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AWOS (Automated Weather Observing System)

Automated airport weather stations are automated sensor suites which are designed to serve aviation and meteorological observing needs for sage and efficient aviation operations and weather forecasting. Automated airport weather stations have become the backbone of weather observing in the United States and Canada, and are become increasingly prevalent worldwide due to their efficiency and cost-saving.

System Types

Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS)

The Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) units are operated and controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States, as well as by state and local governments and some private agencies. The American National Weather Service (NWS) and Department of Defense (DOD) play no role in their operation or deployment.

These systems are among the oldest automated weather stations and predate ASOS. They generally report at 20-minute intervals and do not report special observations for rapidly changing weather conditions. There are six standard categories of AWOS depending upon the sensor systems which are installed and a limitless number of customized weather stations:

AWOS I: wind speed and direction in knots, wind gust, variable wind direction, temperature, dew point in degrees Celsius, altmeter setting, density altitude.

AWOS II: AWOS I + visibility, and variable visibility.

AWOS III: AWOS II + sky condition, and cloud coverage and ceiling up to twelve thousand feet.

AWOS III-P: AWOS III + present weather, and precipitation identification.

AWOS III-T: AWOS III + thunderstorm and lightning detection.

AWOS III-P-T: AWOS III + present weather, and lightning detection

Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS)

The Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) units are operated and controlled cooperatively in the United States by the NWS, FAA and DOD. After many years of research and development, the deployment of ASOS units began in 1991 and was completed in 2004.

These systems generally report at hourly intervals, but also report special observations if weather conditions change rapidly and cross aviation operation thresholds. They generally report all the parameters of the AWOS-III, while also having the additional capabilities of reporting temperature and dew point in degrees Fahrenheit, present weather, icing, lightning, sea level, pressure and precipitation accumulation.

Besides serving aviation needs, ASOS serves as a primary climatological observing network in the United States, making up the first-order network of climate stations. Because of this, not every ASOS is located at an airport; for example, one of these units is located at Central Park in New York City and another is located on Cabbage Hill near Pendleton, Oregon for the sole purpose of providing climatological observations.

Automated Weather Sensor System (AWSS)

As with AWOS, the automated Weather Sensor System (AWSS) units are operated and controlled by the FAA in the United States; the NWS and DOD play no role in their operation or deployment.
The reporting characteristics of the AWSS are very similar to those of ASOS.

Observing Equipment

Automated airport weather stations use a variety of sophisticated equipment to observe the weather.

Standard Sensors

  • Wind Sensor
  • Redundant Altimeter
  • Relative Humidity (Dew Point)
  • Air Temperature
  • Visibility
  • Freezing Rain
  • Cloud Height and Cover
  • Precipitation Type
  • Precipitation Amount
  • Lightning
  • Runway Visual Range (RVR)
  • Optionally, the system can measure Soil Moisture and monitor the area with video.
Learn more about standard sensors...