kit. The computer apparently having survived being found buried in and being full of snow in the badly storm damaged hut, fired up, the vodafone dongle connected to the GPRS service and webcam images flowed from the Summit once more.

Old Summit Anemometer

Old Summit Anemometer

A new Peet Bros Ultimeter Automatic Weather Station (AWS) was also installed on Monday, to replace the previous technoline WS2300 which was torn to shreds in a storm last year. It’s worth noting the same model of weather station has recorded windspeeds over 100mph on several occasions without damage at the Carpark and SSC Hut – an idea of the windspeed required to do that!

By end of play on Monday all webcams were up and running, along with the new Summit AWS. All that remained to do was tidy a few bits up and put up the replacement anemometer mast at the SSC Hut. Then attention could turn to restoring the WiFi bridge from the Access Chair to the SSC hut, which would enable much more frequent webcam updates than the vodafone GPRS connection.

New Peet Bros Anemometer

New Peet Bros Anemometer in action on Tuesday afternoon. Rated to 160mph....

Alas, in the early hours of Tuesday morning the Summit Webcam Computer’s previous misadventures with a snowdrift caught up with it and it suffered a hardware failure.

So after realising that the computer would not work reliably if it booted at all, it was time to bring up a replacement, which was no small portable computing device, but rather a huge hulk of a tower desktop. Over the Plateau on a Quad Bike, up the Cliffhanger Chair, lugged it over to the foot of the Main Basin, then it was Ski Patrol to the rescue.

PC First Aid... Lashing a large desktop to a Ski Patrol Sled

PC First Aid... Lashing a large desktop to a Ski Patrol Sled.

Thus Tuesday was spent much like Monday, moving hardware to the top of the mountain, setting it up with the camera, downloading the backup scripts for the camera and AWS from the Winterhighland Server, configuring them and then getting it online. That proved to be another headache, the Vodafone dongle refused to work. So out came my own Three dongle, what do you know, HSDPA and a faster internet connection than I get at home on ADSL at the top of Meall a’ Bhuiridh!

So at the close of play on Tuesday, like on Monday, I left the top of the hill with Ski Patrol having just restored the Summit Cam and AWS to service. It was starting to feel a little like groundhog day.

Then while watching the rising wind at the Summit from the Glencoe Hotel on my laptop, this happened:

Anemometer Uh Oh!

Anemometer Uh Oh!

A gust just shy of 90mph is followed by a consistent wind speed reading of zero and exact direction of due South. That sort of wind graph gives a feeling of (probably costly) dread. Tomorrow wind permitting, we’ll find out what befell the anemometer and whether it or any part of it is still at the top of the mountain. I just hope after all the Glencoe team have had to deal with from the storms this season that we don’t find the building upside down on the T-bar off ramp!

Tomorrow could well feel a bit more like groundhog day…..

Building a Stevenson Screen

Several of the mountain weather stations Winterhighland already have in place where completely calm days are rare and very high winds can occur have screens built from up-turned plastic saucers and long M6 bolts with locking nuts to space them.

While not as effective as a true double louvred Stevenson Screen, with nearly constant air-flow through the structure in exposed locations they give decent results without spending a fortune and with structures that are resilient to the adverse mountain conditions.

Here are some photos of a new wooden framed screen being built for use in a less exposed location, a few of these will be getting assembled in the next few weeks before winter arrives. The frame is built out of 45mm square soft wood, treated with primer and undercoat and two layers of gloss.

The slats are provided by white plastic 9inch by 9inch louvred vent covers. On 3 sides these are screwed on, but on one side, 4 short bolts through the timber frame are held in place by slightly counter sunk locking nuts. This allows one 9inch vent cover with four holes drilled in it for the bolts to easily detached and re-attached for access to the AWS sensors when required, it is held in place by 4 butterfly nuts.

I’ll post up some more photos of the construction stages before this when the next one is getting built.

Sheiling AWS Anemometer Replacement

Sheiling AWS down to remove sticking wind vane.

Sheiling AWS down to remove sticking wind vane.

Recently the Sheiling Tow AWS had been reporting an unusually high frequency of suspected anemometer icing when the SSC Hut and Loch Morlich weather stations were not. An inspection of the weather station on my last visit to the mountain showed that the anemometer cups were no longer spinning freely and was sometimes snagging the wind vane housing – giving the anemometer an abnormally high resistance to be overcome before the cups would spin, greatly increasing the threshold wind at which an actual wind speed would be reported.

Two wind vanes sitting in the snow

Two wind vanes sitting in the snow

The anemometer was swapped out on Saturday (13th March) and replaced by a brand new one. This is not permanently installed until it’s determined if the old one is fixable, reason being not wanting to cut the long wind vane cable to the length needed for this installation unnecessarily as it could render the vane useless for other sites.

