Friday, July 20, 2012

Take Your Weather Station Mobile:  Android Update

In February, 2011, I posted instructions for creating a mobile app to display data from your personal weather station.  At the time, I was working with an iPod Touch so the instructions applied only to iOS devices.  Basically, the app will post the data you upload to your Weather Underground account.  They provide two URL's for accomplishing this: for iOS devices (e.g. iPhones) for other mobile devices

At the time, I wasn't sure how the second URL would work as I only had an iOS device.  Now, I have a Nexus 7 tablet so I can update the instructions for the Android OS.

At left is a screenshot of my Nexus 7 home screen.  The icon for my weather station app is in the red circle.  Screenshots are easy with the Nexus 7.  Simultaneously press the power and lower volume buttons.   It will go "plink" and put the image where you specify.

Since this was an Android device, I tried the URL first.  While it worked fine, the data from somebody else's station was displayed.  I could not find a way to change to my own station with this version.

On a hunch, I tried next.  Even though this is an Android device, the iOS version seems to work fine.  It also provides the option for choosing your own station when there are several available.

Here are the steps for setting up your personal weather station app:

1.)  Open your mobile device browser (it's Chrome on the Nexus 7) and navigate to

2.)  In the search box, type the zip code or city name corresponding to your WU weather station account.

3.)  Scroll down to the button "View Station's History."  The slider under it should be on "Yes."

4.)  If it's not already showing, choose your station from the dropdown.

5.)  When you have verified that the correct station is displayed, save the website as a favorite.  Touch the star in the address line if you are using Chrome and add it to your Mobile Bookmarks.

6.)  Open your bookmarks and you will see the WU icon.  Touch and hold on the icon to open a menu.  At this point, you can rename it ("Edit bookmark") if you wish.  Touch "Add to home screen" and you are finished.

When you return to your home screen, you will see the icon as in my example above.

If you have a website associated with your account that is posted at Weather Underground, touch the button "View Station's History."  Scroll down to the section "About."  You will see a button with a link to your site.

The Weather Underground station app includes a radar image, detailed forecast and warnings for for your area. This makes a very nice and sophisticated weather app associated with your station.

I have really enjoyed getting acquainted with the Nexus 7 tablet.  It's a wonderful device that puts the iPod to shame.  I am also pleased to be able to update the original weather station app post to include Android devices.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fog and Thunder

8:51 AM, Temp 54.3° F, Dew Pt 53.7° F, Barometer 29.96 in, Wind Calm, Humidity 98%

South Fidalgo woke to fog this morning and to make it more interesting, it was accompanied by thunder.  I don't recall experiencing fog and thunder at the same time before.  It seemed very strange.  But lately, our weather has been strange in general.

Yesterday brought thunder and lightning to western Washington for the entire day.  More than 1,500 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes were counted.  A Bald Eagle was killed near Lake Stevens when a lightning bolt brought down a big Douglas Fir.  Some areas got large hail and intermittent rain squalls rolled through the entire area.

When I lived in Iowa, this would have been normal summer weather, but for here, this is very unusual.  The cool Pacific Ocean nearby normally stabilizes the atmosphere and prevents the conditions required for electrical storms.

Driving home from work last night, I crossed the flat, open farmlands of the Skagit Valley.  I had a panoramic view of the storm.  The roiling sky was lit a luminous orange by the setting sun.  Lightning was flashing all around.  Several people had pulled their cars off the road to watch the light show.  Like I said, this was an unusual weather event for us.  I have never seen anything quite like it here.  When I got home, the thunder was loud and close.  At about 10:00 PM, it rained hard for just a few moments.  In the end, I would get only 0.02 inch/0.5 mm of rain.

