Cutting the Mesonet deprives everyone of knowledge

Jessica Byrd

As a recent graduate from WKU’s Geography and Geology Department whose concentration was in climate sciences, I am saddened by the possibility of funding being cut for the Kentucky Mesonet program.

Kentucky is one of a handful of states that has a statewide Mesonet program to help collect, monitor and interpret real-time meteorological data and further use it for climatological analysis. Losing funding for this program would not only impact the students whose research interests lie in weather and climate. The impact would reach far beyond the borders of WKU, the city and even the state.

As an undergraduate, the Mesonet was a key tool in my studies and was often a great resource for in-class exercises and examples. The Mesonet allows professors to expand on teaching concepts while offering students a chance to study impacts right here in Kentucky where they live, work and study. Their office is easily accessible to any student who ventures down the hallways of the Environmental Sciences and Technology Building, and many of my fellow students were employed by the Mesonet to help them gain knowledgeable and rewarding experience in their fields.

By cutting funding to this program, the Kentucky Mesonet would have to reconsider these student positions, taking away impactful experiences and accessibility provided to students throughout their time at WKU.

By removing funding to the Kentucky Mesonet, the governor’s budget would also be removing a valuable resource to those in other states. As recently as the past snow events of Jan. 12 and 22, states like Tennessee used road temperature data from Kentucky Mesonet sites to determine road conditions as temperatures dropped before and during the snow and ice events.

The availability of data allows for businesses, administrations and individuals to obtain this data without the need for their own complex instruments and stations. For example, those employed in fields such as recreation and agriculture can access mesonet data to better plan for upcoming seasons, events and operations.

As a native Tennessean, WKU offered me the chance to pursue my interest in weather and climate, as it is the only Bachelor of Science program in Meteorology in either Kentucky or Tennessee to offer a meteorology degree which meets the Federal Civil Service guidelines for employment with the National Weather Service. Attributes such as this, as well as the Kentucky Mesonet availability, are major influences on prospective students from the states surrounding Kentucky.

I studied alongside Ohioans, Illinoians, Hoosiers and fellow Tennesseans to name a few. The impact of cutting funding to the Kentucky Mesonet would not only affect our current students but could additionally deter future ones as well.

It is my hope that, going forward, the Kentucky Mesonet will be recognized for the extreme value and influence that the organization provides to students, faculty and the average person. The Commonwealth of Kentucky has become my second home because it has provided me with resources such as this to expand my knowledge of weather and climate while pursuing a college degree. This knowledge and experience will continue to impact students as they carry it into the workforce and help share their understanding of the Earth’s processes and the changes in these processes that continue to be recorded.

My fellow students and I pursued these fields to help improve ourselves not only as individuals, but as scientists who will help lead the shift in our world’s mindset and influence the change that needs to happen in order to better understand our Earth’s atmosphere, geography, geology and social impacts.

The Kentucky Mesonet is not just a resource for us, it is a resource that provides a better knowledge for everyone. I urge the governor and other governments around the country and the world to reconsider their approaches to meteorology, climate and the collection of data that is beneficial to our well-being as humans.