Stuart Foster of Western Kentucky University approached the Logan County Fiscal Court Tuesday asking for a matching annual commitment for $5,000 to keep the Kentucky Mesonet up and running. The Kentucky Mesonet is a network of automated weather and climate monitoring stations being developed by the Kentucky Climate Center at Western Kentucky University to serve diverse needs in communities across the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
The Kentucky Mesonet provides outreach to local communities, enhancing quality of life for people throughout the commonwealth. Outreach starts by working with local officials and stakeholders to identify sites that meet scientific criteria and provide added community benefits. Mesonet data are easily accessible and can be used to improve local forecasts and severe weather warnings, aid emergency response efforts, enhance agricultural productivity, assist local utility providers, and support business and industry.
A mesonet is a dense network of automated surface observing stations that provides temperature, precipitation, dew point, wind speed, wind direction, etc. data. These sensors are strategically positioned across a region to provide the highest quality of weather data. For instance, some sites are located in valleys while other sites are on ridge tops. The closely spaced observing sites help to measure small scale weather phenomena that larger scale forecast models and observing networks cannot pick up. The data is critical when forecasting severe weather onset, ridge and valley temperature splits, frontal passages, and determining winter precipitation type. Mesonet data is also archived, which provides a large database of extremely important climatological data.
There are 64 counties in Kentucky that have a Mesonet, and Logan is one of them. The Mesonet is located in the Baker Natural Area in Russellville. Federal funds were cut to the Mesonet program causing a deficiency. Western Kentucky University has offered to put up $300,000 of its own to help keep the Mesonet going. They are asking the counties that have Mesonets to pitch in until future funding is found.
The Kentucky Mesonet is a vertically integrated infrastructure built with a commitment to quality, reliability, and scalability. Each station uses high-quality meteorological instruments that are tested, collaborated, and maintained by a staff of scientists and technicians.
According to Foster, the Mesonet is extremely important to a community for several reasons; one being weather data which tells meteorologists what is happening on the ground, specifically wind speed date, which helps in advanced warning. Also, the Mesonet is important economically to those industries that are weather sensitive. The agriculture industry, which is so rich in Logan County, also relies upon the Mesonet.
Magistrates agreed with the importance of keeping the Mesonet up and running and unanimously agreed Tuesday to put $5,000 in the 2014-2015 fiscal year budget for a contribution.
Foster said it was the university’s hopes to secure state funding next year to help decrease the counties’ contributions.