3D-PAWS Initiative

3D-PAWS logo with text

Photo of 3D-PAWS location at the Bio-Med College at the Salvation Army Mission, Zambia.

What is 3D-PAWS?

Many surface weather stations across the globe suffer from incorrect siting, poor maintenance and limited communications for real-time monitoring. To expand observation networks in sparsely observed regions, the 3D-PAWS (3D-Printed Automatic WeatherStation) initiative has been launched by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the US National Weather Service International Activities Office (NWS IAO), with support from the USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

Goals of the 3D-PAWS initiative:

  • Build capacity to reduce hydrometeorology-related risk in developing countries
  • Observe and communicate weather and climate information to rural communities
  • Develop observation networks and applications to reduce weather related risk

System Overview

A very high quality 3D-PAWS surface weather station can be manufactured in about a week, at a cost of only $200-400, using locally sourced materials, microsensor technology, low-cost single board computers, and a 3D printer. 3D-PAWS sensors currently measure pressure, temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, precipitation, and visible/infrared/UV light. The system uses a Raspberry Pi single-board computer for data acquisition, data processing, and communications.

3D-printed wind speed anemometer and wind direction vane, tipping bucket rain gauge and radiation shield.
3D-printed wind speed anemometer and wind direction vane, tipping bucket rain gauge and radiation shield.

Benefits of a low-cost 3D-PAWS system:

  • Uses low-cost, reliable micro-sensors
  • Can be assembled locally at Met Offices or other local agencies
  • Components can be “re-printed” when systems fail 
  • Local agencies take ownership in building and maintaining observation networks

Sensor Evaluation

3D-PAWS is being assessed at the NCAR Marshall Field Site in Boulder, CO, the NOAA Testbed facility in Sterling, VA, and at selected international locations.  The Boulder site provides sampling conditions in a high-altitude semi-arid environment with subfreezing temperatures and frozen precipitation (the latter is not measured).  The NOAA site provides sampling for a more temperate and humid climate near sea-level.  The international 3D-PAWS sites provide an assessment of sensor performance in a variety of tropical and sub-tropical climate regimes.

Station Pilot Networks

3D-PAWS systems have been deployed in the United States (17), Kenya (25), Uganda (14), Zambia (6), Barbados (33), Curacao (1).  The primary focus in the United States is on testing and evaluation.  The sites in Kenya are co-located with schools with a test site at the Kenya Met Department (KMD).  The sites in Zambia are installed at radio stations, schools, and rural missions with a test site at the Zambia Met Department (ZMD).  The sites in the Caribbean are located at the Curacao Met Department (CMD) and the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) with the primary focus on testing and evaluation.

This map provides access to each sensor in the network with links to a location picture and data feed.

Data Access

3D-PAWS real-time data are available on the CHORDS project data servers: Kenya, Zambia, and 3D-PAWS (for testing and evaluation). CHORDS (Cloud-Hosted Real-time Data Services for Geosciences) is a US National Science Foundation (NSF) EarthCube initiative to provide a platform for sharing geosciences datasets.  It is supported and managed by the UCAR/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL).

Martin Steinson describes the function of the 3D-PAWS rain gauge for the students of St. Benedict's High School, Budalangi, Kenya.
Martin Steinson describes the function of the 3D-PAWS rain gauge for the students of St. Benedict’s High School, Budalangi, Kenya.

Benefits, Impacts, and End Users

3D-PAWS observations can be used for a variety of hydrometeorological applications.

Example applications:

  • Regional weather forecasting
    Observations from the 3D-PAWS network can be assimilated into regional numerical weather prediction systems such as the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF: http://www.wrf-model.org) model to improve mesoscale weather forecasts.
  • Early alert and regional decision support systems
    Real-time monitoring of precipitation in un-gauged or minimally gauged river basins can provide input to flash flood guidance and early warning decision support systems to support delivery of flood alerts.
  • Agricultural monitoring
    3D-PAWS can support water resource management tools to improve reservoir operation for fresh water supplies and the generation of hydroelectric power. Other applications include operation of irrigation systems (e.g., center pivots) and agricultural crop monitoring.
  • Health monitoring
    3D-PAWS can help monitor conditions leading to outbreaks of diseases such as meningitis and malaria.

Additional Documentation at  https://sites.google.com/ucar.edu/3dpaws/


For more information, please contact:

Paul A. Kucera, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 3000
Boulder, CO 80307 USA
+1. 303. 497. 2807

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