Build a better weather network? New York accepts challenge

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Counting every raindrop or measuring every gust of wind is impossible, but New York is getting closer with a uniquely extensive statewide system of automated weather stations that should paint a dramatically clearer picture of developing storms.

See Full Article

Described as the new "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.

"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," said Chris Thorncroft, chairman of the University at Albany's atmospheric and environmental sciences department.

Thorncroft is helping lead the development of the New York State Mesonet, which 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, according to Curtis Marshall, the National Mesonet program manager.

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.

"Every season, at least, the Mesonet proves its value in just recording incredibly extreme weather," Fiebrich said.

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.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been promoting the weather detection system since 2014, though not always in a welcoming way. The governor mentioned the coming forecast improvements that November as the Buffalo area dug out from a jaw-dropping 7 feet of snow. His claim that the weather service was "off" in its own snow forecast turned out to be fighting words to meteorologists who had spent days warning about a major storm.

Actually, the National Weather Service will take the data into their own system and use it for their own forecasts. Raymond O'Keefe, meteorologist-in-charge at the service's Albany bureau, said forecasters have already used data from the existing stations to check on whether local ground was frozen before a recent soaking rain as a way to forecast runoff. The attraction to O'Keefe is simple: more data going into models, better data coming out.

"Better observations, better predictions, better forecasts, better warnings," he said.

Utilities and other businesses wanting the data sent to them will pay a fee.

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.

Significantly, 17 stations will be able to measure conditions in the atmosphere miles above, a job done now on a much more limited basis now by weather balloons. Marshall, at the National Weather Service, said such "vertical profiling" is done in some other areas, but not in the systematic way New York is deploying them.

Thorncoft called the array of profilers a "game changer," since they will provide much more real-time information about three-dimensional aspects of the atmosphere.

"Knowing what's happening now will allow you to say something intelligent about the next few hours," he said.



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • Google's YouTube losing major advertisers upset with videos

    Economic CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- AT&T, Verizon and several other major advertisers are suspending their marketing campaigns on Google's YouTube site after discovering their brands have been appearing alongside videos promoting terrorism and other unsavoury subjects. The spreading boycott confronts Google with a challenge that threatens to cost it hundreds of millions of dollars. Source
  • Husky spill in southwest Alberta estimated at 25,000 litres; cleanup going well

    Economic CTV News
    CALGARY -- Husky Energy says about 25,000 litres of crude oil leaked from one of its pipelines in southwestern Alberta last week. Spokesman Mel Duvall said in an email to The Canadian Press that cleanup at the site at Cox Hill Creek west of Bragg Creek is progressing well. Source
  • Budget 2017: Hello Uber tax, goodbye Canada Savings Bonds

    Economic CBC News
    Consumer tax changes in Wednesday's federal budget will add to the cost of Uber rides while ending a public-transit credit. Those are just two of several Liberal government moves that will hit pocketbooks directly, though modestly. Source
  • Trump's SEC pick, a lawyer for Goldman, to face skepticism

    Economic CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Goldman Sachs may be about to get another friend in Washington. Jay Clayton, a well-connected Wall Street lawyer who is President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, is sure to face sharp questions from Democrats at his confirmation hearing Thursday over his years of work for Goldman and other financial giants. Source
  • Budget 2017: Liberals spend on training and innovation while holding line on most taxes

    Economic CBC News
    The Liberal government has delivered a budget designed to brace Canadians for a fast-changing global economy and empower women in the workforce, while taking a wait-and-see approach to sweeping changes south of the border. Budget 2017, titled Building a Strong Middle Class, offers targeted investments to tackle what it calls the "challenge of change. Source
  • Bell and Rogers to ask bars to pay more for sports packages

    Economic CBC News
    Bell and Rogers will soon ask sports bars to pay more for the right to broadcast big games, on top of what they pay for their existing television service. As first reported by Postmedia, the two media conglomerates are asking business subscribers across Canada to pay an additional levy of roughly $120 a month — depending on the size of the bar — on top of their existing cable bill for the rights to air sports channels that broadcast live sporting events such as the TSN, RDS and Sportsnet…
  • B.C. shellfish industry reels as norovirus sickens hundreds, forces closures

    Economic CTV News
    VICTORIA - The head of British Columbia's shellfish growers says the industry has been stunned by a mysterious norovirus that has forced the closure of seven coastal oyster farms and made hundreds of Canadians ill. Source
  • Starbucks Canada vows to hire at least 1,000 refugees

    Economic CBC News
    Starbucks Canada says it will hire at least 1,000 refugees over the next five years. The announcement Wednesday follows a statement in January by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz that the company would hire 10,000 refugees around the world in the next half-decade. Source
  • Starbucks Canada sets goal to hire 1,000 refugees over five years

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- Starbucks Canada has committed to hiring at least 1,000 refugees over the next five years, the coffee giant said Wednesday. The company said it will actively begin recruiting job candidates through the national organization, Hire Immigrants, which works with a network of municipal and provincial resettlement agencies. Source
  • Activists seek to intervene in Nebraska Keystone XL review

    Economic CTV News
    LINCOLN, Neb. -- Activists who want to derail the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska are again mobilizing to try to make their case to a small state commission that will decide the project's fate. Opponents on Wednesday will ask the Nebraska Public Service Commission to let them intervene in the case, allowing them to file legal briefs, cross-examine witnesses and present formal arguments alongside attorneys for pipeline developer TransCanada. Source