Specialised help was needed to move an automatic weather station from its current position near the Skukuza airport to its new home at Pretoriuskop. Richard Keniry and George James of SANAS (Inteltronics) undertook thie daunting task of moving the nine metre tower and its precision instruments. Firstly all the instruments had to be carefully disconnected and removed, and then the steel tower dismantled piece by piece.
?The biggest problem we have is insects and snakes? said Richard. ?We have to be careful when we open the main box and work with the instruments?. Although the weather station is checked and serviced on an annual basis, that leaves plenty of time for wasps or snakes to take up residence in and around the tower.
This fully automated, solar powered weather station monitors the ambient temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, rainfall and solar radiation. An additional programme will be added to the system that will calculate a Fire Danger Index (FDI). This will give an indication of the fire risk on any given day. This system is fully automated.
The data is accessed from the weather station and sent to a computer in Skukuza using a cell-phone network, at 10h00 and 14h00 every day. This vital information is then emailed to all the section rangers in the park, the military and the SAPS. This is similar to the system currently running in Satara and Shingwedzi.
According to Nick Zambatis, Sanparks regional researcher, science-management interface, the move will increase the area currently monitored for weather conditions in the Park. ?The weather station in Skukuza, run by the South African Weather Service, will also be automated shortly during the next few months, and two automated weather stations in Skukuza will be a duplication of effort? explained Nick.
?This station collects information 24 hours a day, taking a reading every 18 seconds. We get an average for every 30 minutes? said Nick. Weather monitoring is vital as it provides information for a whole series of actions in the Kruger National Park from veld management and research projects to burning programmes.
The automated weather station was donated by Nasa to the Kruger National Park in 2000. This was part of the Southern African Fire and Atmospheric Research Initiative (Safari) 2000 programme.
Safari used various methods to monitor the combined effects of climate and fire emissions. The move will take a day to complete and once the system has been checked and re-calibrated, it will continue to provide valuable information about prevailing weather conditions.
By Michele Hofmeyr
In Kruger National Park