About Big Bend Weather...Our Site, Instruments, Data & History
Big Bend Weather (BBW) - A privately owned and operated, not-for-profit, environmental monitoring and weather data provider. Focusing on The Big Bend of SW Texas, we provide an unparalleled means for the display of weather data, information and severe weather warnings specific for our remote and isolated region. Be it predictions, official NWS warnings and Advisories, pin point forecasts or current conditions for many of our diverse locations, we strive to make this information accurate, timely and easy to access.
Instruments and Lab - Our
instruments are located in Brewster county at an elevation of 3510 ft.,
approximately 1 mile north of the Terlingua Ranch Airport-1E2. Big Bend
is known for its diversity, a natural expanse of tall rugged mountains,
vast desert terrain, river valleys with majestic canyons...and weather
is not to be excluded in this diversity. The location for our
instruments was chosen carefully, with the goal to provide not only
accurate current conditions, but also the means for the prediction and
detection of hazardous storm and weather conditions in the Big Bend
area, warning the local community about them in an accurate and timely
way and provide tools and apps for viewing and tracking via the
Internet.Community Area - BBW is also a interactive site, with customizable web apps, user forums and much more. Visit the Community area to see what we offer. No account is needed to view any of the public pages in the Community area. If you would like to try some of the interactive options though, you will need a free account (UserID/Password) to be able to post or upload content. Account holders, when logged in, can post messages and replies in the BBW Forums, upload photos to any of several albums, use the private messaging features, share or hide profile items to specific users or groups and so much more. Our forums can easily be searched and if you have a suggestion for a new forum, just let us know. We can also offer private forums for special groups. Messages and replies can include photos and text can be formatted using a "MS Office" style toolbar. For those that know HTML, you can click the "Source" tab and enter or modify the underlying code.
Quality of Service - BBW strives to provide data from our instruments in real time and as accurately as possible. We use professional class instruments from several manufacturers, all of which are calibrated routinely using reference instruments calibrated against a NIST traceable standard. As the data stream from our instruments is received in our lab, it is analyzed and processed by dedicated computers equipped with specialized hardware and software. Our weather data is then sent to our web server and currently, 5 other affiliates that use our data to assist in their forecasting and climate research. From the moment our sensors take measurements to the time is appears on our web site is typically 2 - 3 seconds for our text based displays and our storm tracking apps.
Siting - The data from best instruments in the world are almost worthless to the weather reporting community if the instruments are sited poorly. Proper siting is extremely important to maintain consistency of data from one location to another, especially if that data is shared with other weather organizations. There are no buildings, tanks, trees or shrubs, parking lots or vehicle traffic, etc. anywhere near our sensor arrays. Weather reporting is a science and with it comes the responsibility to do so in a scientific manner. We have, to the best of our ability, taken great care to site our instruments according to generally accepted guidelines of the professional meteorology community.
Data Age - The data stream from our instruments is received by a device called a data logger. The data logger stores the data internally and also makes it immediately available to a connected computer. The logger also has a battery backup and will store up to several weeks of data.A computer continuously polls the logger, writes the RAW data to HD, performs calculations on the data and using some proprietary algorithms, provides useful information for the reporting and forecasting of weather conditions. Both RAW data and formatted data is sent to our Internet Web Server where it is made available for viewing and for use with our web apps.
Servers and Uptime - Our infrastructure has gone through a total rebuild the past 12 months. We have made many changes with both our equipment and our website. Previously, (since 1997) we have operated our own web servers here at our facility and there were many benefits of doing so. However, we decided it was beneficial to use an off premises server housed at a dedicated Internet web hosting provider to provide the highest degree of reliability. The data from our instruments is uploaded continuously to our off-premises server, connected to 3 major Internet backbone providers, housed in a hardened facility and with greater than 99.9% uptime. We have also chosen a new foundation for our website, with emphasis on "Responsive Design" to make our site "mobile friendly". We are designing with many different devices and resolutions in mind, from cell phones to tablets, desktops and everything in-between. Many of the pages on BigBendWeather.com are now fully "Responsive" and will detect changes in screen size and aspect mode and will rearrange cells on the fly to fit the page to whatever device or browser is in use.
Our History - We have been providing online weather data for the South Texas area since 2003 and have shared our data through MesoWest and the National Weather Service via CWOP, Weatherunderground, Weather For You and Ham Weather. Since we first went online. we have had more than 10 million visitors to our web site.
In 2010, we decided to move our instruments and lab to the Big Bend area. We moved around for a couple of years while looking for a permanent home for our instruments and lab. In an area with such extremes, I was seeking what I call the Big Bend Weather "Goldilocks" zone - not too hot, not too cold, but just right. This Goldilocks weather zone was to be the ideal measurement area so as to benefit the community with accurate and reliable weather information and where I could continue my research in meteorology and the study of lightning. In 2013, we moved our instruments to our current location.
About me (Rick) - I have had a passion for the study of weather all my life. At a very young age, I had a Gilbert Weather Station (actually, it was my brother's) and was fascinated with all its different instruments, some of which were near "professional grade" such as a huge, 30+ inch tall mercury barometer. I would religiously take readings several times a day and record it on hand drawn graph paper. For decades, I dreamed of having a real weather station that would electronically display the measurements, but this was the early 60's and that technology was simply not available yet (or would be far too expensive for a hobby), except for the professional community such as the NWS. In 1983, with personal computers being affordable, my interest in data recording took a new path. I saw a need for remote data acquisition in the oil producing industry, specifically with oilfield tanks at well sites. I designed a solar powered compact computer system that recorded fluid levels using ultrasonic transducers and also temperature measurements in the tanks along with ambient temperature measurements. The system would be connected via modem to a telephone line for both automatic outgoing and incoming connections. The system provided both security and asset management and would monitor and alert the producer in the event of an oil spill.
I learned how easy it was to measure temperature using an inexpensive transistor and store the measurements electronically with a computer board. Over the next few years, I tinkered with various electronic measurements of temperature in photo processing systems along with electronic hardware and software to utilize the data. In 1997, I started displaying weather data on my website (although not a dedicated weather site at that time). In 2003 after saving quite a few pesos, I purchased a professional grade weather station and obtained a new Internet domain name for a dedicated weather site. The following year, I added a lightning detector to my array of weather measuring tools. The site grew and along the way, I added more features and concentrated on delivering accurate, real time weather data on my site.
I may fill in some blanks down the line, but for now, I need to spend some time adding more features and tools to the site. Weather is ever changing and you never really know what it is going to do and that is part of the fascination many have for it, myself included. I hope you enjoy the site and hope it offers some value for everyone. If you have a comment, suggestion, a question or a request, I'd love to hear from you.