Weather data from schools across Fingal is being made available on NASA’s GLOBE project online since December.
Since 2021, schools across Fingal have been receiving automatic weather stations as part of an effort by Fingal County Council to produce more detailed rainfall, wind speed, wind direction and temperature records for the county. The information collected from the weather stations is visible on Met Éireann’s Weather Observations Website, WOW-IE, providing essential real-time weather data to the public and to Met Éireann, the OPW and Fingal County Council’s flood section.
The project began in 2021 with Fingal County Council issuing 100 rainfall gauges to primary schools and further advanced with 27 automatic weather stations installed across Fingal throughout 2022.
Led by Executive Engineer Kevin Vallely, the project was funded by Fingal County Council’s Chief Executive’s Innovation Fund. The Fund covered the €5,000 start-up cost for rain gauges and provided support to get the innovative idea off the ground.
Partnerships are key to the expansion of the project. The Office of Public Works supports weather stations for primary schools in Rush, Donabate and Portrane, while Our Balbriggan sponsors primary schools in Balbriggan. Dublin City Council, in partnership with Fingal County Council, will be sponsoring the St. Margaret’s/Coolquay area.
Sarah Gallagher, Head of Observations at Met Éireann, said: “Met Éireann are very supportive of the Weather Stations for Schools project. Schools can easily enter rainfall measurement and other weather information collected from their weather stations onto Met Éireann’s Weather Observations Website, WOW-IE. This is a global network of weather observations where the public can view and share their measurements. Not only are weather observations critical in helping meteorologists produce accurate weather forecasts, they provide an historic record of weather conditions that Met Éireann climate scientists use to monitor changes in the climate of Ireland.”
One immediate benefit of the new data on wind speed which has been collected from along Fingal’s coastline is that it shows the impacts of climate change. Previously, coastal erosion models relied on wind speed data collected at Dublin Airport. However, with the airport further inland, the provision of weather stations across Fingal’s coast provided more detailed information and showed higher wind speeds than previously modelled for the areas concerned. For instance, in Rush Sailing Club, wind speeds of 84 km/hr were recorded.
In a similar vein, with rainfall gauges now recording across the County, this provides the Council’s Flood section with a key source of information for proactive measures on flooding. Oliver Nicholson, Head of Hydrology at The Office of Public Works indicated that “measurements are used for monitoring climate change, design of flood relief measures, weather forecasting, drought monitoring and flood forecasting”.
With the new data giving a more accurate understanding of river responses to different rainfall depths, the Council’s Flood section can now make more accurate flood predictions and deploy flood protection measures from a new evidence base, allowing for quicker decisions on where and when to deploy measures.
The weather stations also provide a key education resource for Fingal’s schools. Recently, Kevin Vallely has run workshops in schools around the County to show children what the weather station collects, what the data recording means, and how the Council and the Meteorological Service can use this information. Since September 2022, over 1,000 children have attended these workshops.
The community has also availed of the weather stations. Using the local stations and their real-time rainfall data, coaches and referees can see the status and saturation from stations near local sports clubs and make decisions on cancelling matches a day ahead of fixtures.
The GLOBE program, via the EPA and An Taisce contacted Fingal County Council in early 2022 about the Weather Station for Schools Project. Aileen Bright, GLOBE Ireland Programme Manager, was eager to have a live school from Ireland on the GLOBE program website. This program is sponsored by An Taisce in Ireland and NASA in the USA.
Rush and Lusk ETNS is the first Fingal school to have real-time weather data on GLOBE and went online on 24 December 2022. Other Fingal schools will join throughout Q1 2023 and this data will be available at https://www.globe.gov/web/rush-and-lusk-educate-together-ns.
Director of Services for Environment, Climate Action and Active Travel, David Storey said: “Being able to link up the GLOBE project from NASA and contribute our local weather data to information from worldwide sources is a development we are very proud of. This means we are meaningfully contributing to climate change data collection and this information is key to designing local and global responses to flood and drought risks.”