Unfortunately the long cable being bundled up is picking up electrical interference, which has been giving some nonsense wind speed readings  on Saturday evening. If gust speed or current wind speed is reported far in excess of other recent speeds or those from other AWS’s on the mountain, it is likely to be false. Will try and fix the Sheilings own anemometer and if this is not possible will shorten the cable and permanently install the new one.

Sheiling AWS back in place as skiers head for home on the Carpark Run late Saturday afternoon.

Sheiling AWS back in place as skiers head for home on the Carpark Run late Saturday afternoon.

CairnGorm Webcams & AWS

Unfortunately there is a data link issue with the Winterhighland SSC Hut webcams and both the Sheiling and SSC Hut weather stations. The GPRS router dropped out after earlier connection issues that are likely to have been down to the sheer level of usage of the mobile network in the area today.

This has happened before during very busy periods in Aviemore and on the mountain, there is only a finite amount of capacity on the Meall a’ Bhuachaille mast and voice calls and sms services take priority over data if the need arises. The system auto reboots overnight and will hopefully come back up on it’s own, should the problem persist a site visit will be undertaken on Saturday (oh the pain I hear you say) to attempt a manual restart of the camera system.

Loch Morlich AWS & Cam

Brrr, canoeists brave a chilly autumn morning on Loch Morlich.

Brrr, canoeists brave a chilly autumn morning on Loch Morlich.

A chilly, damp and misty Wednesday morning was spent reinstalling the Automatic Weather Station at Loch Morlich Water Sports which was off-line due to renovations on the outside of the Boathouse during late October. The anemometer and rain gauge have been mounted above the roof-line to improve exposure.

The temperature sensor is currently un-screened and will read several degrees too high mid-morning in sunny weather , this will be rectified asap (awaiting parts for the radiation screen).

Where? The visibility worsened while installing the webcam!

Where? The visibility worsened while installing the webcam!

This will be the first full winter for this AWS being on-line and it will be fascinating to see how night time temperatures differ from both the mountain and Aviemore in the sheltered location of Glenmore which is surrounded by higher ground on all sides with only a couple of relatively narrow openings – helping to pool cold air.

Also installed was the new Loch Morlich Web Cam which provides a view of CairnGorm Mountain from the Boathouse. Looking over the Beach and Eastern end of the Loch this cam gives a wide view over the Windy Ridge, Coire Cas, Coire an t-Sneachda and Coire an Lochain.

This webcam is infra red sensitive which means it is able to pick up the very first hint of light as dawn approaches and as such will start updating 1 hour before sunrise so will prove useful in the depths of winter when the days are shortest for getting an earlier sneak preview of what the weather’s doing / done overnight. The camera can’t ‘see’ in the dark, thus does need a bit of light, so on particularly gloomy overcast mornings it may take a little bit longer for scenery to become visible.

Loch Morlich AWS and Webcam.

Loch Morlich AWS and Webcam.

Our Loch Morlich webcam updates every minute, so will be great for storm watching as the clouds and hopefully snow roll in over the mountains.

There is one unintended consequence of the cam’s IR sensitivity, in certain lighting conditions the Scots Pines appear purple!

The webcam and current weather can be viewed on the Loch Morlich Cam page at www.winterhighland.info/cams/cairngorm-mountain/morlich.php . As well as current weather, 5 minute reports for the last hour & hourly for the past 24 hours are provided in tabular format along with graphs showing air temperature and the 5 minute mean and gust wind speed over the past 48 hours.

Live Cam Image:

Live view from Loch Morlich (Daylight hours)

A nip in the air greet’s new Sheiling Weather Station

After a very mild week for mid October with temps into the mid-teens even on the mountain, a change of wind direction to the North  overnight meant a decidedly chillier feel to the air today, even when in fact the temperature was around 5c -hardly Baltic by ‘Gorm standards!

Use the Force Alan...

Use the Force Alan... Installing an external 2.4Ghz antenna for the SSC Hut router.

So today’s instalment of pre season training differed from the usual coffee and cakes in the Ptarmigan in favour of the somewhat more strenuous task of lugging 2 sizeable rucksacks and one holdall of equipment, computer stuff, weather station, tools, drill, 2.4m of stud timber and a 7ft mast to the Sheiling Trainer Tow, oh and a foot long phallic symbol dressed up as an omni-direction 2.4ghz antenna for the WiFi router in the SSC Hut!

Today’s work was part of the effort building from the Cherished Uplift Fund to improve the understanding of climate/weather conditions on the ‘Gorm to help provide a base level to study potential routes for optimising snowsports provision under different climate scenarios. The first stage is to get more real-time weather data from different elevations on the mountain and the Sheiling Tow is the first of 2, possibly 3 new Automatic Weather Stations that it is planned to install for the coming season.

