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Add Live Weather Radar Monitoring to your Ham Station!
by N4UJW
Weather Radar

Many ham radio operators are interested in weather monitoring for one reason or another. Some of you may be Storm Spotters using ham radio or you may just want to keep abreast of the latest weather reports for your area.

Getting "live" reports may be a must for you for your radio operation and your safety but if you rely on the internet in severe storm situations, it may go down and you then no longer have access to those delayed "live" reports. Depending on many variables, "live" reports on the internet may be minutes old and when lives are at stake. Sometimes a minute or two can make the difference between life and death. Weather radar from the internet can be several minutes old. Even so called "live radar" from a local tv station fed over the internet is not truly LIVE!

Here is a simple and inexpensive method that many can use to monitor truly live weather reports, weather radar, etc, 24/7 using an old analog tv.

Yes, you read that correctly, an analog tv.

If you live in a tv coverage area that has one or more commercial broadcast tv stations that transmit live weather reports on a 24 hour basis using a sub channel, over the air, then you have the source already at your disposal that you may not have thought of.

Many tv stations transmit a digital only signal of live weather radar, storm warnings, and local weather related information from the National Weather Service on a sub "Virtual" channel that you can monitor around the clock from your shack using a standard analog tv by adding a simple DTV converter box to it. Without the converter on an analog tv, this is what the reception would look like:

During the transition from the old analog tv standard to the new digital tv revolution, many tv stations now offer not only their primary channel, but also offer, and for free, one or more sub channels for other programming and weather related information that may be found in your area by simply adding a dtv converter to your old analog tv that you may have around just collecting dust.

So think hard, do you have an older "analog" type tv that would fit on your equipment desk or nearby? If so, then you have most of what is needed to receive these weather sub channels.

What else is needed besides that old analog tv?
You have most likely figured that out..... but read on.

First you will need a good tv antenna capable of receiving your local tv station/s. Rabbit ear types may work for you if you live nearby the transmitting tower/s or an outside antenna may be needed. You will have to know if they are on the VHF or UHF tv bands, or both to determine what tv antenna you will need.

The more simple your setup, the better, as long as you can get a constant strong signal. An antenna in the attic is a good choice if you are near the tv transmitter towers. After you have solved your antenna location and type, place your tv for use as a 24/7 monitor in a good viewable location near your radio equipment.

Add a digital to analog converter box. You know, those that had the $40.00 coupon that you could use but are no longer valid and you wish you had!

Now, you simply add the dtv converter box between the antenna feedline and the tv using the instructions for the dtv converter, connect it all together, and scan for all channels. Then go thru the channels you find one at a time and look for weather reports, live radar, or weather related channels that are ALWAYS on regardless of the time of day.

You may find one or more for your area that will work for you.

Check that channel often to make sure it fits your needs for weather monitoring on a 24/7 basis.

Notes and additional helpful information:

You may have to "re-aim" your antenna a bit. Many tv stations relocated their transmitting antennas during the transition to digital tv or modified their coverage patterns so if your previous "aim" is off and you live near the station, you may not get the signal unless you point the antenna in the correct direction. 
Note also that many tv stations lost some of their original "analog" coverage area after the transition or they may have gained some coverage.

If you are getting a "broken" picture, also called pixelated, that looks like a patchwork quilt, similar to the picture below,

(example of weak pixelated DTV signal)
Then you may need to use a better and higher tv antenna or re-aim yours.

Recommend DTV Converters

So what do you do when the commercial power goes off?

Hopefully, you will have a small portable battery operated tv or some other method of emergency power backup that will power the most important equipment in your shack. Finding a good one that you can convert to digital tv may be very difficult if it is from the used market.

A better option considering total cost of the tv and the converter would be to buy a new one that has everything you will need including a built in digital tuner. Many can be had for under $100.00 in 2011 prices.

You might like to know that ALL new tv's made after March 1, 2009 have the required digital tuner already installed in them so you won't need an external DTV converter box.

Recommended AC/Battery Powered TV's
(All new TV's are digital)

Now that you know how to put that analog tv to good use instead of trashing it, you can provide your ham shack with a method of monitoring those life saving reports and warnings in real live time! If you don't have an old analog type tv laying around then go with a new digital tv that has everything you need to monitor live radar from over the air. If space is an issue there are many small handheld digital tv models available.

Other related and helpful articles and information:
FREE HDTV - How to get high definition TV reception free -
Well almost!
This article is written with helpful information to get you started with receiving free HDTV by using antennas to receive tv stations off the air.

"How to convert your old TV to receive digital TV over the air." that may help you also.

General DTV information

DTV Station Locator. Use to locate digital stations near you.

The latest FCC DTV channel allocation tables, organized by state - www.transmitter.com

FCC FAQs on Digital TV - http://www.fcc.gov/oet/faqs/dtvfaqs.html

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