Kentucky Mesonet at WKU upgrades in effort to improve data on climate

Jacob Dick

The Kentucky Mesonet at WKU, a statewide network of stations collecting data on multiple aspects of the state climate, will be improving their systems after receiving extra funding from grants and the state.

The Mesonet, incorporated in the Kentucky Climate Center at WKU, was awarded $750,000 in the 2016-2018 budget by the General Assembly earlier this year.

Mesonet stations collecting real-time data on temperature, precipitation, humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and direction in over 60 counties in Kentucky send that information to the Kentucky Climate Center for review.

The data collected is compiled in 30-year intervals for research on possible climate change implications as well as for predicting weather patterns, flash flooding variables and suggestions for farmers.

Rezaul Mahmood, professor of geography and geology and associate director of the Mesonet and the Kentucky Climate Center, said that by being able to upgrade the system’s modems and equipment, the monitoring network improve reliability and the quality of data.

“Some of our equipment will be phased out by manufacturers in coming years so the additional funding will help us continue to collect good data,” Mahmood said. “Our main objective is high quality data and more reliability. We want our stations running 24 hours and we don’t want them down.”

Mahmood said one of the first items to be upgraded in the next six months will be the modems that send caches of information from stations to the center every five minutes. Faster and more reliable connections will allow the whole system to better collect data.

Kentucky Mesonet at WKU also received a $105,000 matching grant from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund.

The extra funds will also allow for new soil probes to be added at nine new stations. Soil probes register temperature, humidity and moisture of soil and can be invaluable in predicting flash flooding as well as how well crops will grow in a certain time. The new probes will help add to the Mesonet’s contributions to NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System as it develops a Midwest Drought Early Warning System.

The Mesonet has also rebranded to reflect its association with the university. Stuart Foster, state climatologist and director of the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU, believes the rebranding will help define the monitoring network as an asset to the commonwealth from WKU.

“The Kentucky Climate Center brings positive recognition to Western Kentucky University on the national scene within the scientific community, while our new logo will help to build awareness of the service that Western Kentucky University provides to residents through the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Stuart Foster, professor of geography, said in a press release.

Mahmood agreed and said he was pleased that so many of the Mesonet’s partners saw the network as a worthy cause.

“We are getting our name out into the state and I think that is good for WKU too,” Mahmood said. “I’m pleased at the support we are seeing from our partners across the state and at the university.”

Reporter Jacob Dick can be reached at (270) 745-6011 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @jdickjournalism.