The second new station is a high end Peet Bros Ultimeter 2100 destined for the M1 Timing Hut at 2800ft, just below the cut off via Horizon Road to the 105 from the M1 RaceTrack. Work is currently in-hand to restore power to the timing hut, an effort which will not just allow the new weather station but greatly increase the flexibility for race operations on the M1 again (an effort to which £250 has been contributed to the cost of re-installing power from the Cherished Uplift Fund).

It is hoped to provide a third new station at the Camera Obscura, this will be at exactly the same elevation and a very short distance from the manual Met Office recording station, which will provide a check against the automatic stations. Also as the manual record goes back to the 70s at this elevation, after 2-3 years of data collection on the AWS with numerous readings an hour stored, it will be possible to analysis how this data relates to the manual station, and go back and reanalysis the manual data.

Sheiling Tow AWS installed

Sheiling Tow AWS installed

Combined with the existing SSC Hut aws at 2500ft and the Loch Morlich AWS at 1050ft, this will give a record of weather at 1050ft, 2150ft, 2300ft, 2500ft and 2800ft. The short vertical spacing on the lower half of the ski area will provide valuable information on the elevation and behaviour of temperature inversions on the mountain – a phenomenon that could have significant impact (positive and negative at times) on the potential for snow making in settled conditions in which wind would not be an issue.

There is a suspected firmware issue with the SSC router preventing functional WiFi – a further visit over the weekend to attempt to flash the router and reinstall the firmware is planned, plus to finish up a few odds and ends that need completed. All being well live real time data should be available in a few days.

A huge thank you to Alan Brattey (Olderalan) and Maryln for assistance today, plus Jim Cornfoot at CML.

SSC webcams back to winter view

A late evening post from the Scottish Ski Club Hut on CairnGorm Mountain where the Winterhighland webcams have been repositioned to their Winter position, offering views up the White Lady and over the Funicular to the M1 Poma, plus the hut cam looking over the balcony which is fantastic in winter for gauging new snow falls.

Several parts of the weather station have been upgraded, this has allowed the sensors to be hard wired to the AWS console, instead of relying on a radio signal. The principle advantage of this is that the AWS records wind speeds much more frequently and the reception of data is less prone to radio intereference.

The SSC hut is relatively sheltered by the ‘Gorms standards, and the positioning of the anemometer is not a good indication of wind speeds on the mountain as a whole. However the location was chosen to get an indication of how wind affects the hollow at the foot of the White Lady and in future this will help assess how much less exposed this small part of the mountain is, how that affects snow lie and reliability of the lower White Lady and help in assessing the potential snow making may have to restore the reliability of the lower 1/4r of the White Lady which circumstantially seems to have suffered severely from the Funicular.

It is planned to install two more Automatic Weather Stations to further increase climate data from CairnGorm, one will be mid altitude on the lower slopes and the second mid-way up the middle slopes. These will give truer wind speeds for the middle and lower slopes respectively and provide more useful info for assessing conditions.

Finally for now, a third camera is operating in the SSC Hut, giving a view across the Fiacaill area of Coire Cas.  Last year the cameras went back live for winter on 1st October after the power was switched off to the Ski Club hut during the early autumn for major repairs to the home road and culverts around the Kassbohrer garage – a couple of days later there was snow to be seen. Hopefully the first dusting will appear on the cams before long.

It’s dark, time to head off the hill. :)

New AWS at Loch Morlich

This afternoon myself and Keith from Loch Morlich Water Sports installed a new Automatic Weather Station at Loch Morlich at an altitude of 1050ft (or 320m for those who try to make the hills look smaller than they are).

Coupled with Winterhighland’s other the AWS at the SSC Hut at 2500ft up on the ‘Gorm along with CML’s AWS on the Funicular Tunnel Mouth at 3400ft and the Met Office and Herriot Watt Unis Summit AWS there is now  (and  possibly uniquely in the UK) a good  vertical spread in live weather reporting stations on CairnGorm Mountain from the Glen to the Summit.

Take together these should provide a great resouce for monitoring how conditions are changing and provide a useful tool for helping plan weather dependent activities year round.

It is also hoped that they will taken together with longer standing manual records allow for a better understanding of the climate on CairnGorm Mountain and how the weather varies spatially and altitudinally on the mountain, helping with planning for the future of snowsports on the ‘Gorm.

For any one interested in some of the technical details, the Weather Station at Loch Morlich is a Technoline WS2300 with data handling and upload undertaken by a PII running Xubuntu linux with the Open2300 open source command line applications.

The AWS at the SSC Hut on CairnGorm Mountain is a WS3600 with propeller anemometer using the Open3600 software suite.

SSC & L. Morlich AWS www.winterhighland.info/cairngorm .

The Funicular Tunnel AWS  www.cairngormmountain.co.uk .

Herriot Watt Summit AWS www.phy.hw.ac.uk/resrev/weather.htm .

Please visit Loch Morlich Water Sports , once again many thanks for your help in making it possible to get live weather data from Glenmore.