Murphy's Law was quite evident in the days after I received the Kestrel 3000 Weather Meter for review as we entered into a period of rather uniform, benign weather. March decided to come in like a lamb and remain docile for most of the month. And when there were blustery, high winds, they moved through late at night when I was safely tucked into bed and not inclined to run out onto the balcony (even die-hard weather buffs have their limits).
I, of course, wanted a stretch of blustery, widely changing weather to evaluate the Kestrel 3000 unit because of its wide range of functions, even though I knew that I would not see a heat index reading anywhere near critical for many months.
|Kestrel 3000 |
Photo Courtesy of Nielsen-Kellerman
The Kestrel 3000, manufactured by Nielsen-Kellerman of Chester PA, packs three important functions -- measuring wind speed, relative humidity and temperature -- into its compact case. (The unit measures 122x42x14 mm (4.8x1.7x0.6 inches) and weighs 66 g (3.2 ounces) in total.) The instrument also calculates wind chill and heat index from the three basic readings.
The Kestrel 3000 unit slips into its plastic protective case rather easily but can stick in the last bit where the lanyard cord exits the cover slot at the connecting ring. (Just about my only complaint with the unit is this sticking which could be remedied by making the slot another millimetre or two wider.) The adjustable lanyard allows you to wear the Kestrel 3000 safely around your neck for times when you do not have a pocket or wish to have it quickly at hand. The unit is water-proof to 1 metre depth and floats and is also shock resistant to a fair degree. It is powered by a standard watch battery with nominal lifetime of 300 hours of use. It also has an automatic shut-off after 30 minutes of the last button press. (For detailed instrument specifications, see the Kestrel 3000 website.)
With a simple press of the Mode button, you can cycle through the various read-outs available on the Kestrel 3000:
In addition, you have a choice of units for temperature functions in degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit; and wind speed in knots, kilometres per hour, miles per hour, metres per second, feet per minute or the Beaufort wind scale.
While I have no formal calibration equipment, I was able to perform some simple checks on the instrument's readings. The basic temperature and humidity readings compared accurately with my other instruments once the unit was allowed some time to reach environmental conditions (around a minute according the manufacturer specs). This can take longer if the meter is brought from the warm indoors to the cold outdoors. I also found some delay when I tucked the unit into my jacket, thus warming it to near body temperature and then bringing it out to measure weather conditions. The equilibration time can be reduced by waving the unit through the air to hasten the process.
I had a little more trouble comparing the wind sensor as I had no access to proper wind calibration equipment nor another wind sensor. I solved that in part by using my car. On a fairly calm day, I drove down the highway and stuck the Kestrel 3000 unit out the window as I drove at speeds of 30, 50 and 80 km/h. The Kestrel 3000 confirmed what my speedometer was reading. I had trouble keeping the car speedometer steady at speeds lower than 30 km/hr so was unable to check it at lower wind speed as accurately, but the numbers looked reasonable. If lower wind speeds are important for your specific application, then I suggest you find a proper standard to check the unit's performance and calibration.
The reason I mention this need for accuracy is that I believe the Kestrel 3000 has a very wide range of applications, and the manufacturer's instrument specifications claim good accuracy for this compact meter. While generally designed for the sports enthusiast (as I interpret their promotional literature) -- sailors, wind surfers, boaters, rowers, and other outdoor activities from mountain climbing to hiking, from tennis to softball -- the unit has many applications for fire fighters, outdoor workers, farmers, ranchers, engineers, environmental scientists from meteorologists to wildlife biologists, and teachers at all levels. I wish I had had one when I led my Weather Whys class on a field trip to explain micro-weather variations (and I could have put one to good use many times on site inspections with consulting clients).
But the Kestrel 3000 is more than just an information tool, it can also be a life-saver or help avoid unhealthy situations through its wind chill temperature and heat index functions. Those working or playing outdoors (and under some conditions indoors) can monitor their local environmental conditions and adjust or terminate their activities based on the weather-extremes warning indices. The wind chill temperature and heat index are calculated using those formulas accepted by the US National Weather Service (and may differ slightly from similar indices used in Canada and elsewhere.)
Unfortunately, the unit is only rated as highly accurate to -15 degrees C (-4 degrees F) when exposed to environmental conditions for a long time but will register to -29 C (-20 F) if the unit is kept warm and exposed to the cold air only long enough to equilibrate the temperature sensor to the cold conditions (one minute or so). This may negate some potential uses in extremely cold conditions, but in such cases, extreme caution is advised at all times. [The reason for the limitations at low air temperatures is that battery function is reduced with cold and cannot produce the needed power at the extremely cold temperatures.]
The other small drawback to the unit is that an external light source is needed to read the display under very low light conditions, but hopefully anyone prepared enough to carry a Kestrel 3000 also carries some form of light.
As many uses as the Kestrel 3000 has for the sports enthusiast and technical professional, I look forward to using it to enhance my enjoyment of weather watching and teaching weather science. [An upcoming article in the Weather Eyes section of The Weather Doctor will discuss watching the wind and other microscale weather elements that can be detected with the Kestrel 3000.
The Kestrel 3000 is one of the Kestrel series of weather meters manufactured by Nielsen-Kellerman. Those with less money to spend or not wanting all three sensors can purchase the Kestrel 2000 (wind speed and temperature sensors) or Kestrel 1000 (wind speed only). These appear to be similarly designed units but with fewer sensors included in the unit and thus a lower price. A Kestrel 4000 unit is now available which includes barometric pressure/altimetry as well.
For my money, the Kestrel 3000 looks to be the best deal, and its wide versatility makes it the perfect addition for your outdoor gear or sports bag. If you are looking for that special and unique gift idea for someone who loves the weather or the outdoors in any of a myriad of ways, then I highly recommend you consider purchasing the Kestrel 3000.
For further information on the Kestrel 3000, visit the Nielsen-Kellerman website by clicking here. Or call them at 1-800-784-4221.
To order the Kestrel 3000, click here , then click on "Wind Gauges."
Keith C. Heidorn, PhD, ACM
THE WEATHER DOCTOR
6 April 2000
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