There are many situations in which it’s necessary to have a good idea of how the wind is behaving. For example, if you’re going sailing you’ll probably want to verify the forecast and, rather more importantly, if you’re a firefighter dealing with wildfires, you’ll definitely want to know whether the wind is working for or against you; from Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior:
Wind is the most critical weather element affecting wildland fire behavior, the most difficult to predict, and the most variable in both time and location. / This variability (especially in rough terrain) can pose safety and fire control problems, which can result in firefighter fatalities. Wind direction and wind speed must be constantly monitored by all firefighters.
If tracking the wind is something you need for your sports or your job then there are basic handheld anemometers that retail for around $30 that will do the job but all these devices at the low end do is measure wind speed.
What you want, if you really want to understand the wind, is to also take gust readings, record direction, and track average speed. Moreover, there’s one thing that no handheld anemometers I've found under $50 can do: Share data. Sure, you can take your readings and text them to other people but it's much easier to have the data directly inserted into a text message. But now there's the WeatherFlow Wind Meter …
The WeatherFlow Wind Meter is a device that plugs into the audio jack of your smartphone or pad and, with the free iOS or Android app, reports on wind speed (peak and average) as well as direction and gust speeds in meters/second, miles/hour, knots, kilometers/hour, or the Beaufort scale.
The hardware also supports by a number of activity-related apps offered by WeatherFlow such as sports conditions and weather tracking; these include iWindsurf, iKitesurf, Fishweather, SailFlow, and WIndAlert (these all link to the same website tailored for each constituency).
The Wind Meter can detect airflow down to 2 mph and up to 125 mph (I don’t know about you but I don't think that I'll be waving my iPhone around if the wind is blowing at 125 mph; I'll be looking for hole to hide in). Weatherflow notes that:
Calibrated at the University of Florida’s Aerospace Engineering Department, our Wind Meter is accurate to the larger of +/- 0.5% of the reading or 0.2 mph at up to 15° off-axis. That means even if you don’t hold it directly into the wind, you’ll still get very accurate wind speed information.
Those are excellent specs for a consumer product priced at a very reasonable $34.95.
After you’ve captured a measurement sample you can adjust the results, add a comment, then optionally make the sample public, and optionally share it via Facebook, Twitter, email, text, or just copy the data to another app. If you make your sample public it will be uploaded to the site that underlies whatever activity you’ve specified. As a member of that site you can vote on the validity of samples and access a lot of environment-related reports and forecasts.
Where the Wind Meter and app are really useful is in sharing your data with other people you work with or are doing an activity with. For example, fire departments, often strapped for cash, could provide Wind Meters to each fire crew so they could text wind readings from their locations back to dispatch or to their chief for coordination and situation awareness.
The WeatherFlow Wind Meter is a cool product and very affordable and gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.
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