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Fife Weather Enthusiast on the St Andrews’ Weather Cameras

Graham Smith, owner and operator of a Fife-wide amateur weather station, discusses Stom Babet, the Northern Lights, and what you can (and can’t) see through his Weathercams.


“With the SkyCam, it is like you’re lying down on your back and looking up at the sky. You get a very different perspective of what’s going on. In a day-long timelapse, you can get a feeling for the direction the weather is coming”. With a 360° look onto the St Andrews sky, FifeWeather’s SkyCam provides a fisheye view of the town’s sunset and sunrise, day in and day out. The view is marred only by its surroundings: the three-tiered rail that fences in the roof of the St Andrews Physics and Astronomy Building. The St Andrews Weathercam, a webcam altered to document climate conditions, looks northwest: onto Dundee, Perth, and the Highlands.



Graham Smith, owner and founder of FifeWeather — a Lochgelly-based weather station — is a self-proclaimed amateur weatherman. His approach? Install self-maintaining, easy-to-install webcams across the region. His cameras have been documenting the weather 24 hours a day, with the first Weathercam launched in 2006, on FifeWeather.co.uk. He defines a Weathercam as “a webcam that is online 24-7, with a predominant view of the sky and weather conditions”. It is not enough to simply view the sky; in the interest of data, some cameras have temperature, wind speed, and humidity inlaid.


“Topographically, the UK is very diverse,” he begins. These microclimates exist in very small pockets. “[In Scotland], particularly in transitional seasons — autumn and spring — there are crazy variations.” Fife’s microclimates are documented suggestively through the cameras: installed on university buildings, public grounds, and houses, they are approved by the owner of the building and managed by Graham himself. Expressively, they overlook the North Sea through sun and rain — with Scotland’s powerful storms overtaking the cameras at times. “This is the first time in more than a year and a half I’ve had all cameras working”.


Graham looks back at over seventeen years of FifeWeather, and the impact it has on locals throughout the region. “People have emailed me to say that they were travelling from Aberdeen to St Andrews, and the cameras were used to check whether it was snowing”.


Intending to capture all of Fife, FifeWeather has Weathercams stationed from St Andrews to Anstruther, Upper Largo, and Aberdour. Just one camera has made it out of Fife to the West Coast of Scotland in a small holiday cottage overlooking the islands Shuna, Luing, and Scarba. On clear days, Jura is visible in the distance. The Weathercams don’t just document the weather, but Scotland’s variations geographically and seasonally. For some, these cameras are used for research and educational endeavours. “In the first iteration of the Skycam, which was more sensitive to the nighttime sky, a PhD student was using it to estimate cloud cover for astronomy”.


In lieu of a full-time job in IT, Graham Smith notes the purpose and, perhaps, the futility of documenting weather at the micro-level. “It is a bit of a constant battle to keep the cameras online”.


Limitations of the camera may mean little in light of greater interests: the unique phenomena of local weather. “There was a hint of the aurora [borealis] a few years ago,” Graham says. “It’s not the spectacular images people get on DSLRs.” What FifeWeather’s SkyCams and Weathercams do, however, is provide a public record: one which is viewed daily by at least 200 visitors. Across YouTube, FifeWeather’s website, and beyond: the cameras provide not just a look at the weather but a changing landscape. Each day, the St Andrews cameras are uploaded in a timelapse without fail. In the St Andrews Weathercam, West Sands beach shrinks and grows in synchronisation with tidal shifts. With time, climate change may be more pronounced by a reduction in foliage and an ever-increasing sea level.


Image from the University of St Andrews

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