The National Weather Service discontinued its agricultural weather information service in 1996. On a cold night in January of 1997, temperatures were expected to drop into the low to mid 30s. This forecast was based on weather stations located at city and airport sites; rural areas with our farms tend to be colder. The resulting crop loss in the hundreds of millions of dollars, mostly winter vegetables, pointed to a strong industry need for automated weather data for ag producers. A group of motivated individuals, including Lake County Extension agent John Jackson and UF/IFAS David Ayers, got to work to create the Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN). FAWN provides up-to-date weather information through a system of automated weather stations distributed throughout the State of Florida.
This network of 42 automated weather stations are located in rural locations that provide representative data and weather-related information to growers of Florida, from Jay (near Pensacola) to Homestead. Most sites are located at UF/IFAS research centers, USDA facilities, Florida Division of Forestry sites, state/county parks, and county extension ofﬁces.
Here are some weather facts collected from FAWN stations during Hurricane Irma in September 2017:
- Highest Wind Speed recorded at a Fawn Weather Station was in Clewiston, Fl. September 10, 2017 7:15 pm 89.9 mph
- Highest Rain Fall recorded at a Fawn Weather Station in a 24-hour period was at Frost Proof, 16.90 inches
- Highest Rain Fall recorded at a Fawn Weather Station in a 15-minute period was in Immokalee, Fl. September 10, 2017 6:30 pm, 2.16 inches
Each FAWN tower is equipped with sensors that measure a number of parameters, including air temperature at 30, 6, and 2 feet, soil temperature at 4 inches, relative humidity at 6 feet. wind direction and speed at 30 feet, rainfall at 5 feet, average solar radiation, dew point temperature, and barometric pressure.
This weather data is collected every 15 minutes and stored in data loggers. Calculations determine the daily wet bulb temperature, and daily evapotranspiration (ET). ET is the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration from the land’s surface to the atmosphere, and is important information to growers for efficient use of irrigation water.
These data are compared to a known standard range of acceptable values, and then processed into a master database, available for public access. The data is also summarized and incorporated into FAWN management tools for agriculture producers.
Feel free to take a look for yourself at FAWN’s Home page, www.myfawn.com. This website shows a map of Florida with 42 weather station reading for the latest temperature at 6 feet above ground. All current and historic weather data on the Fawn website is free to the public, vegetable and livestock farmers, citrus, strawberry and blueberry growers, ferneries and plant nurseries. FAWN also provides tools for farmers, growers and residents for advice on cold protection, irrigation, and pesticide application.
FAWN is part of the University of Florida IFAS Extension, and benefits our state by assisting with good irrigation decisions resulting in water conservation, cold protection to sustain food crops, and even assisting researchers to find cures for plant disease.