What is an Automated Weather Station?
Automated Weather Station
Automated weather station isn’t just a toy for weather bloggers and enthusiasts. In fact, automatic weather stations are at the core of many critical functions for organizations both big and small.
But what exactly is an automatic/automated weather station (AWS)? How do they work? Scroll through this guide to find outf or click the topic that interests you most to get started.
What is an Automatic Weather Station?
First, we have to answer: “What is a weather station?”
A weather station is a system of integrated components that automatically measure, record, and sometimes transmit weather data.
An automated weather station is an automatic version of a traditional weather station. They can be single-site or part of a weather network. Automatic weather stations are the worldwide standard for climate and boundary-layer meteorology.
These stations most commonly report on surface weather observations like:
This isn’t a complete list of measurements, but these are some of the most common. Depending on the weather station, they can also measure things like cloud height. It all depends on a station’s components.
How an Automated Weather Station Works
Now that you know what an automatic weather station is, you’re ready to learn how it works.
At the most basic level, an automatic weather station works by measuring atmospheric conditions and transmitting them to a network, forecaster, or display.
They use special instruments to measure the surface weather observations we mentioned above. Some parts of a weather station include a thermometer to measure temperature and a barometer to measure atmospheric pressure. We list out all the different parts and what they do in the weather sensor section below, so keep reading!
Depending on the provider and model, there are several components that make up a station. Each component enables the weather station to measure and transmit different atmospheric data. Some common equipment typical for automatic weather stations include:
Although “weather sensor” sounds pretty broad, most weather sensors just measure wind speed and direction.
The part of the weather instrument that measures wind speed is called the anemometer. The part that measures wind direction is the wind vane.
Our weather stations use a vane style anemometer, so basically, it’s one instrument that measures both.
Wind speed and direction is an important part of any weather station because these data points help us understand the direction weather systems are moving and how soon they will reach a location.
The next piece of an automatic weather station is a lightning sensor.
While lightning sensors are optional, any comprehensive weather station includes one. This is because lightning sensors are a key safety tool. Make sure your automated weather station has a total lightning sensor, so you don’t miss a strike.
Total lightning – or the combination of in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning strikes – is necessary to help you understand storm severity. For example, storm cells with high frequencies of in-cloud lightning indicate other severe weather like tornadoes, hail, and downbursts.
Lightning sensors themselves are cylinder-shaped instruments that include a circuit board. The most efficient lightning alerts comes from total lightning sensors that are part of a larger lightning network. When connected to a total lightning network, these sensors produce less false and missed alarms.
We use network-based lightning detection to triangulate individual lightning strikes, send life-saving lightning alerts, and determine storm strength. You can learn more about the process of lightning detection and how a weather station’s lightning sensors contribute in our lightning detection guide.
Another weather sensor component is the sensor shelter. While this might just sound like a protection for automated weather stations, it’s actually one of the most instrument-heavy pieces.
The sensor shelter is where automatic weather stations house the following equipment:
Temperature with thermometers
Relative humidity with hygrometers
Dew point with hygrometers
Barometric pressure with barometers
Heat index with thermometers and hygrometers (Heat index = temperature + humidity)
Wind chill with thermometers and anemometers (Wind chill is the cooling wind velocity brings to a given temperature)
Wet bulb globe temperature with hygrometers, thermometers, pyranometers, and anemometers (WBGT = humidity + temperature + solar radiation + wind speed + sun angle)
Red raindrop icon on a grey circle backgroundThe next important and easy-to-understand piece of any automatic weather sensor is a rain gauge. Rain gauges measure the liquid-equivalent precipitation. A rain gauge looks like a bucket or wide, vertical cylinder.
Weather stations that have rain gauges can tell you how much rain or snow has fallen in a given time period. The rain gauges on our automated weather stations here at Earth Networks will tell you the following:
Daily rainfall total
Daily rainfall average
Weekly rainfall total
Weekly rainfall average
Yearly rainfall total
Yearly rainfall average
Two pieces of automatic weather stations that work hand-in-hand are data-loggers and network appliances. These systems work together in an automated step-by-step process.
First, they measure the data from your sensors. Then they process that data and store it. Finally, the network appliance transmits that data to things like your weather display, apps, and alerts.
It’s good to look for weather stations that have network appliances with extended battery life just in case the power goes out. Our network appliances have a 72-hour backup battery life and automatically reboots as needed to ensure you always have the data you’re paying for.
Almost all weather stations have some display. Even personal stations that weather enthusiasts have at their homes often have a digital display somewhere.
Professional-grade automated weather stations typically come with much more robust displays. For example, our commercial-grade weather station can be connected to an HD display that shows everything from current conditions to the weekly forecast.
The Online Weather Center for Lely High School
We also recommend using a weather station that has an online weather display as well. Online weather centers ensure access to weather information from anywhere. These are especially helpful when they combine current observations, forecasts, live video, and historical data.
One last component of a weather station is a weather camera. Not every weather station has a weather camera. However, weather cameras are an added bonus that show live images and connect communities.
While some people keep their camera feeds to themselves, others share them with local news stations. This is typically a win-win, as local news stations love live images of the surrounding area and organizations love the exposure the news gets them!