Suunto Core’s Storm Alarm
Some of my closest friends are meteorologists, whom I trust implicitly when it comes to weather-based decision making for recreation. However, because we’re not together every second of the day, getting a watch that alerts me to changing atmospheric conditions, seemed a logical choice. I know almost nothing about barometric pressure, and I’m terrible at math. I need a watch that can measure units of pressure, known to scientist types as hPa, (hectopascals) and relate what that means to me in some type of primitive format, like arrows that indicate rapidly dropping air pressure or perhaps a storm alarm.
Suunto’s Storm Alarm feature does just this, and may be extremely helpful for backcountry touring and other weather dependent adventures—if it works.
The Core watch calculates altitude and sea level air pressure by constantly measuring absolute air pressure. Air pressure is one of the most important factors in determining weather patterns; so getting a correct mercurial reading is key in order for the Storm Alarm to work.
Before entering the inHg, (inches of mercury), I checked two sites for the sake of redundancy. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (noaa.gov) lists barometric pressure by location under the current conditions section. I compared their metrics with the sea level pressure data from wunderground.com located under history data tab, which had the same reading. Then I used earthtools.org to find the altitude reference value for my exact location.
The Core’s Weather Trend Indicator is comprised of two lines that form an arrow. Each line represents a three-hour period. So if barometric pressure drops rapidly, the Storm Alarm should sound. After entering all the values, I had to wait for a storm in the forecast to see if the alarm would actually work.
You may not believe this, but I actually have special powers. I have this unbelievable ability to affect the weather by hosting parties in my backyard. The probability of thunderstorms rises in direct correlation with my boldness to entertain friends. If it’s a birthday party, I can usually elicit some lightning too.
There was a 30% chance of precipitation the night the Storm Alarm went off. Though it was somewhat disappointing to hear it sound shortly after we fired up the grill, thankfully it was a short-lived storm and produced very few drops.
I happened to be standing next to one of my meteorologist friends when it detonated. This caused three things to happen: first, he erupted in laughter, I suppose because he wouldn’t rely on a watch to determine inclement weather; second, he gave us a brief lecture on checking with the UAC utahavalanchecenter.org prior to any possible touring; and third, we had a positively riveting discussion about thermodynamics.
To be fair, when the alarm sounds it doesn’t necessarily mean that a storm is coming, it means the barometric pressure has dropped significantly enough, and the atmospheric conditions are possibly ripe for a storm, but it does work! This feature is especially useful during fall, winter and spring months when precipitation is not predominately from thunderstorms. In the cool months, the drop in pressure from approaching storms is larger and precipitation is more closely tied with falling pressure.