A Braemar dad who loves the snow now has 60 weather stations, more than 11,000 Facebook followers and uses Nasa technology to track temperatures across the local area.
Braemar weather watcher Chris Booth, 36, has been fascinated with the weather since childhood and in 2021 he was prompted to take his interest to the next level following a severe snow storm.
He said: “I’ve always been interested in the weather, especially the cold and the snow.
“We had a big snow event in Braemar. I recorded 70cm of snow and I thought, ‘I need to do something with the weather because I’ve always been interested in it’.
“But what can you do? I thought, well, if I get a weather station then I can provide data to people. Then I thought, actually, I could do some forecasting.
Braemar weather watcher: I taught myself to read charts and data
“I’m a self-taught amateur forecaster. I’ve not been to college, I’ve not had anything like that, it’s just been self-taught, reading charts, reading data, and then coming up with a forecast which is specifically for this area.”
Chris invested in his first weather station and asked an IT expert to integrate a website where he could see the live data in a user-friendly format.
The weather stations are about a foot high with sensors that relay information about factors such as wind speed and rain back to a console.
Braemar weather readings ‘very, very similar’ to the Met Office
Chris said: “In the old days you would have the big Stevenson screen (the name for the small white box used to house meteorological instruments) , a rain gauge on the bottom and something else for the wind.
“But now they’ve got these wee units and it’s got everything all in one.”
The Braemar weather watcher lives opposite the Met Office station in Braemar and said the readings are “very, very similar” to within half a degree.
His house is set further back from the road, so there is less air disturbance, he adds.
Since installing his first station in 2021, Chris now has around 60 devices at various sites.
He said: “That’s across Deeside and Donside, so all in this area.
“I do local weather forecasting for Braemar, right down to Drumoak and then up through Corgarff, down through Alford and across Strathdon.
“The last two weather stations I’ve installed are actually in the middle of nowhere so I don’t need any electricity.
Weather stations in the middle of nowhere
“The ones that I have at people’s houses run off of wi-fi, which gives you the data.
“However, I’ve found the weather stations that I use, you can run them off a solar panel with a mobile phone SIM card.
“You pay about £5 a month and it gives you the data. So you can stick them in wherever you want.
“I’ve had the landowners’ permission and they’re in pretty good spots. I’ve got one in Felagie on the Invercauld estate and one on a large estate in the Corgarff area.”
Chris, who works in retail, has invested a considerable amount of time and money in his hobby, spending two to three hours a day and around £8,000 in total on it.
It can mean braving the gales and snow to put photos online, keeping people informed about what’s happening outside.
“Oh, even installing weather stations, for example the 4G stations, I’ve parked the car and marched through bogs and I’ve got stuck because I’m trying to get to a certain point where I want the station to be,” he said.
Braemar weather watcher uses Nasa technology
“And it’s not just a case of putting up a weather station, I use something that Nasa releases to the public every day.
“It’s an aerial shot, a thermal image that shows you where the coldest parts were for that night.
“I will use that to track and if I see a trend I’ll say, well I need to go in there.
“The deeper the blue, going into a purple, that’s extreme cold and those two spots were the ones where I put the 4G stations, obviously with the landowners’ permission.”
The stations “do their own thing” and require little maintenance.
They can even still operate when under a blanket of snow.
When the Braemar weather watcher started the Facebook page, he expected to get “maybe 10 or 20 followers”. At last count he had almost 12,000.
He said it’s particularly popular with gamekeepers and hillwalkers and around 85% of followers are from the local area, with 60% from Banchory alone.
More than 7,000 Facebook followers in six months
“It’s grown very fast. In the past six months I’ve probably gained more than 7,000 followers,” said Chris.
“I think a lot of people use it so they can plan what they are doing when they come here and there has been a massive uplift in followers especially when there’s a weather event.
“If I can do something that gets people to come here, it means they will naturally end up spending money in the village with local businesses, so it works for everybody.”
Chris said his interest probably started when he was 14 or 15 years old.
“I would be at home at Drumoak, where I was brought up, and there would be snow and you would get all excited.
“Then on the news it would say Braemar’s got all this snow and it was always Braemar that was really cold.
“And I would say to my parents ‘I’m going to live there when I’m older’ because of the cold and the snow, I just love it.
“I used to come here every weekend when I learned to drive. There’s just something about this area that makes me want to be here and it’s because of the weather.”
“It’s the extremes. Braemar is known for having the coldest night to the warmest day.”
Spotlight on the original Braemar Met Office
This week Chris gained more than 600 likes on the Facebook page for an especially exciting story he shared about the original Met Office station in Braemar which was decommissioned in 2005.
“I’m doing a documentary on the weather for the BBC and I was trying to find out who knows who has the keys to the old Met Office station, which looks like a summer house now.
“I posted it on the local community page. It’s a resident who owns it, it’s part of a house, and the person had seen my post.
“We got in touch and I met them yesterday and we’re actually going to be putting a weather station there, where the original Met Office site used to be, dating back in the 1800s.”
Chris’s favourite part of his hobby is watching a cold event develop and said: “Corgarff is my favourite station. It’s just unbelievable. It might be minus 8 or 9 in Braemar but you go to Corgarff and it’s minus 15.
“Crazy cold. A lot of people haven’t heard where Corgarff is. Well, they have now!
“When there’s a cold event and I can see there’s cold coming in and the laptop’s loaded, it’s ready to go, and you’re watching those temperatures just drop, drop, drop, drop.
“It’s just brilliant, that’s what I love about it.
“Maybe if I hadn’t put these stations in, somebody might have done it.
“But I’m proud of what I’ve done, because it’s like giving information that might never be known. So that’s what I get most excited about.”
Want to get involved?
If you’d like to help keep the Braemar, Ballater, Deeside and Donside Weather service going, you can donate on its GoFundMe page.