IEM Webcam Project

One of the unique datasets collected by the IEM are weather webcam imagery. These images provide very valuable data for folks interested in the current weather conditions and archived! Our webcam imagery dates back to 2003 with images saved every 5 minutes for that period!

Webcam on the top of ISU Agronomy Hall capturing a tornado off to the north and west back on 12 Nov 2005.

An awesome gravity wave lapse from near Tama, IA. This lapse has over 1 million views on YouTube!

Available Tools:

Frequently Asked Questions

What hardware are you using?
The TV networks contain a mix of Canon VB-C10, VB-C50 and VB-C60 model webcams. The newer webcams are Axis brand, due to the requirement for HD video. These webcams are autonomous and only need Internet and power to work. They run an embedded operating system / web server, which allows some custom software to poll images from.

What costs are involved?
The physical hardware (mounting bracket, camera housing, and webcam) runs about $2,000. There are cheaper options, but this is what we have traditionally seen sites use. The power usage is neglegible and usually donated by the webcam's host. The Internet requirements are for fast upload speeds as the webcam needs to serve out its imagery. Having 1 megabit upload speed will provide a workable video stream. The IEM provides collection and archival services at no cost and without warranty. There is no lock-in with our webcam collection software and so other tools can access the webcams at the same time we are polling for images to archive.

We'd like to build a webcam network, can you help?
In general, the IEM can not physically help with your construction of a webcam network, but can provide some guidance based on our experience. Please contact us and let us know your interest!

Where are the best places to mount a webcam?
Great question! You want a very stable and high location without tree or building obstruction. Obvious places like communication towers are not the best due to shaking of the tower and they are typically full of other equipment. Placing them on grain elevators is problematic due to dust and shaking. Placing them at schools is diffcult as they often do not have a high view and their local ethernet networks can be difficult to work with. We have had luck with municipal locations, like town squares, clock towers, and private downtown buildings.

Which directions are the most important to see?
Nearly all webcam houses create a blind spot whereby the webcam can not see past its housing mount. Having this blind spot be to either your south or northeast is likely ideal as you can see passing storms to your north and the sun rise/setting. Storms typically approach us from the west, so the west view is very important. Supercell thunderstorms, the ones that produce high impact weather, are usually best seen will pointing the webcam southwest thru northwest thru northeast. These are directions where the "meso" / "wall cloud" can be seen.