Archive for the ‘Learn’ Category

El Niño and the Potential for Catastrophic Weather

Posted on: October 20th, 2015 by Jeff Renoe No Comments

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies

Changing weather patterns may have US citizens unsure about their wardrobe in the coming months.

After record freezing caused citizens of Chicago, IL to rebrand themselves as residents of ‘Chiberia’ over the last few winters, new weather patterns are estimated to provide warmer, drier weather across much of the northern states during this winter season. But that isn’t the only part of the country, or world for that matter, that’s expected to see changes in climate over the next several months. These expectations have been set due to an unusually strong El Niño that’s been developing since summer.

El Niño is the term used to describe a complex series of climactic changes that drive the appearance of unusually warm water in the Pacific region off the coast of Peru and Ecuador. It’s strength is measured by the increase in surface water temperatures against historical averages. In the above chart you can see this area illustrated in red. According to the National Ocean Service the typical effects vary depending on your location in North America.

  • Western and Central Canada see warmer-than-average temperatures
  • Western and Northern portions of the United States also see warmer-than-average temperatures
  • Wetter-than-average conditions tend to occur over portions of the Gulf Coast and Florida
  • Drier-than-average conditions are expected to occur in the Ohio Valley and Pacific Northwest

While these are the typical expectations of an El Niño event, there have been cases in the past when more extreme changes have taken place. In 1997, the ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) cycle drove water temperatures to record breaking levels and brought unusual extremes to much of the US, driving the second warmest and seventh wettest winter since 1895. According to the National Climatic Data Center, it was the cause of an ice storm in the northeast, flooding in California and tornadoes in Florida.

That background is important because the conditions of the current ENSO surpassed those that were recorded in 1997 during the month of September which could predict this to be the most serious in recorded history. Below are a couple of maps that layout estimated effects of this new 2015/2016 El Niño season.

Weather Outlook 2

The shifting climate is already starting to be seen in California where massive rainfall has led to violent and dangerous mudslides. According to Ray Pruitt, a spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff Department near Bakersfield, CA, even bulldozers have gotten stuck trying to clear out the 115 cars and 75 tractor-trailers that were stranded.

“It basically looks like a wall of mud,” he said. “I’m looking at semis buried in four feet of mud. It’s a miracle no one was seriously hurt.”

The fact that California got massive amounts of rainfall was strange to begin with, considering they’ve been entrenched in major drought conditions for four years now. Even though this year’s El Niño isn’t expected to fully address the issues of the past four years, it should help. That doesn’t mean it’s arrival should be celebrated though, because prior events suggest the conditions will be dangerous.

In ‘97 the ENSO is estimated to have killed more than 2,000 people worldwide. The city of Los Angeles has already put together a number of recommendations for it’s residents to stay safe, and the Los Angeles Times has expanded on their list. For that part of the country it’s about being protected from floods. For your part of the world it could be entirely different. Take some time to do some research on your area and how you may need to prepare for the shifts in climate. Even if your area isn’t going to be drastically affected by the oscillation, at least you can be properly dressed for whatever it brings your way.

For more information on what El Niño could mean to other parts of the world visit the following:

The Science of Ice (Hockey)

Posted on: October 13th, 2015 by Jeff Renoe No Comments



Making ice in an indoor rink is really pretty incredible. In order to freeze the inch of water necessary, a series of pipes lie beneath the surface where a non-freezing liquid is kept refrigerated and constantly circulated. This cold brinewater, as the substance is often called, brings the temperature of the water below freezing in order create a solid skating surface. The video below provides some additional detail to the process.

Once the rink is finished, the process shifts from creation to monitorization. Even a single degree change in ice temperature can create an entirely new surface for skating. A harder, colder ice is preferred by hockey players because the puck they use can glide more evenly over it. However, a warm, softer ice is preferential to figure skaters to help provide a stronger ‘edge’ to the blade on its surface. The humidity in the building can also play a critical factor. If the level becomes too high a fog can develop over the ice creating dangerous conditions for everyone involved.

While the temperature inside the arena certainly has an obvious effect on the overall quality of the rink, the conditions outside can be equally important. This past June a local indoor rink in Boise suffered from melting issues due to the triple digit heat that was going on outdoors. That heat was finding its way into the arena and made it more difficult for the surface to remain solidified. In the end, they were forced to cancel or reschedule a number of their events during the heat wave.

The effect that even the slightest variation of internal and external conditions can have on a sheet of ice makes it imperative for changes to be tracked on a regular basis. This could have allowed the team in Boise to more quickly identify where the hotspots were located within the arena. That would have been important, because even though those who ran the rink didn’t have to worry about melting in the triple digit heat, their ice certainly did.

If you’re interested in learning more about products that can help you monitor both the temperature and humidity of your structure, please visit or call 1-800-757-3747 for information today.

Varsity Blues and Reds: Where You Should Be Monitoring In Your University

Posted on: July 8th, 2015 by Dickson No Comments

Hall, Trinity College, Cambridge

A few months ago, we discussed a story that the Yale Daily News had reported on: a data server failure that brought down the entire university’s website and email accounts, during the wonderfully inopportune time of semester finals.
We’ve been working with universities for a long time. You can find Dickson data loggers spread across the educational frontier of America, and in colleges and universities abroad as well. But researching that Yale story, and writing about how server room temperature monitoring can prevent data loss, opened our eyes to the diverse challenges that face a university campus when it comes to temperature and humidity monitoring.

College campuses can sometimes seem like small, weird cities. These cities have food services, restaurants, libraries, parks, housing, municipalities, hospitals, and more: everything a normal city does. While they are run by 18-25 year olds, and the bar-to-human ratio may be a little higher than normal cities, college campuses function as mini-cities.

And they should be treated as mini-cities when it comes to temperature and humidity monitoring. It’s easy to associate college with the classroom, but for a long, long time now, they have been much more than rooms filled with a chalkboard and desks.

Where should data loggers be placed at in a university? We’ve outline a few of the spots below. This is in no way an exhaustive list. But it does highlight some of the areas that data loggers, chart recorders, and thermometers should appear in on a college campus.

University Hospitals and Clinics

The university hospital is becoming synonymous with ”hospital,” and so it’s worth mentioning here, especially for all of you large research universities. For the smaller colleges, it’s all about the student health care clinic.

Now, there are dozens of places a university hospital should place a temperature data logger (many of which are required by regulators). We’ve listed a few examples of places to monitor below:

Vaccine Storage

Blood Bank Storage


Organ Storage

Clean Rooms


HVAC Outputs

We should preface this list by acknowledging that ”HVAC Outputs” is a pretty general location. Consider this a hodgepodge of the the areas of your university that should be monitored if you feel that they could be trouble if your HVAC system stops working properly. Also, these areas are great locations to test or validate your HVAC system. These locations include:

Libraries and Book Stores

Dorms/University Housing

Recreational Areas

Warehouse Storage

Agricultural Research Areas

Food Services

The cafeteria(s) on your university’s campus have food, and a lot of it. With thousands of students eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday in dining halls, and with a large staff that includes everyone from experienced quality managers to naive part-time freshman, the food services of your university is a machine with a lot of parts. Some of those parts need to be kept cold or hot, and thus they need a data logger. Locations you should consider monitoring in university food services include:



High-temperature dishwashers

Large Ovens

Also, consider getting a thermometer with a piercing probe. These little devices can help you determine if red meat and poultry have cooked all the way through.

As you can see, there are a lot of places a university needs to worry about temperature. For more information on how Dickson can help keep your university from getting too hot or cold, visit



How Temperature Monitoring Changes Overall Facility Behavior

Posted on: July 8th, 2015 by Dickson No Comments

Temperature monitoring may seem like a small factor in the overall operations of a production facility, but facility managers and company owners shouldn’t discount its effect on how a facility operates.

