What is an Automatic Weather Station?


The 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?

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.

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!

Automatic Weather Station

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:

1, Weather Sensor

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.

2, Sensor Shelter

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)

3, Rain Gauge

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.

4, Data-Logger/Network Appliance

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.

5, Weather Display

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.

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.

Advantages of Using an Automated Weather Station

Most people who purchase or rent a weather station want one that will help them accomplish their organizational goals. It doesn’t matter if it’s a country club trying to protect golfers, a school trying to engage students with STEM topics, or an emergency management department trying to predict damaging storms. All organizations need the best of the best when it comes to weather stations.

This is why many businesses across all sectors choose automatic weather stations. Automated weather stations are an integral part of the world’s forecasting and monitoring systems. In fact, automatic weather stations have key advantages over older, manual weather stations, including:

Accurate Measurements

Low Power Requirements

Proven Reliability

Accurate Measurements

Red thermometer iconThe first major advantage of using an automated weather station is the accuracy of measurements.

Current weather and forecasts can change fast. Automated weather stations keep you up to date.
One downfall of using a manual or traditional weather station is that you’re relying on a person to get measurements. Automatic weather stations completely eliminate the risk of human error. Not only that, but the technology ensures you get regular and frequent updates. Some automatic weather stations can update every few minutes. Now that’s real-time weather data!

Another way these stations can be more accurate is with expert calibration. For example, our team of meteorologists spend plenty of time calibrating our weather stations. What that means is basically they check that everything is working correctly. That ensures our weather network is of the highest quality. If something seems off, they flag that station until it’s checked and repaired.

Low Power Requirements

lightning bolt in a circle, red iconThe next advantage of an automatic weather station is its low power requirements. Automatic weather stations can operate from solar panels, wind turbines, and even mobile phone technology.

This feature makes it perfect for remote locations. Think about it. Weather happens everywhere in the world, even where robust electric grids are not available. You can use basically any power supply to operate an automatic weather station. These are very flexible instruments!

With the right field technician in charge, you can install one of these stations pretty much anywhere.

Proven Reliability

The last advantage of an automatic weather station is its reliability. While things can go wrong with one of these weather stations, they don’t require any routine maintenance. Like we mentioned before, it helps when stations are backed by a team of meteorologists or other calibrators.

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