Live Website Weather Data

wdl600Website designers sometimes have a requirement, or at least a possible interest, in displaying live weather information on sites that they’re creating.

The result can be a set of visually impressive graphics (such as the static image shown right, taken from a presentation by the Weather Display Live software – click on this image to open a new window showing live data – NB Flash required). This display can, if required, update automatically every few seconds to show individual wind gusts in virtually real time. Of course, not everyone is looking to achieve the same level of display sophistication – sometimes automatic updating of some plain text values every 5 or 10 minutes is all that’s needed. So there are different software solutions according to the graphic result required.

The purpose of this page is simply to explain and to illustrate that it is perfectly feasible nowadays to place live weather data measured with your own weather station on to a web page at relatively low cost, with little or no web page development entailed, and to have it all update automatically.

Weather Station Requirements

Davis Logger & Software Topics

Handling weather data on PCs & websites is covered extensively on this site – here are some links  to related PC and website topics (current page is shown unlinked):

Overview of loggers & software;
Advice on PC linking
Introduction to live weather websites
Advice on weather websites
Details of the Weatherlink product
Summary of compatible software;
Various advanced topics

This page is primarily about software options to provide web page presentations and so we won’t dwell here on hardware descriptions, which are well-covered elsewhere on this site. But there are perhaps four basic points to make about the weather station hardware:

  • We’re illustrating here how it’s possible to place your own weather data (ie readings from your own weather station) on a web page and have them update automatically. There are of course other sources of current weather data widely available on the web but these are typically not in a format amenable to the sort of further processing we’re describing here and, in any event, will almost certainly not relate to your particular geographical location (don’t be fooled by the nominal location of this sort of web data – in all probability it’s not actually measured where it claims to be but rather in the open, exposed expanses of an airfield maybe 30-50 miles away).
  • Almost any modern automatic weather station can provide a data feed suitable for creating a live weather web page, provided it’s compatible with suitable software. In other words, it’s the software – described in a little more detail below – that’s of prime importance in creating distinctive weather web pages and not the weather station itself. The only qualification here is that the station hardware must obviously be fitted with suitable sensors for the weather readings that you wish to display – a station that cannot be fitted with a sunshine intensity sensor clearly cannot generate a web page display showing sunshine data.
  • Most of the more advanced weather stations do not connect directly to a PC but need an additional interface. In the case of the Davis stations this interface is provided by the Weatherlink data logger, which – as its name obviously suggests – provides true autonomous data logging capabilities to cover any period for which the linked PC is not online, as well as an interface to the PC. So to specify a weather station system capable of feeding a live weather website you need to specify both the weather station itself and the Weatherlink data logger and software pack (these two separate items are often available as a bundle at a special price);
  • But just to provide some indications of suitable systems and prices, here are a couple of suggestions. (NB Both of these examples are Davis systems, which have the widest compatibility with web-page software – follow the links for more information on the hardware.):
    • The Vantage Vue station (wireless-only) is the simplest and lowest-cost option. This is ideal where all required weather readings can be made at a single sensor position and where a wireless data link is feasible. This is a no-frills, non-expandable solution but one which is perfectly capable for straightforward weather monitoring. A Vue system, complete with Weatherlink data logger and software, is available for £399 + VAT + shipping (excluding optional mounting accessories);
    • The Vantage Pro 2 (VP2) stations, available in both cabled and wireless models, offer more flexibility in sensor mounting and sensor expandability, so that for example the anemometer can be mounted up high to register maximum wind speeds, while other measurements are made, more accurately, closer to ground level. More details of all the VP2 stations, both cabled and wireless versions, will be found in the VP2 area of the main product pages. A wireless VP2 system, complete with Weatherlink data logger and software, costs from £718 + VAT + shipping (excluding optional mounting accessories).

Software Options and Examples

Weatherlink_web600Weather stations such as the Davis models have proved so popular around the world that an active market has developed in third-party software compatible with the stations, some of which specialises particularly in providing web page presentations. So there are a number of different program options to consider, each of which offers different features and a different look, but all of which can be driven by a data feed from the same weather station.

One key consideration is whether you wish to offer a display which updates often enough (every few seconds) to be able to show individual wind gusts – this is perfectly feasible to do, but does require special software operating via a Flash or Silverlight mechanism. The display shown at the top of this page (generated by the Weather Display Live program) provides an excellent example of this type of web page presentation.

On the other hand, if weather updates say every 5 or 10 minutes are sufficient then more conventional HTML-based software is all that’s needed. The image alongside here, generated by the standard Davis Weatherlink software (supplied free with every Davis data logger), provides a comprehensive example of what’s possible here – click this image to see a live display in a new window.

It’s worth emphasising that these web page displays are very straightforward to set up. The examples right and above both employ standard template pages supplied free with the software and so creating a new web page involves little more than configuring the software to use the appropriate template and ensuring that all the FTP upload parameters are correctly set.

However, these two example programs can also be extensively customised to create distinctive and individual web page designs. For instance, each of the separate component graphic elements (and text elements too) of the page to the right can be placed individually on a web page and so it’s possible to generate a page that contains just one two items of  weather data.

Finally, and at the other extreme, it is also possible to choose a completely standardised data presentation for current weather conditions and to place this on a web page in an iframe as the example below shows. This example illustrates how it’s possible to embed live weather data, updating automatically every 5 minutes, in an existing web page and uses the advanced Davis WeatherlinkIP data logger. This is probably the very simplest way of getting live weather data on to a web page.

Further Reading

Creating live weather-reporting websites is a prominent topic  in our pages here and you will find further information in a number of different areas. Here are some starting points for further reading: