New York Mesonet Will Enable Public, Business to Customize Weather Data

Jan 7, 2015
Originally published on January 9, 2015 1:55 pm

There's a science behind using observations collected on earth to make forecasts. Brockport Professor Scott Rochette teaches it.

"The forecast process that I talk about with my students is a four-step process and the first process is observations. If you don't have observations and measurements, you don't have anything."

Once up and running, 125 weather stations of the New York State Mesonet will be collecting hundreds of data points and analyzing them. This raw data will be helpful to meteorologists, but scientists at the University at Albany are also looking at ways the public can use that data.

Nathan Bain is the senior software engineer of the project. He came to New York from the Oklahoma Mesonet, and he's building programs to help people access the information and drive applications specific to people's information needs.

“In Oklahoma there's even a model that tells you how stressed your cattle are. So if it's wet and its cold you need to feed them extra things, you know. There's so many things it almost boggles the mind. But the website will provide those applications to the public.”

This cattle app helps farmers make humane choices about their livestock, but also economically beneficial choices.

A study by the American Meteorological Society shows that New York state is the most vulnerable to weather variability. Tourism and agriculture drive much of the state’s economy, so scientists at UAlbany hope the mesonet will help business owners cut their losses.

Christian Yunker is a farmer in Genesee County. His farm raises cattle and grows cash crops. He says weather is constantly informing his farming decisions.

"Whether we're mowing hay and there's still dew on the ground or when's the wind gonna pick up? Should we be spraying this morning and not this afternoon ‘cause wind speeds are going to increase..."

Yunker has his own small weather station perched on the corner of his roof, but says it doesn’t offer him as much data as he’d like to have. He’d like to know the soil temperature, for example.

"That would help us plan our day tremendously, if we had more accurate and more detailed information, for sure. Cause every day starts with the weather."

To date, UAlbany has been promised almost 24 million dollars to build the mesonet. This money comes entirely from FEMA, thanks mostly to hazard mitigation grant projects after Superstorm Sandy. Proponents of the mesonet hope that 24 million dollar investment will help New York businesses like Yunker’s farm recover money lost to adverse weather.

The program is still in its early stages and is expected to take about three years to complete, but Bain says he expects to launch a website early this year using NOAA weather data to give the public an idea of what they can expect from the New York mesonet.