UrbanNet Upgrades; Looks to Expand DC Stations

April 13, 2023

ARL team members recently completed the installation of two UrbanNet sites, meteorological stations designed for an urban environment, atop the Herbert C. Hoover (HCHB) Department of Commerce building in Washington, DC. Both the north and south tower installations are now collecting and transmitting data on three-dimensional wind turbulence, 2D wind speed and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, incoming solar radiation, and precipitation. Cellular communications were also upgraded to current 4G protocol standards to ensure reliable data flow.  Formerly known as DCNet, theUrbanNet moniker is to both distinguish it from the original DCNet design dating back to 2001, as well as to have a system that could (based on resource availability) be ported into other urban settings.

UrbanNet is undergoing a revitalization to better assess the changed urban landscape  in the DC metro area in recent years. In the near future, the UrbanNet system will add new and upgraded sensors to better measure meteorology in the urban environment. New sensors will be employed to better measure urban heat stress, atmospheric pressure, wind speed and direction, precipitation gauges using both a tipping bucket and a higher precision weighing gauge employed by the US Climate Reference Network. Improved measurements of urban precipitation trends are crucial for an array of planning activities. Other sensors will also measure air and surface temperature, reflected heat, and solar radiation, and will also employ a monitoring camera to assist with both the quality assurance of the data as well as to monitor any special weather conditions that may develop.


ARL team members assemble the tower atop the Department of Commerce HCHB rooftop
Top of a flat roof with Washington Monument in the background. Metal tower
One of ARL's meteorological stations atop the Department of Commerce building in DC. The data from this installation will help researchers understand urban carbon emissions cycles.

The Silver Spring Metro Center 3 (SSMC-3) building on the Silver Spring, MD campus at one time hosted a DCNet site, so the building was visited to determine its suitability as a future UrbanNet site, and things look quite promising on that front. Additionally, a test system may be installed on the roof of the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction to allow for more effective testing of new and revised sensors and firmware as appropriate, given its proximity to the ARL division in College Park, MD. Some other sites may also be evaluated and are as yet still to be determined. Current stations in UrbanNet include:

  • Washington DC’s Emergency Management Agency in SE Washington DC;
  • the headquarters of the National Education Association;
  • the Washington DC Government’s Frank Reeves Municipal Center;
  • Howard University; and
  • C-SPAN towers.