Climate can be thought of as a natural resource that shapes society, including the economy and the lifestyles that people enjoy. Meanwhile, natural hazards, ranging from floods and droughts to winter storms and severe thunderstorms, are also inherent elements of climate. Therein, the collection and public availability of reliable weather and climate data is a public service that people have come to expect.
State climatologist Stuart Foster, who serves as director of the Kentucky Climate Center, associate director Rezaul Mahmood, and Kentucky Mesonet operations manager Megan Schargorodski participated in the Midwest Mesonet Workshop held in Champaign, Illinois, on Sept. 28-29.
Mesonets are networks of automated weather and climate monitoring stations, typically operated at a state or sub-state level, that provide near real-time weather data to local communities. These data can be used to promote public safety and economic development, while also supporting education and research initiatives. Mesonets are often affiliated with universities or state governmental agencies and are dedicated to collecting research-grade data.
The workshop brought together mesonet operators from throughout the region, along with a diverse array of public and private sector stakeholders who utilize weather and climate data.
“The collection and provision of weather data is often viewed as a public service that should be freely available to anyone. We know that weather and climate data collected by mesonets are used to enhance public safety and aid weather-sensitive businesses, yet mesonet operators are commonly challenged to secure funding necessary to meet annual budgets for operations and maintenance,” said Dr. Foster, director of the Kentucky Mesonet.
“Typical of the formative stage in the growth of a new industry, mesonets have typically evolved independently, developing or adopting different system designs and operating procedures,” Dr. Foster said. “This workshop enabled mesonet operators to share experiences and identify common challenges and opportunities.”
Working with the Midwestern Regional Climate Center at the University of Illinois, mesonet operators committed at the workshop to developing a multi-faceted forum for ongoing communication that will promote the development and adoption of standards and procedures that can by mesonets throughout the region.
“My hope is that through these efforts, mesonet operators will be able to realize greater efficiencies and leverage opportunities to create greater value at both the state and regional scale throughout the Midwest,” Dr. Foster said.