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Weather stations surviving on limited funds
Donors keep network scheduled to close last July in operation
A weather station at Clarks Bridge Park appears to be currently functioning even after the University of Georgia weather stations announced it was to be closing as well as the one at Gainesville State College.

A network of University of Georgia weather stations that was set to close last summer because of money issues is clinging to life on a monthly basis.

"We're still seeking sustaining funding but don't have anything that looks real promising right now," said Dale Threadgill, whose Department of Biological and Agriculture Engineering manages the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network.

"It isn't mouth to mouth, but it is month to month. We're good for a couple or three months," he said.
UGA started the network in 1992, growing to 81 stations, including ones at Clarks Bridge Park in Gainesville and Gainesville State College near Oakwood.

Each station records rainfall, air and soil temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, soil moisture and barometric pressure, according to the network's website. Some also record evaporation, water temperature and leaf wetness.

The network had planned to end operations last July 1 because of "the loss of state funding and key personnel," but funding from an unnamed donor allowed the network to keep operating for a few months longer.

These days, "there are enough people who would like to see (the network) continue, but they can't commit to anything more than a little bit here or there," Threadgill said.

The operation requires more than $300,000 annually, which had traditionally been provided from a combination of state funding, contracts and grants.

A notice on the network's website says "unless substantial blocks of dedicated long-term funding are committed, we will be forced to begin decommissioning stations.

"Once a weather station is decommissioned, current data will no longer
be available."

And that would be a big loss, said Michael Wheeler, county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County.

"I use it a lot especially in the fall and spring in talking to homeowners and farmers about planting," he said.

He refers people to the network's website, which features maps and data on a wide range
of weather conditions.

"We use it for the chilling hours with the peaches ... just kind of monitor that (crop)," he said. "I used it a lot (during previous work in) Gilmer County with the apple industry up there. During the growing season, we would monitor for insects."

The network's data "is so invaluable to not just commercial agriculture producers but everybody," he said.

If it goes away, he sees himself calling on agricultural businesses that have their own weather stations to find out about data trends.

"It would be frustrating," Wheeler