There are tangible benefits to temperature monitoring. For example: adhering to regulations, product safety, and product insurance are all direct and easily perceived reasons that companies monitor the temperature of the environment that their products reside in. We tend to hammer home these benefits in the content that we provide, and the product explanations featured in this catalog and on our website.

But, there are some intangible benefits that come as a result of temperature monitoring. Some of these are easy to perceive immediately after a temperature monitoring data logger or system is installed, and others take time to come to complete fruition. Regardless however, temperature monitoring has a positive effect on facilities that incorporate it into their quality assurance system for more reasons than just documenting when temperatures get too hot or too cold.

One of those intangible benefits, is something that we’ve had customers mention to us off hand while in the course of a temperature mapping study, or just when they call in with a question about one of our data loggers. And that benefit is a change in facility behavior.

When temperature and/or humidity is a concern in your facility, and you do a good job monitoring your environment, team habits change. For instance, in one of our recent facility visits, a quality assurance manager mentioned that the data loggers posted in their facility not only were key to securing their latest logistics deal, but also got their production team interested in the other parameters that come with quality assurance, leading to greater communication between the quality assurance department, and the production floor.

In another Dickson customer case, the decision to buy an extra data logger as a back up to a current HVAC system led a research team to use the data logger for tests within its laboratory. Once considered a constant in their tests, when the data logger was introduced, the next round of experiments included temperature not as a constant, but as a variable that could change and affect the quality of a final product.

Finally, our customers have found that temperature monitoring changes facility mindset when it comes to data.

Temperature can be seen as a single number, that you simply want to stay below a certain threshold and above another. However, with products like DicksonOne, temperature data has driven innovation across our customers’ facilities. That innovation can come through changes in risk management strategies, efficiency testing, or transportation security. Whatever the reason, temperature monitoring is here to stay, and you should enjoy how it changes your facility behavior.



FDA Temperature Mapping and Monitoring Explained: A Dickson Translation

Posted on: May 18th, 2015 by Dickson No Comments
FDA Compliance Temperature Monitoring

FDA Compliance Temperature Monitoring

When it comes to regulatory bodies and concrete descriptions of how exactly you should be monitoring your environment . . . well it never comes to that.

Most regulatory bodies are vague in their recommendations for how you need to be monitoring your product’s temperature.

The FDA is no different.

However, there are some regulations out there that will help you avoid that dreaded FORM 483 from the FDA. In this edition of Dickson Translations we look to two FDA regulations and explain what they tell us about temperature monitoring in the food and pharmaceutical industries.

1. 21 CFR 110.80 – Food For Human Consumption

This section of the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations speaks to the processes and controls associated with food for human consumption. It specifically states that ”Raw materials . . . shall be held at such temperature and relative humidity . . . to prevent the food from becoming adulterated…”

What it means: When storing the raw materials associated with food production, keep them at a safe temperature and humidity. Vague like most regulations, this FDA regulation does tell food producers something crucial: raw materials need to be monitored. This affects not only the manufacturer, but the supply chain that produces the raw materials for the manufacturer. It extends the reach of the FDA’s regulation of food.

2. 21 CFR 203.32 – Prescription Drug Marketing

This section of the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations outlines the storage and handling requirements for drug samples. It states, ”Manufacturers, authorized distributors of record, and their representatives shall store and handle all drug samples under conditions that will maintain their stability, integrity, and effectiveness . . .”

What it means: All drug samples should be stored in proper conditions. It may sound strange to find a regulation on drug storage in a marketing regulation, but it sits there nonetheless. This regulation is important because it focuses on pieces of the supply chain that may normally go unnoticed. Drug samples are usually manufactured, stored, and shipped in much smaller quantities than entire batches of product. However, the FDA is stating that samples also must be stored under correct conditions. How do you prove you did that? With temperature monitoring.