Foggy environment monitor

I happened across a LinkedIn post that Zachary Bethel shared about his team’s device to collect environmental data during the foggy summers at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). They have completed field testing and finalised the product.

This is a Carbon Grant funded project — that’s a pot of money set aside to fund student and staff projects that reduce the carbon footprint of the UCSC campus.

Why is fog bad?

As a card-carrying English person, trained to love the grey and comforting mizzle of a foggy day, I wasn’t sure what the problem was with fog. But I discovered that in warmer climates like California, fog can increase the air humidity and decrease the oxygen level. This is really bad news for people with chronic respiratory or cardiovascular diseases, and for elderly people.

How does it work?

Zack’s team has installed three mesh panels with three separate rain gauges at the UCSC farm. Light saturation is measured by a miniOFS fog sensor to determine visibility distance, and this data is used in conjunction with an ATMOS 41 weather station to create a one-of-a-kind fog data collector.

fog monitor ucsc
One of the three mesh panels at the UCSC farm

A Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ takes in serial protocol data from the miniOFS and ATMOS hardware and formats it into a text file, logging the date and time. Zack’s team’s next goal is to have this data streamed at fognet.ucsc.edu, providing a live feed of fog density and location.

fog monitor ucsc team
HI TEAM!

Before this project, Zack had never touched a Raspberry Pi or a Linux OS environment. And aside from a quick skim through Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming, he had never used Python. So the success of this unique environmental project is particularly impressive.

Hardware

fog monitor ucsc
These plastic storage boxes crop up in LOADS of outdoor Raspberry Pi projects. Simple, waterproof, affordable. We like.

We’re seeing our hardy little computers in more and more outdoor environments like this. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has us hanging from trees to monitor fruit flies. We pick up audio and video data inside bee hives. We’ve even withstood solar flares in space. Leave us a comment if you’ve seen Raspberry Pi in the wild.

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very useful content

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