11:11 AM, Temp 57.9° F, Dew Pt 57.1° F, Barometer 29.95 in, Wind Calm, Humidity 97%

After a couple of hours, the morning fog lifted, but a humid haze remained.  The sounds of occasional distant thunder continued.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Skywatch Friday: Liftoff

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Similk Bay, Washington
From Wild Fidalgo, a Bald Eagle lifts off from a hunting perch on the western shore of Similk Bay.  The bird flew across the bay to Skagit Island where there may be a nest site.  I often see them heading over there.  The most interesting thing in the sky this day was the wildlife.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Skywatch Friday:  Sunrise

At the break of dawn over Skagit Bay, the early summer sun casts a golden light on the garden.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Red-flowering Currants Bearing Fruit

This is Red-flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum), one of the great flowering shrubs native to the Pacific Northwest.  I captured this photo last March while hiking the Bowman-Rosario Nature Trail in Deception Pass State Park.  They love growing in the sunny forest edge along the bluff over Bowman Bay.  They can also be found growing at Lighthouse Point, on the sunny side of Deception Pass itself.  Like Oregon Grape, they begin blooming in early March.  Both are welcome signs of spring.  The flowers will persist into June.

Red-flowering Currants also grow in my yard as they are indigenous to the property.  I have both nursery stock ('Claremont' and 'King Edward VII') and wild plants that came up voluntarily.  They have been reliable bloomers enjoyed by bees and hummingbirds, but I had never seen them bear fruit.  Until this year...

For the first time, I have discovered fruits beginning to swell on the plants in my yard.  Both wild plants and cultivars are producing berries.  Our chilly and damp spring may have provided the right conditions or perhaps my plants are now mature enough to begin fruiting.

This is one of my wild plants that came up on the west side of the garage.  I have terrible soil and it is especially bad in this spot.  Dry, rocky and infertile, it is much like concrete and will hold no moisture whatsoever.  While the other plants struggle, the native Red-flowering Currant thrives here.  I have never seen any signs of disease or damage by pests.

Currants are members of the Gooseberry family.  Gooseberries have thorns, Currants do not.

Several sources describe the taste of the fruit as "insipid."  I think that means they have no flavor at all.  I may have to try one to best understand it.  The birds, on the other hand, will enjoy these fruits and perhaps give me more seedlings.  If you are looking for a nice flowering shrub that is drought tolerant, attractive to birds and resistant to local diseases and pests, you won't go wrong with the Red-flowering Currant.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Prunus Cerasifera?

I believe I have identified my one remaining mystery plant:  Prunus cerasifera, or Cherry Plum.  Recall that this was a small, attractive shrub that came up wild in the yard (left).  I spotted a bigger one growing on the bluff further up the beach (right).  It is apparently happy with a seaside location in the dry, sandy, rocky glacial soil of South Fidalgo.  An arborist who will be doing some work on my big firs put me on the right track to get it identified.  As usual, if the ID is not correct, or if it can be confirmed, please let me know.

Click on the photos to view larger versions.  New leaves open red.  As they mature, they become more bronze, and later greenish.  Garden varieties produce nice pinkish-to-white flowers in early spring, but mine has never bloomed.  The photos I found of leaves also show them more uniformly purple.  I think it is not unusual for random seedlings of cultivated plants to differ in appearance from the parent.

I have now learned from experience that plants that come up on their own in the yard are not necessarily natives.  This is another example of a cultivated plant that has become naturalized.  Cherry Plum grows in several western and a few eastern Washington counties.  According to the USDA, it is found in both western and eastern regions of North America.  Unlike English Ivy and Himalayan Blackberry, the Cherry Plum doesn't appear to be an invasive nuisance here.    

New shoots bear attractive red leaves on shiny, red stems.  The twigs will turn a greenish brown as they age.  With leaves catching the morning sun, it is an attractive shrub growing with Pacific Madronas, small Rhododendrons and Japanese Andromeda.

My Columbian Black-tailed Deer like to browse on the new shoots which keeps the plant nicely pruned.  I enjoy the wildlife that visits the garden.  Perhaps this will keep the deer from damaging other, more valuable plants.

Other mystery plants now identified:

Palmate Coltsfoot   This interesting native plant grows out of the clay bluff bordering Similk Bay.

Japanese Photinia   Not commonly grown in the region, but it came up wild in the yard.

Purple Toadflax   An attractive, drought-tolerant perennial that pops up in the yard.

Weather Statistics for June, 2012

TemperatureHigh 68.5° FLow 42.8° FMean 54.3° F
Rainfall1.91 inches
WindHigh 21 mphAverage 1.1 mphDom Dir SW

Observed at South Fidalgo Island (See Climate page for complete climatological data)