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That's another use for the humble bicycle...complete with a 6.5 foot aluminium weather tower...
Photo Credit: University at Buffalo

One man built a research-grade weather station on a bike – complete with 6.5ft aluminium tower - so he could cycle around Ohio gathering data. 

Nicholas Rajkovich constructed the weather station, which weighs around 50 pounds (that's around 22.5kg), to measure the urban heat island effect on a small area around Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

The bike-mounted station was built in conjunction with the University of Michigan, allowing Rajkovich to measure microclimate data as he rode, including solar radiation, sky view, surface temperature and air temperature. The tower helped prevent ground interference with the equipment.

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Rajkovich, assistant professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, told the Futurity blog: “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time anyone has installed a research-grade weather station on a bicycle to gather this much data for analysis”.

“Although airport weather stations and satellite data help to estimate temperatures in a city, finer-scale data is needed to support planning at the neighborhood level”.

Readings are taken every second from the equipment, which includes a thermocouple unit, hygrometer unit and GPS device mounted to the tower, as well as a camera, a four component net radiometer and an infrared radiometer.

The urban heat island effect occurs where hard surfaces, such as concrete and tarmac collect heat from the sun and store it. In comparison, tree cover tends to shade the ground and reflect heat.

The purpose of the experiment was to see how much tree cover contributes to ground and air temperatures in an urban environment to help planners better design neighbourhoods. Higher ground temperatures increase demand for air conditioning, using more energy locally, and contributing to climate change.

Rajkovich took 12 rides during the summer of 2012, during the hottest time of day on bicycle paths maintained by the local council and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Cuyahoga County was used as it includes “impervious surfaces and a lack of tree cover”. Futurity points out the Midwest in general has suffered an increase in heatwaves in recent years.