Weather / Weather Station · October 15, 2009

Davis Vantage Pro2 Weather Station Arrives

My new Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station arrived last Friday.

The unit was packed very carefully into its box and as I was taking it out the first thing that struck me was how big it was (at least compared to my Oregon Scientific WMR-968 weather station).

Davis calls its integrated sensor assembly the “Integrated Sensor Suite (ISS)”.  The design of the ISS is relatively compact with the big black plastic rain gauge housing dominating the assembly.  The rain gauge sits on top of the temperature sensor radiation shield, and the electronics and transmitter package with its small solar panel is mounted midway up the unit on one side.

Having just worked on my Oregon Scientific WMR-968 rain gauge just last week makes the Vantage Pro2 rain gauge seem that much bigger.  The WMR-968 rain gauge is just a toy compared to the Vantage Pro2 version.  To put more shame to the WMR-968, the tipping bucket cups in the Vantage Pro2 rain gauge are even plated with aluminum.

The anemometer (wind gauge for you non-weather geeks) comes on a 40 foot cable, and can either be mounted with the rest of the sensor array, or separately.  Mine will eventually go up on the top of the 18′ high pole replacing the WMR-968 anemometer.

Since it was supposed to rain and snow that night I wanted to get the station outside, and I only had a few hours of daylight remaining when it arrived.  So I mounted the anemometer temporarily on the horizontal arm of my weather station mount assembly and didn’t bother to calibrate it either (to ensure the anemometer north points true north).

The station includes manuals for both the Integrated Sensor Suite and for the console, as well as a small quick reference guide for the console.  The manuals are quite good with clear explanations and drawings/diagrams and welcomed as more and more manufacturers have decided to offer only limited (or no) instructions and manuals.

The anemometer comes in three pieces but is the only part of the station that needs significant assembly.  The wind cups need to be put on the head, and the arm needs to be bolted to the base/bracket.

After that was done, the next step was to remove the cover/solar panel from the “Sensor Interface Module (SIM)” which houses the plug-in connectors for the various sensors as well as most of the electronics of the unit including the wireless transmitter.  There’s a connector for the wiring to the solar panel that can be removed temporarily so that the SIM cover can be placed aside.

With the cover off the anemometer cable can be threaded through the hole in the back of the SIM and plugged in to the clearly labeled socket and the 3V Lithium battery inserted.  There’s a removeable foam plug that needs to be taken out then replaced that covers the hole where all the cables enter the back of the SIM.

Once the battery is inserted the unit has power and there is an automatic setup sequence to ensure that the console (the receiver with LCD display) is receiving signals from the transmitter.  My unit worked flawlessly so I reconnected the wiring plug and put the solar panel/cover back onto the SIM.  In the event it doesn’t work properly the manual includes troubleshooting directions including changing transmitter channels from the default.

There are a couple of different mounting methods available for the ISS including lag screws for mounting to a wood post or building, and U-bolts for mounting to a pole.  The rain gauge cover/cone needs to be removed to access the mounting holes.  After the unit is mounted there is a nylon tie securing the rain gauge tipping bucket that needs to be cut off.  Then the rain gauge cover goes back on and the unit is ready for use.

As I groused about earlier before I bought the Vantage Pro2 it requires a separate WeatherLink adapter/plug module in order to connect to a PC running weather station software.  (My WMR-968 had a serial port built in.)  The module plugs into the back of the console and has a connector for a cable that one can connect to a PC.  I bought the USB version.

In order to connect the WeatherLink module to use with Virtual Weather Station software I assumed I could just add the drivers for the Silicon Labs CP210X USB to UART Bridge that’s contained in the WeatherLink module, but there are no drivers on the installation CD.  Instead you have to go through the entire WeatherLink software setup, which also sets up the drivers.

Since I don’t think I’ll have a use for the WeatherLink software it would have been nice to have the option to install the drivers only, but I someday I might mess around with the WeatherLink software some just to see what it does and how it works.

Part of why the WeatherLink module is expensive is because it has a “data logger” built into it so that the station data can be saved and later downloaded to a PC via the WeatherLink software (the PC doesn’t have to be on continuously to log data).

I wonder if Virtual Weather Station can read all the stored data in the module and download it or if only the WeatherLink software can do that.  At least right now I have no plans to use that feature so it doesn’t matter but I might test it out some day if I’m bored.

Right after I got the station up and running I found I was having problems uploading my weather data to the Weather Underground site and checked some settings in the Virtual Weather Station software.  Eventually I discovered that the date and time need to be set in the console for VWS to upload to Weather Underground properly.

I also found that I didn’t have the three C batteries for the console battery backup.

The plan was to replace the WMR-968 sensors but since I was in a hurry I left them up, simply moving the temperature sensor and radiation shield to one side so that the new Vantage Pro2 sensor assembly could be mounted in its place.

One of the biggest differences in operation between the WMR-968 and the Vantage Pro2 is the frequency of the data updates.  The Vantage Pro2 updates all sensor data every 2.5 seconds, and it’s most obvious with the anemometer readout, both on the console and in the Virtual Weather Station program display, that changes rapidly when it’s windy.

The WMR-968 only updated the anemometer every 14 seconds and all the other instruments every minute.  The more frequent updates are evident in the resulting smoother graphs on the Weather Underground too.

Compare the data from 10/8/09 with the WMR-968:

With the data graphs on 10/15/09 with the Vantage Pro2:

And the larger rain gauge of course results in better rain detection as well, especially at low rainfall rates.

Although the Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station isn’t cheap, it’s a nice weather station and worlds better in every way than the Oregon Scientific WMR-968 it’s replacing.