The Earth System Modeling Complex (ESMC) provides real-time weather and air quality forecasts for the High Plains of the United States using sensors placed in farm fields and backyards around the Midwest. The sensors measure air temperature, precipitation, and humidity and automatically feeds the data to "the cloud." The data is processed and becomes available in real time as weather predictions through the ESMC app or website. Farmers can use the information to inform irrigation plans.

Development of the Earth System Modeling Complex (ESMC):

ESMC website is maintained by the Iowa Technology Institute's Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) Lab under the direction of Jun Wang. Wang established ESMC in 2015 when he was at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to directing AER, Wang is the James E. Ashton Professor in Engineering at the University of Iowa College of Engineering and the Iowa Technology Institute assistant director. 

How the Sensors Work:

The sensors have built-in WiFi connectivity, internal voltage monitoring and a PCB trace antenna and are powered by three standard AA alkaline batteries and a small solar panel. The sensor records temperature, pressure and relative humidity and sends data to a cloud-based server once every hour. The sensor monitors data hourly rather than in shorter time increments to preserve battery power and provide more meaningful data.

The sensors are to be mounted in dry areas six feet above the ground. Once up and running, data can be viewed under the ‘Citizen Data’ menu on the ESMC website or on the ESMC mobile application.

Photo of a weather sensor in a corn field

Future of the ESMC:

Above and Below Ground Sensor

These sensors are intended to have a large effect on farming and particularly when farmers should irrigate their fields relative to estimated weather patterns. There are plans under a $1.6 million United States Department of Agriculture grant to develop a sensor to be inserted in the ground to measure soil moisture. Together, these sensors hope to provide a holistic view of the farm field, maximizing crop yields and helping farmers figure out the most efficient ways to use their water.