There’s a new resource at UNCG, and Director of Emergency Management Zach Smith can explain how it benefits the entire campus and campus community.
“I wanted to have a tool to put weather information at people’s fingertips,” he says.
It’s called WeatherSTEM – a sophisticated meteorology tool – and it’s watching UNCG’s weather 24 hours a day, through a unit that’s perched atop the UNCG Police Station and a camera mounted on the Jackson Library tower.
WeatherSTEM allows Smith, and anyone who checks out the website, to know the weather on campus, in detail. It helps alert the campus community to weather events and the prescribed course of action. As UNCG’s director of emergency management, Smith advises organizers of planned activities on campus about weather conditions, and he also makes preparation decisions for snow days and other weather concerns that may affect campus operations.
“Ultimately, I want to make an informed decision based on real-time data,” he explains.
The solar-powered WeatherSTEM unit provides up-to-the-minute information, reporting wind speed, humidity, rainfall, ozone, heat index, cloud coverage and many other elements. It even has a sensor in the ground to report soil moisture and ground temperature, which lets the UNCG Office of Emergency Management and UNCG Facilities Operations know how to prepare for adverse winter conditions, like snow and ice. It reports historical records – and even moon phases and the distance of the planets.
One of the tool’s most helpful features is the Nearby Lightning reader, which could help determine whether or not an event needs to be moved indoors for safety.
One of the most popular features so far is the Cloud Camera, which updates the report page every minute. It also takes pictures throughout the day, including at sunrise and sunset, and creates time lapse videos of each day.
Before the installation of UNCG’s WeatherSTEM, the closest weather station was at the Piedmont Triad International Airport. But often coastal weather hits UNCG before it gets to the airport, Smith explains. From an emergency management standpoint, it wasn’t easy to predict the campus weather up to the minute.
“I like this because it’s specific information for the university,” he says.
UNCG is now one of six schools in the UNC system with a WeatherSTEM unit, alongside UNC Chapel Hill, NC State, Winston-Salem State, East Carolina and Appalachian State.
While WeatherStem will serve UNCG’s campus most in reporting weather conditions on campus, there are other benefits. Registered users can search through the data for meteorology research, and local news stations can make use of the camera’s images and video. Originally, the WeatherSTEM was created as a resource to provide live data to enhance K-12 STEM curriculum, and there is a strong educational component to the company’s activities.
UNCG’s WeatherSTEM has automatically updated Twitter and Facebook pages. Anyone can become a registered user of WeatherSTEM in order to use all its features and to receive updates on their devices about weather conditions.
Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications