The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the US National Weather Service International Activities Office has launched a 3D-Printed Automatic Weather Station (3D-PAWS) initiative with support from the USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to expand observation networks in sparsely observed regions. The initiative aims to build capacity to reduce hydrometeorology-related risk in developing countries; observe and communicate weather and climate information to rural communities; and to develop observation networks and applications to reduce weather-related risks.
A very high-quality 3D-PAWS surface weather station can be manufactured in approximately one week for between US$200–US$400 using some locally sourced materials, microsensor technology, low-cost single board computers and a 3D printer. It can be assembled at the local meteorological office or in other related agencies and components can be "re-printed" when the systems fail. 3D-PAWS sensors currently measure pressure, temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, precipitation, and visible, infrared and ultraviolet light. The system uses a Raspberry Pi single-board computer for data acquisition, data processing, and communications.
3D-PAWS observations can be used for a variety of hydrometeorological applications, including:
Regional weather forecasting - Can be assimilated into regional numerical weather prediction systems such as the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF: www.wrf-model.org) model to improve mesoscale weather forecasts
Early alert and regional decision support systems - Real-time monitoring of precipitation in ungauged or minimally gauged river basins can provide input to flash flood guidance and early warning decision support systems
Agricultural monitoring - Water resource management tools can improve reservoir operation for fresh water supplies and the generation of hydroelectric power
Health monitoring - Monitor conditions leading to outbreaks of diseases such as meningitis and malaria