Advanced Weather Network pilot project

Why the project is necessary

Weather has a big impact on many of the day-to-day decisions made in agriculture, public safety (e.g., rural fire services) and other significant sectors.

These daily decisions by some agricultural producers in Queensland often do not take the impact of weather patterns into account because:

  • local weather observations, ‘nowcasts’ (now to 12 hours) and short-term forecasts (7 days) can be unreliable, especially around the Great Dividing Range
  • only about 600 of the 17,000 rain gauges in Australia can automatically report their data in near real-time.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), Telstra, and the Queensland Government, through Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), are working together to develop new products and expand BoM’s current network of automatic weather stations (AWS) to meet the agriculture industry’s growing need for new ways to enable localised observations and forecasts to support business decisions.

Scope and focus of the project

The pilot project focuses on the horticultural, broadacre and grazing food-bowl areas that supply Queensland and export markets. The area has been identified as a key location to test improved observations and forecast capabilities

The project will run for 12 to 18 months and 55 weather stations will be installed. Telstra will install around:

  • 45 robust, high-quality Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled weather stations on Telstra sites
  • 10 weather stations on farms and DAF research facilities in the Lockyer Valley, Esk, Gatton, Toowoomba, Cecil Plains, and other Darling Downs areas.
Pilot project area
© Queensland Government

The project will test the viability of a weather network that combines data from:

  • the BoM Australian weather network and weather systems
  • on-farm weather stations and close-to-farm private weather stations owned and maintained by Telstra.

Telstra’s extensive national narrowband IoT network will deliver weather insights in new areas. The data ownership management capabilities of the Telstra Data Hub will ensure private information is protected and private data suppliers’ interests are supported.

BoM will use the checked, cleaned, and organised data to develop hyper-local weather forecasts. The forecasts and grid of observation data will be then made available to the project’s participants.

Benefits of the project

The new devices will help to determine:

  • the most appropriate technology and locations for a nationwide network of private, automated weather stations that can supplement the BoM-AWS network
  • whether this approach will work.
IMETOS 3.3 weather station
© Queensland Government

The data from the localised network of weather stations will provide many benefits, including supporting new, innovative products such as dashboards and apps that help growers to:

  • increase production yield and reduce input losses
  • reduce farm business financial volatility
  • better manage the effects of the weather and climate change on agribusinesses.

Specific examples of benefits from an expanded weather-station network in the district include:

  • better management, understanding, and predictions about crop pests and disease through the modelling of weather patterns and events, resulting in increased yields and reduced pesticide use
  • more informed decisions based on the local temperature and winter chill, which impact timing and quality of bud burst, and subsequent harvest and yield in crops such as apples and pears
  • more accurate information about local weather to address problems of oversupply in the market—for example, lettuce, where the combination of weekly plantings and unusually warm weather bring successive planting to maturity at the same time
  • better forecasts of extreme heat, which can help growers to limit heat damage and sunburn in apples and vegetables.

Further information

More information about the Advanced Weather Network pilot project, such as weather station sites and data, will be made available soon.