Network of automatic weather observation stations to be installed

An automatic weather observation tower. Photo Taneos Ramsay

The Cayman Islands National Weather Service has erected the first tower of a series of automatic weather observation stations which will be rolled out across the islands.

The first tower has been installed on the site of the National Weather Service’s planned weather facility along Crewe Road.

“The [automatic weather observation stations] is part of a planned larger network of AWOS and weather buoys to provide meteorological and maritime data for the service,” NWS Director General John Tibbetts told the Cayman Compass in a statement. “This network includes stations in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, as well as all districts of Grand Cayman.”

The exact location of each observation station and weather buoy has yet to be decided. However, Tibbetts said potential locations include the Coast Guard base, the George Town landfill, Stingray City, and off Seven Mile Beach.

Each observation station will record and transmit real-time data to the National Weather Service. Tibbetts said the information will include, “wind direction and speed, temperature, humidity and rainfall”.

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Each station will be furnished with equipment for lightning detection and cloud bases – the lowest altitude of the visible portion of clouds – as well as to monitor air quality.

“The network of AWOS and buoys will provide types of data that we currently don’t have, such as UV index, Feel Like Temperatures, wave heights, currents, soil temperatures, etc.,” said Tibbetts.

While he did not disclose how much each station will cost, Tibbetts said they were purchased from Sutron Corporation in Sterling, Virginia, and installed by a local company called Aviation Communications.

Weather observation stations are not new to Cayman; prior to 2004’s Hurricane Ivan, there were several located across Grand Cayman.

“A major problem the Weather Service had after the passage of Hurricane Ivan was that all AWOS on the island were damaged or destroyed during the storm, including the system that produced the official reading used in the report to the National Hurricane Center,” said Tibbetts.

He added that each AWOS is reinforced to be able to operate during a Category 5 hurricane.

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