MCSE: Weather Station Weekly Maintenance


In use from 2003-05-13


Precipitation is measured using a Belfort Weighing Bucket Preciptiation Gauge. Staff checks the gauge weekly, changing the chart and emptying the bucket as necessary. During the winter, antifreeze (ethylene glycol solution) is added to the bucket, which serves to melt snow and protect the bucket. The paper chart is changed weekly, and read by staff in units of 1/20th of one inch. Database algorythms convert readings to mm. A date is midnight to midnight local time, either Eastern Standard Time or Eastern Daylight Time. During the visit to the station, other sensors are inspected.


LTER Weather Station Maintenance

6-10-2002. Tim Bergsma. A maintenance routine for the LTER weather station has become institutionalized, but has not been thoroughly documented. In 1997 a weighing bucket rain gauge was installed at the station, eventually replacing the tipping bucket rain gauge. The design of the new gauge requires weekly maintenance visits; some method loosely corresponding to the protocol below has been employed since then. Details vary. For instance, copies of the removed charts were made and stored, from 7-29-97 until 10-15-2001. I am no longer maintaining copies. No regular log has been kept: I am institutionalizing the log today. Details of the operation of the weather station since its initial deployment exist in a variety of forms, and should be available elsewhere. My purpose here is to create a protocol for weather station maintenance that corresponds to current practice. Those maintaining the station should document whether this or some other protocol was employed, noting significant deviations, if any.

Frequency: weekly (usually Monday, as per labeling of precipitation chart)


  1. Belfort Instrument Company: Chart No. 5-4046-B, normally stored in data manager’s office.
  2. special ink. Contact Belfort for more information. Dropper bottle stored at the instrument.
  3. pencil
  4. soft cloth
  5. spare chart drum
  6. antifreeze, appropriate containment equipment (funnels, waste containers, etc).
  7. Belfort manual. Currently in folder Weath. Inst. Doc, maintained by the LTER data manager,
  8. grass clippers
  9. Roundup (glyphosate)


  1. Label a new chart with station, date, expected time of deployment (optional) and your initials.
  2. Fold the labeled tab under, and mount on spare drum. Tail of chart overlaps clip such that pen won’t snag if it passes the clip.
  3. Proceed to weather station. Visually inspect tower, sensors.
  4. Climb tower to examine two light sensors at 3m. Wipe sensing surfaces with a soft cloth if necessary.
  5. Inspect rain gauge and open the access door.
  6. “Ship” the pen and remove the current drum (becomes the spare).
  7. Write in pencil directly on the removed chart: OFF [date], [time], [time zone], [initials].
  8. Store the chart/drum for transport.
  9. Wind the clock fully (but gently), about 24 strokes.
  10. Label the new chart, ON, [date], [time], [time zone], [initials].
  11. Place the new drum, seated fully.
  12. Add ink to the pen as necessary.
  13. Remove the collection cylinder if necessary for the following.
  14. Install or remove the collection funnel as necessary. Should not be in place if there is risk of snow.
  15. Empty bucket if necessary. Rain water can be dumped locally. If antifreeze is present, dispose properly.
  16. Add/remove antifreeze as necessary. Add if collected precip. is at risk of freezing, remove when diluted to ineffectiveness by precipitation.
  17. Replace bucket and collection cylinder as necessary.
  18. Place pen against chart, while setting the time. Set the time by rotating the drum counter-clockwise only (avoids hysteresis error).
  19. Start the ink flowing by prodding with a pointed object, if necessary.
  20. Close the access door.
  21. Ensure that plants are not growing in the bare soil reserve (east half of fenced area). Spray with Roundup if necessary.
  22. Ensure that plants are not excessively tall in the vegetated soil reserve (west half of fenced area). Clip if necessary, to maintain canopy between 10 and 20 cm.
  23. Write and submit a log entry, stipulating which maintenance tasks were performed. Submit directly or by email to
  24. Submit chart for processing.

Date modified: Tuesday, Oct 24 2023



    I added steps for managing the bare soil reserve (recently established), where soil temperature and moisture are measured.

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