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UF Gets Federal Funds To Finish Statewide Weather Network

By:
Chuck Woods (352) 392-1773 x 281

Source(s):
Larry Treadaway lst@mail.ifas.ufl.edu, (407) 884-2034, ext. 151
Andy Devanas andrew.devanas@dca.state.fl.us (850) 413-9885

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GAINESVILLE, Fla.—The University of Florida’s statewide Florida Automated Weather Network, also known as FAWN, will be completed this year with the help of $125,000 in funds from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

“With the help of federal funding, we can now add another 11 monitoring stations to the weather network by the end of the year, bringing the total to 32 for complete statewide coverage 24 hours daily,” said Larry Treadaway, who coordinates the weather network for UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“We want to thank Andy Devanas, state meteorologist with the Florida Department of Community Affairs, who helped obtain federal funding during a difficult budget year,” Treadaway said. “The fact that we were able to get federal funds for the network underscores its importance to the state’s $54 billion agricultural industry.”

The computerized weather network was started by UF in 1997 after the National Weather Service discontinued forecasts for agriculture, Treadaway said. Since its inception, network coverage has been limited to Central Florida and South Florida.

“We need a complete statewide network because regular forecasts for cities may be misleading to farmers located in cooler rural areas,” he said. “Heat trapped in concrete and asphalt can make cities 10 degrees warmer than farms in rural areas. When cold weather moves through the state, the difference can be devastating to citrus and other cold-sensitive crops.”

Treadaway said growers and others interested in real time weather data can access the system via telephone or the FAWN Web site. In addition to data, the system can give farmers reliable climate predictions three to six months in advance.

The network, which now includes 21 monitoring stations, will be expanded to 32 by fall 2002. Each solar-powered station collects weather data and transmits it to a computer in Gainesville every 15 minutes. The stations measure temperatures at two, six and 30 feet above ground, soil temperature, wind speed and direction, rainfall, relative humidity, barometric pressure, leaf wetness and solar radiation.

The 11 new monitoring stations will be added this year at Jay in Santa Rosa County, Marianna in Jackson County, Quincy in Gadsden County, Monticello in Jefferson County, Live Oak in Suwannee County, Bronson in Levy County, MacClenny in Baker County, Kenansville in Osceola County, Sebring in Highlands County, Palmdale in Glades County, Carrabelle in Franklin County.

Existing monitoring stations include Alachua in Alachua County, Apopka in Orange County, Avalon in Orange County, Belle Glade in Palm Beach County, Bradenton in Manatee County, Brooksville in Hernando County, Citra in Marion County, Dover in Hillsborough County, Fort Lauderdale in Broward County, Fort Pierce in St. Lucie County, Hastings in St. Johns County, Homestead in Miami-Dade County, Immokalee in Collier County, Lake Alfred in Polk County, Ocklawaha in Marion County, Okahumpka in Lake County, Ona in Hardee County, Pierson in Volusia County, Putnam Hall in Putnam County, Tavares in Lake County, and Umatilla in Lake County.

“We invite everyone to visit the FAWN Web site to see current weather conditions as well as the unique and educational weather data graphing java applet,” Treadaway said. “Also available are daily, weekly and monthly data summaries, charts of chilling degree days and historical data charts.”

He said growers are looking at FAWN as a source of reliable information not only for cold protection, but also for weather-driven computer models in pest control, irrigation scheduling, fertilizer rates and other management programs.

“It’s all part of the growing trend toward precision agriculture,” Treadaway said.

Another new component of the FAWN Web site, Climate Predictions, provides information on weather trends over the next three to six months from the Florida Consortium for Climate Prediction Applications. The consortium includes scientists at UF, Florida State University and the University of Miami.

Weather data from the network is available at (352) 846-3100 or (305) 246-7040 and the FAWN Web site: http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu

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