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BC Installs Campus WeatherSTEM System

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (September 2015)Perhaps you’re working away in your Maloney Hall office, or doing research in O’Neill Library; maybe you’re waiting for the shuttle bus on Newton Campus, or walking toward Brighton Campuswhen you notice dark clouds moving in and you hear a distant rumble of thunder. At times like this, you think, it would be useful to have a Boston College weather update.

Now you do.

BC Campus WeatherSTEM System

This summer, BC installed a campus WeatherSTEM system that monitors and collects various weather data – such as temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind direction and speed, and heat indexand presents it on a web page []. In addition, the page provides links to area-specific weather forecasts, a time-elapsed 24-hour playback loop of the sky recorded by cameras at Alumni Stadium, and even a map that shows the proximity of the most recent lightning strike.

In addition to the web page, WeatherSTEM updates and features are available via Twitter [@BCWxSTEM], Facebook [Boston College WeatherSTEM], phone/text [617-553-1225; text “bc”] and e-mail [].

Although WeatherSTEM is accessible to the BC community, registering for a personal account (which is free) enables users to customize the weather information and notifications.

BC’s WeatherSTEM project is a collaboration between the Office of Emergency Management, the Facilities Management and Information Technology divisions, the Athletic Association and the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department.  

Project administrators say that WeatherSTEM will offer highly practical benefits for the University. As the “snowpocalypse” of this past winter and the freak hailstorm of early August demonstrated, they note, weather can be a major safety concern that affects the BC community; in such situations the availability of precise, up-to-date weather information is invaluable.

“We’re very excited about WeatherSTEM for many reasons,” said Director of Emergency Management John Tommaney. “Most of the weather information you might see online tends to be from other locations, but the data on BC WeatherSTEM is collected right on campus, so it’s very localized and relevant for the BC community."

But even if no large-scale weather emergencies are in the offing, administrators say, WeatherSTEM can assist University operations. Organizers of an outdoor function, for example, might use the data to decide whether to hold the event as planned; readings on soil moisture and temperaturealso collected by WeatherSTEMcould help determine which areas of campus to prioritize for groundskeeping and landscaping work.

Furthermore, the administrators add, WeatherSTEM can also be a resource on the academic sidefaculty and students will be able to utilize the data for class assignments and research on weather, astronomy and tides. The website also provides a series of lessons that instruct users on various weather-related concepts and principles.

For the individual user, WeatherSTEM can help answer a more immediate and practical need: if it’s safe to venture outside without an umbrella.

“Perhaps the best way to look at the system is it helps us understand how to live with weather, even when there is no potential emergency situation," said Tommaney. "People can personalize the data however they want to, use it to help make decisions, or simply to learn more about weather.”

—Sean Smith is editor of the Boston College Chronicle.