Automated Weather Stations
Improvements in decision-making tools that rely on inputs of timely weather data have created a need for more types of more detailed weather data. In addition to the old standards of daily maximum and minimum temperatures and rainfall, weather elements such as solar radiation, soil temperatures, relative humidity, wind direction, and wind speed have become important. But manually collecting such data in the detail needed is physically and economically prohibitive.
Space-age technology has provided the instrumentation for specialized agricultural weather stations that can routinely make observations every few minutes and store the data for later retrieval. Under full automation, a remote computer can be programmed to call the weather station at a preselected time, collect the stored data, and then store it in its own memory for immediate use.
A network of these stations was established in 1980 at the Branch Stations and Experiment Fields of the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station. Colby was one of the first stations in the network. These stations make hourly observations that provide information on the duration of the climatic elements above or below important threshold values during the day. Collection of the data from the network was automated in 1984, and the data set is almost complete since that time.
Automated (foreground) and NOAA weather stations at
Observers at cooperative weather stations keep their data on standardized forms that are forwarded to the national weather service at the end of each month. These forms have varied over the years but have been essentially the same since 1893, when maximum and minimum thermometers became standard instruments. Copies of these completed forms are