Published Tuesday, November  21, 2000 in the San Jose Mercury News


Bigger ideas for weather gift-giving

Special to the Mercury News 

In my last column, we looked at weather-related holiday gift ideas costing less than $100. Today, here are some higher-priced weather monitoring systems for hard-core weather aficionados and where you can find them.

Most high-end monitoring devices are weather stations -- instruments that take a variety of readings ranging from temperature and humidity to wind direction and speed. Some even measure rainfall.

There are two types -- hand-held and permanently mounted stations.

Among the hand-held stations are some really nifty units that can measure a variety of meteorological conditions. Two units that stand out are compact with easy to read digital displays, good precision and cost around $150. The Kestrel 3000 from Nielsen-Kellerman, or (610) 447-1555 -- measures temperature, humidity and wind speed. It can display the wind chill and heat index. 

The Sherpa from Brunton -- at or (800) 443-4871 -- gives you temperature, wind speed and the barometric pressure.

Permanently mounted weather stations run the gamut from a few basic backyard instruments to professional systems that cost more than $2,000. These stations generally measure temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction. Some systems include rainfall, while others
offer it as an extra-cost option.

Another choice you'll face is whether to get a wireless version instead of a unit with a wire connection between the instrument outside and the readout device inside. And you should consider whether the system can be interfaced with a computer to display the data, archive it or even put
it on the Internet.

About a half-dozen major manufacturers produce full-featured weather stations: Davis Instruments at or (800) 678-3669, Lacrosse Technology at or (507) 895-7095, Maximum at or (508) 995-2200, Oregon Scientific at, Peet Bros. at or (800) 872-7338, and RainWise at or (800) 762-5723. 

One system, the just-released Vantage Pro from Davis Instruments, really stands out. It combines the best features of the other systems and has the longest wireless range. The package -- at $495 wired, $595 wireless -- measures temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed and direction. You can see all of this on the display panel at one time, as well as graphs charting recent readings, the time of sunrise and sunset, moon phase, alarms to alert you to various weather events and even a local forecast. The instruments are powered by a small built-in solar panel. You can check this out at or (800) 678-3669.

And then there are weathervanes and sundials. Wind and Weather in Mendocino -- at or (800) 922-9463 -- has the dozens of really beautiful and imaginative vanes and dials in print and Internet catalogs.

For the real die-hard weather enthusiast, you can book a storm-chasing tour in the Great Plains during the tornado season in late spring and early summer. Tour operators don't guarantee you'll see a tornado or other severe weather. But this is the opportunity to hang out with others who
share your passion for weather. Companies offering these tours usually have ads in Weatherwise magazine, which is available in most libraries and newsstands.

Finally, here's something to add to the list of gift ideas costing less than $100 in my last column. Just published ``Weather for Dummies'' by John D. Cox (IDG Books Worldwide, $19.99) is an extremely readable book, yet factual and very complete. I bought a copy for my own library.

Jan Null, founder of Golden Gate Weather Services, is a retired lead forecaster with the National Weather Service. Send questions to him c/o Weather Corner, San Jose Mercury News, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, Calif. 95190. You also can telephone questions at (510) 657-2246, fax them to (510) 315-3015 or e-mail them to Please indicate in your e-mail where you live.