The Ambient Weather WM-2 is a handheld wind and weather meter that measures wind speed, temperature, wind chill, wind gust, and something called the Beaufort Scale, which is a way to estimate wind speed based on observable phenomena. A wind meter can be a handy weather forecasting and safety tool for hikers to carry, particularly in mountainous terrain or winter conditions, where high wind speeds can make hiking hazardous, accelerate hypothermia, or cause frostbite.
Specs at a Glance
- Temperature range of -28 to 138.2 F
- Temperature accuracy plus or minus 2 F
- Wind speed range .4 to 67 mph
- Wind speed accuracy is plus or minus 3%
- Wind speed sensing interval of 4 second (settable)
- Temperature interval of 10 seconds
- Battery is one 3V lithium button cell – size CR2032, included
- Battery life is about 1 year (battery may not function well at temperatures below -14 F)
- Unit requires a 3 second button push to activate.
- Dimensions 2”x0.7”x5.5”
- Lanyard included. Tripod compatible.
- Weight: 2 ounces
Devices like the Ambient Weather WM-2 are called anemometers, which is derived from the Greek word “anemos”, which means wind. This particular instrument was recommended to me by a meteorologist, who’s a member of my hiking group. It’s an inexpensive and surprisingly complete handheld unit, that’s reliable and simple to use.
I first got interested in measuring wind speed to help new winter hikers understand weather forecasts so that they could make informed decisions about hiking plans. People aren’t good at estimating wind speed and don’t really understand what impact it can have on their behavior or safety, particularly when they’re hiking in full exposure without any trees or vegetation to protect them. It’s one thing to look at a wind speed forecast in the cafeteria at the bottom of Mt Washington and quite another to see it measured on a device in front of your eyes, where you can feel the effect it has your ability to stand up straight or walk.
With practice, you can get pretty good at estimating wind speed using the Beaufort Scale if you can observe the effects that wind has on nearby trees or based on wave height, if you’re at sea. But such environmental clues are virtually non-existent in winter, where you’re lucky if you can see the next cairn, 50 feet in front of you, in the freezing fog. It’s even hard when you have high visibility, because everything around you is covered with snow, ice or frost. You might as well be on the moon.
I have found the Ambient Weather WM-2 to very instructive in winter hiking workshops I lead. Participants tend to underestimate the wind speed they are experiencing. It’s very valuable for them to understand exactly what a forecast like “50 mph winds with higher gusts” feels like and to see it measured on the wind speed meter in front of them. Walking in this kind of wind becomes difficult and you need to lean into it to keep your balance. The danger of frostbite and frost nip is greatly increased in colder temperatures and goggles and full face protection are required.
The nice thing about having a wind meter is that it gives you the ability to make go-no-go judgements based on real-time information. While the wind forecasts put out by meteorologists are directionally accurate, they don’t necessarily take into consideration the topographic features surrounding you that can affect the wind speed you experience. The famous phrase that “mountains make their own weather” is true. Wind speeds will increase when the wind hits an obstruction like a cliff or ridge line, which can make it quite unsafe to travel over them in high winds.
The Ambient Weather WM-2 has three buttons and a backlit screen that is used to read all the meter’s measurements or change its settings.The unit is operable wearing high dexterity gloves in cold weather, but it pays to set it up and practice using it in advance.
The fan at the top of the unit measures wind speed, and the other two sensors measure temperature and wind chill. The set button is used to turn on the unit and navigate through the device’s different functions, while the plus button is used to set different options.
For example, you can change the wind speed to be displayed in a number of different ways including miles per hour, kilometers per hour, knots, or meters per second. You can toggle between Fahrenheit and Celsius temperature readings or set the interval in which the wind meter samples its readings, which is set to a default of 4 seconds.
The hold button lets you capture a wind speed reading and “hold it” when you can’t read the display. For example, if you wanted to measure the wind speed generated by an exhaust fan on your roof, but you can’t see the display when you measure it, you can press the hold button and it will remember the result so it’s not updated before you can read it.
The Ambient Weather WM-2 is an inexpensive ($26) wind and weather meter that can be quite useful to carry for safety reasons when you’re hiking in hostile terrain or areas where accurate wind speed forecasts are not obtainable. It is also a great educational tool for you or others, to help you internalize the way wind “feels” at different speeds and temperatures when you can’t see its effect on land features. I do wish the unit was USB rechargeable instead of requiring batteries and that there was a way to download the information it captures to a computer, but you probably have to pay a lot more for those capabilities.
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