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What is the mesonet?

Raymond D. Woods Jr.

After snow buried Buffalo in November, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the development of a state-wide weather detection system will lead to better forecasting. In the first of a four-part series, we examine what the system will and won’t deliver for New York residents.
The statewide network of weather monitoring stations is called the mesonet.

Typically, each station’s a 33-foot high tower in the middle of a clearing, equipped with all kinds of weather instrumentations like temperature gauges and wind vanes.

With access to only 27 of these stations in the state right now, meteorologists working on the project are excited about creating a denser network. Chris Thorncroft is one of them. He says eventually there will be 125 stations across New York -- at least one in each county.
"In order to know what's really happening associated with a strong storm, we need a high concentration of observations around the state to see that," Thorncroft said. "So we could have a storm moving over the state that is dropping a load of rainfall in a location and we currently don't see it.”
Each of these stations would collect data and transmit it to a central computer, where it would be checked for accuracy and then shared with the public.
Cuomo has said the data collected by the mesonets would help better predict storms. Chris Thorncroft says more quality data is always good, but these systems would actually be best at understanding what's happening right now. Like the technological equivalent of sticking your hand out the window, if your hand was equipped with thousands of dollars’ worth of environmental sensors.
Thorncroft says this information has several applications. including enabling emergency management services to respond faster.
In the future, Thorncroft says his network would also help measure the effects of climate change on the state.
As part of an ongoing series about the New York State Mesonet, next we’ll take a look at what makes New York’s mesonet the most technologically advanced of its kind.