Development of all-in-one weather station puts new technology within reach, keeps network maintenance costs down
PULLMAN, Wash. —It is one thing to provide a proof of concept in academia, and quite another to produce it on a mass scale. METER Group, Inc. USA and the Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO) today announced they will work together to build a dense network of 20,000 weather stations in sub-Saharan Africa. Forming the backbone of the network is the ATMOS 41 all-in-one weather station.
The ATMOS 41, developed by METER in collaboration with TAHMO, uses new sensor and communications technology to measure and report 12 different weather variables, including air temperature, relative humidity, vapor pressure, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, precipitation and lightning. Five-minute data is reported hourly over a single wire to a data logger, where it is then sent to the cloud via the cellular network.
Unlike traditional weather stations, the ATMOS 41 uses no moving parts, which are prone to failure from dust, debris, insects, and other wear-and-tear. Moving parts also attract attention.
“We want to be as innocuous as possible — for reliability and also for economy,” said John Selker, TAHMO co-director. “So when we went and started the conversation with [METER], we put some conditions out.” The design criteria included no moving parts, low power consumption and near real-time internet connectivity.
The ATMOS 41 limits maintenance and makes cleaning easy. Rainfall is measured using a drip counter and a 100-millimeter diameter funnel over a range of 0 to 125 millimeters per hour and at a resolution of 0.017 millimeters. Wind speed and direction is measured ultrasonically with technology pioneered by Dr. Gaylon Campbell. An Apogee sensor measures incoming solar radiation with an accuracy of ± 5 percent over a range of 0 to 1750 watts per square meter.
Level and compass complete the package and provide error diagnostics and troubleshooting tools for installation and upkeep.
The partnership began when Selker met with Dr. Gaylon Campbell at a technical conference and discovered they were working on a similar concept for a weather station. In 2012, TAHMO founders decided to collaborate with METER Group, Inc. USA, formerly Decagon Devices, Inc., for instrument development and manufacture.
“When we got together and thought about what we needed to do with the ATMOS 41, our goal was to really provide this optimal instrument that would allow us to get the measurements that we wanted at the accuracy level that we wanted for a price that wouldn’t make it prohibitive to put these things everywhere,” said Dr. Colin Campbell, senior research scientist at METER. “We wanted our developmental effort to make their job easier. The microenvironment monitor to us represents the perfect balance of simplicity and precision that will allow people to get the measurements they want at the price they need.”
TAHMO aims to deploy 20,000 weather stations, one station every 30 kilometer across the entire sub-Sahel. The stations provide ground-based observations in underserved regions, which are necessary for improving forecasts for weather-dependent industries such as agriculture. Today forecasting accuracy in Africa trails the rest of the world. Only a small number of surface stations are producing reports with high reliability, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
METER has recently scaled its production of the ATMOS 41 to meet growing demand for TAHMO stations. To date, more than 300 units have shipped. One hundred and five beta units have been installed in the countries of Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda.
Commercial release of the ATMOS 41 all-in-one weather station is expected in the next few months. For more information, visit the ATMOS 41 product page.