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Risks and Opportunities Project (CROP)
History of the Automatic Weather Station Network
Climate Risks and Opportunities Project (CROP)
In 1981 severe erosion ocurred in the Jerramungup district. This was symptomatic
of many areas of the state where soil was being tilled for the growing of broad
acre crops. The Department of Agriculture and Federal agencies made money available
to research the cause and effects of wind erosion. There were two major thrusts.
The first was to build a mobile wind tunnel to measure the effects of different
tillage practices, sowing densities and stubble retention on the erodibility
of the different soils. The second thrust was to gather data on the weather
characteristics that were causing the damage. Little research information was
available from the Bureau of Meteorology.
Initially, 2 sites were chosen and equipment installed in November 1982. The
first site was at Lloyd and Jenny Chamberlain's property 20km north of Jerramungup.
They had suffered, like the entire district, with massive erosion of their sand
over clay property and were willing participants in trying to discover more
information on the forces facing them in trying to grow crops. The second site
chosen was Newdegate Research Station just 80 km north of the Jerramungup site.
Erosion had ocurred here but not to the same extent and it was felt that whilst
district farming practices were similar they did not receive the severest winds
that further south received.
Two more similar sites were added (Merredin 1985, Mt.Barker 1989) that had
the same type of equipment. They consisted of a tripod in the paddock carrying
a logger to measure the sensors and send the information along an underground
cable to a computer housed in the Chamberlain's farmhouse and the research station
offices respectively. Each minute the logger measured the signals from wind
speed, wind direction, solar radiation, air temperature, soil temperature, relative
humidity and rainfall. It then sent the information along the underground cable
to the computer listening in the office. A data storage tape on the computer
was replaced weekly and the data sent by post to Perth.
In 1989 a climatologist was appointed to complement the research and broaden
the uses of climate data relating to Agriculture. Issues such as drought, Greenhouse
and El Nino are all now addressed.
In 1989, 4 other sites were installed (Badgingarra, East Beverley, East Chapman
and Chapman). These sites had the same equipment to measure and log the data
but instead of recording 1 minute data on computer tapes the logger recorded
1 hourly data on standard audio tapes. In 1990 Morawa and Esperance were added
to the network with Wongan Hills and Vasse running a logger and sensors locally
made by Unidata Aust.
By October 1992 a new logger and storage device became available from Datataker
Aust. This logger was combined with sensors from other companies as previously
used on the other weathers stations. From 1992 to 1998 these types were installed
at Mullewa, Manjimup, ManyPeaks, Mingenew, Salmon Gums, Mt.Howick, Medina, Kalannie,
Scaddan and Wellstead. The main starage device was a removeable card which was
posted to Perth each week, fortnight or month depending on operators. Latterly
some of these sites do not replace the data cards but access the logger direct
with a portable computer to download the data. They then E-Mail the data to
Perth from their local office. Existing sites at Morawa, Wongan Hills, Vasse,
Chapman, Badgingarra were also converted to the new logger.
Because of the ageing computer technology at Jerramungup, Newdegate, Merredin
and Mt.Barker a new recording system has been under test using an IBM compatible
computer at Newdegate. The data is on standard floppy disk and is removed and
the data E-mailed direct to Perth from the local site. These stations still
record 1 minute data.
There are many other trial sites using similar equipment and some sites recording
only a few sensors such as temperature and rainfall. A series of recording raingauges
is also visited twice a year on the outer fringes of the farming areas in the
Data sent to Perth was originally stored and preocessed on the Department's
mainframe computer. The data was imported and exported to reports using the
Fortran programming language. By 1996 the age of small mainframe computers was
waning and the data was transferred to a high storage capacity PC. Again the
language used was Fortran because the data and programmes could be transferred
without major rewrites of the programmes.
Whilst there is a delay in the data reaching Perth the network was not set
up to receive on-line data direct from the stations. On-line data is only useful
for forecast purposes. The cost to make the stations on-line currently excedes
it's benefits unless predictive forecasts are introduced.
The data is retained in hourly and minute data for researchers who need that
level of resolution. In the main other researchers, farmers, vets and the industry
use the daily data derived from the hourly data. These summaries are posted
to users on a monthly basis. Individuals often request data for specific sites
for specific periods and receive their data either in paper or electronic form.
With increasing Internet access more users are visiting our web site to get
Last update: Fri 22 Aug 2003