ABOUT US...THE ORIGINS OF THE WEATHER STATION
Pitsford Hall weather station was established in 1998 by four Sixth Form students at Pitsford School, formerly Northamptonshire Grammar School. Conceived initially as a community service project, the weather station soon gained notoriety with the launch of Acid Rain 2000, a project designed to engauge schools from across Europe in studying regional variations in atmospheric pollution. The station won first prize in Transco's Grassroots Award scheme for making a positive attempt at raising public awareness of environmental issues and with the prize money began to broaden the range of recording equipment.
Spurred on by the achievements of Bablake School in setting up its own weather station 20 years previously, the students refused to settle for second best and so, with the help of the school's Head of Geography set about to develop Pitsford Hall as a source of quality weather data for the county. Sponsorship was acquired from local companies, including Barclaycard and British Timkin. This enabled the purchase of a full range of weather instruments including screens, autographic instruments, barometers, raingauges, sunshine recorder and anemometer. Over the years that followed, the inventory of the station has continued to grow and much of the earlier 'second-hand' equipment has been replaced with new.
At its height the station maintained a ground level meteorological enclosure in addition to the rooftop instruments. Significant vandalism though in 2007 forced the closure of the ground enclosure and the station now concentrates its operation on the roof of Pitsford Hall. Improvements have also enhanced the facilities in the weather station office. The station was one of the first parts of the school to gain Internet access in the early days of the world wide web and with the exception of the human element of weather observation, computers are used to acquire the latest weather data from around the world, process records and are key in producing the local forecast.
In 2001 the station won a major contract to supply weather data to Costain-Skanska during the dualling of the A43 between Towcester and the M40. The revenue from this enabled Pitsford Hall to introduce an online automatic weather station which was upgraded in 2007 following a successful fundraising campaign amongst the station's regular users of weather data. More recent additions have included hardware to detect lightning activity across the county sponsored by Northampton Science Park and introduced in 2008; and most recently in 2009, an upgrading of the video recording facilities to include an external web camera providing regular sky/landscape images north of the weather station and DVD recording to allow the station to archive movie footage of the changing weather.
At the heart of the weather station's operations from the very start was a web site where weather data could be updated on a regular basis. The station's web presence has helped it gain recognition in a very short space of time and is the main route through which people learn of the station's activities.
The station now represents an excellent teaching resource for meteorology at the school. All potential observers receive thorough training in observation methods and in basic theory. To date, new observers have been recruited from the ranks of A-level geography students, continuing a tradition established by the four founders. Although the station has now acquired a professional standing, it will continue to remain very much the responsibility of the students thus continuing the tradition of community service which is a hallmark of the education at Pitsford School. Such is the responsibility placed on the students that each year the school awards an academic prize to the individual showing the greatest commitment to the work of the station. The Hadley Meteorology Prize has been endorsed by the Royal Meteorological Society.
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