Counting every raindrop or measuring every gust of wind is impossible, but New York is getting closer with an extensive statewide system of automated weather stations that should paint a dramatically clearer picture of developing storms, the Associated Press reported.
Described as the “gold standard” of automated systems, the long-planned network of 125 weather stations stretching from the shores of Lake Erie to the tip of Long Island is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Fourteen stations are already transmitting temperature, pressure and other data every five minutes. When all the stations are operating, forecasters, emergency officials and ordinary weather wonks will be able to get a fine-grained look — a million data points a day — that will hopefully lead to better predictions, the AP said.
“That’s the problem with the current network. There are serious gaps and so you can’t see enough of the weather as it’s evolving,” Chris Thorncroft, chairman of the University at Albany’s atmospheric and environmental sciences department, told the Associated Press.
The New York State Mesonet is being funded with a $23.6 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The new system will augment the 27 stations now used by federal forecasters.
People in New York will never be more than 25 miles from a station. The new system will also take in types of data that the current stations do not, such as soil temperature and moisture, and solar radiation. Each site even transmits pictures every five minutes.
Select data from the working stations is already being posted to the Web.
Slightly more than half the states have some kind of network of stations augmenting those the federal government relies on. But the dense and sophisticated network being built in New York will surpass the sophistication of the current “gold standard” system in Oklahoma, Curtis Marshall, the National Mesonet program manager, told the AP.
Oklahoma Mesonet manager Chris Fiebrich said that state’s 120-station network, which dates to the early ’90s, provided crucial information for public safety officials and meteorologists last year, the wettest in Oklahoma’s history.
Discussions about a New York Mesonet began in earnest after the Catskills were deluged by the remnants of Hurricane Irene in 2011, Thorncroft said. Record-setting rain had fallen in areas without a gauge, leading to delayed information, he said. A year later, Superstorm Sandy sent a surge into the New York City area and killed 53 people in the state.
New York’s Mesonet is temporarily housed in a sub-basement at the University at Albany until newer space is ready elsewhere around the campus. The automated stations will look pretty much the same, with 30-foot metal towers topped by wind sensors. Most are being built in open fields, though five New York City stations will be on rooftops. Some of the stations, mostly in the Adirondack Mountains and the adjacent Tug Hill Plateau, will measure snowfall.