To the uninitiated, the weather station located in the Kemper Center for Home Gardening may look like a recently landed spacecraft. But taking a closer look reveals an array of finely-tuned sensors that monitor the current weather conditions at the Garden. This intriguing machine offers crucial information to the Garden and celebrates its 10 year anniversary in 2022.
The Garden installed the remote automated weather station (RAWS) on October 30, 2012. The goal was to collect data, such as temperature and soil moisture, to help Horticulture and other departments. Additionally, digitally archived data could help guide living collections’ management decisions, assess the effects of pollution and climate change on the Garden’s plant collections, and determine plant protection strategies for extreme weather conditions.
The weather station tracks 15 variables, including air temperature, wind speed, relative humidity, and air pressure. Some variables are important to horticulture work at the Garden, but you probably won’t find them included in the weather forecast on your favorite local news station. These include data like soil temperature, soil moisture, and wet bulb temperature, which is similar to heat index, but measured in the sun.
As the Garden adds more rare and endangered plants from around the world to its living collection, knowing the exact growing conditions we experience, and how those conditions change over time, is an invaluable tool to help protect these species. Data from the weather station is also collected for annual and perennial plant trials conducted at the Kemper Center.
This summer, a trial of zinnia cultivars was completed with the specific goal of assessing powdery mildew resistance. Because powdery mildew is affected by temperature and humidity, the averages of these variables for each month of the trial period will be included in the final report.
Beyond the Garden
Since its installation, the weather station has operated in partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation, or MDC. At the time, it was one of eight stations MDC operated in Missouri to monitor and fight forest fires.
MDC can assess wildfire risk by monitoring the station’s fuel temperature and moisture sensors, which measure how hot and dry the leaf litter on a typical forest floor might be in the region. On an even larger scale, all the data points collected by the station are sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) via satellite. The data can then be used by research institutions to create metrological models and the National Weather Service (NWS) for both long and short-term weather forecasting.
See the data
The weather station collects data automatically, and it updates once an hour. You can see the data on the Garden’s website.
A more detailed look can be found by visiting MesoWest, a network of weather stations used by the NWS and other organizations to monitor weather conditions around the country.
Justine Kandra, Horticulturist