Our station…grew?

By Shannon Dunnigan

On our last visit to the GTM Research Reserve’s weather station (located within Princess Place Preserve) we found that the station was no longer grounded; there was about a six inch gap between the end of the ground wire and the grounding rod that goes into the earth. This was troubling, especially in Florida-the lightning capital of the United States!

We have our electrical grounding wire in the earth out on the marsh to ensure that electricity does not flow back into our weather station equipment nor any person working on the devices. Additionally, if lightning were to strike our station, the grounding system may also help protect the equipment from the high voltages associated with lightning.

02.01.17 - lightning during hermine.jpg
Lightning map of Florida from September 3, 2016 during Hurricane Hermine. Source: http://www.lightningmaps.org

Today we traveled to the station to replace the grounding system. After removing the old wire, we realized that the six inch gap we had previously observed was not caused by any fraying, cutting, or other action that may have damaged the wire. What we found was the wire just seem to slip free of the grounding rod and is now TOO SHORT to re-attach.

Wait…what? Too short?

Yes! In addition to noticing the issues with the grounding system that last visit, we also had to re-level our precipitation gauge (rain bucket). Today, once we figured out that the wire was too short, we then re-examined our platform very closely and noticed that IT GREW SIX INCHES! This explains why the rain bucket was no longer level. The photos below show today’s visit (left) compared to a photo taken in 2006 (right). Notice how much taller the station looks!

Now, did the station “grow” or did the sediments subside beneath the platform? We have our speculations, but we don’t know exactly what happened out on that marsh. We replaced the grounding wire (with a little extra slack) and left with more questions in our heads then when we arrived.

Just another day at the Reserve!

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