The Benefits of a Statewide Mesonet

During the last decade, New York State has suffered 236 fatalities, 227 injuries, and $3.26 billion in damage from severe and hazardous weather1. New York has endured hurricanes, superstorms, blizzards, ice storms, tornadoes, severe wind storms, severe cold and heat, and drought. Indeed, one study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research found that New York was the most economically sensitive state to weather and climate variability2.

Data from the New York State Mesonet will help mitigate the harmful effects from these high-impact events, and help prepare New Yorkers with greater lead times and more accurate predictions. The Mesonet will provide real-time data to operational forecasters from across the state with updates every five minutes and an average spacing of about 30 miles. These data will also be combined with data from other surface networks, weather radar, and satellite to improve numerical weather prediction models for even greater accuracy and precision, giving forecasters much greater confidence in their warning products.

1 http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/hazstats.shtml

2 http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2015453

Between 1955 and 2003, New York averaged over $80 million in damages from flooding annually, totaling over $40 billion in direct costs to the state1. On August 27-28, Hurricane Irene caused 9 fatalities and over $1 billion in flooding damage across the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains2. In 2012, New York suffered over $5 billion in storm surge flooding from Superstorm Sandy and another $20 million in inland flooding3.

The New York State Mesonet will enable higher resolution detection of high-rainfall events, providing faster emergency response, as well as greater forecast accuracy at longer lead times. Surface rainfall will be reported across every county in real-time, providing the National Weather Service with much needed surface verification against less reliable radar estimates.

1 http://www.flooddamagedata.org/

2 http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/hurricane-irene-year-storm-cost-15-8-damage-florida-new-york-caribbean-article-1.1145302

3 http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2013/10/new-york

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Each year, nearly 6 million vehicle accidents occur, and about 23% (1.3 million) of those are weather-related1. In addition, weather is responsible for billions in traffic delays. Rain, snow, ice, and fog impede road traction and visibility. The New York State Mesonet will provide invaluable data to state and local highway management agencies, which in turn will deploy critical equipment, enact necessary road closures and alert messaging to motorists.

County-level data from the Mesonet will enable local officials to more accurately deploy the necessary resources required, saving valuable dollars in wasted fuel and labor while improving public safety.

1 http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/weather/q1_roadimpact.htm

The New York City metropolitan area is the busiest airport system in the U.S., with over 100 million passengers per year1. With vertical information of wind, temperature and moisture provided by a network of 17 Mesonet “profilers” deployed strategically around New York City and across upstate New York, professional and amateur pilots will have access to state-of-the-art weather information at critical levels of the atmosphere. Furthermore, these data will be ingested into numerical models, providing improved short- to long-term prediction at regional airports. Ultimately, this will lead to millions of dollars saved in spent fuel, and more on-time arrivals and departures.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation_in_the_New_York_metropolitan_area

As of 2008, New York was in the top five in the country in the production of cabbage, cottage cheese, apples, sour cream, milk, grapes, cauliflower, pear, pumpkin, sweet corn, tart cherries, snap beans, and onions1, with total agricultural sales topping $4 billion. Many of these crops are highly sensitive to weather, but with very accurate forecast models, various mitigation measures can reduce crop damage.

The New York State Mesonet promises a new generation of local weather observations that will support more accurate, more precise agriculture-related models. For example, soil moisture and temperature data will improve irrigation efficiency, and various pest models will be much improved with more local data inputs.

1 http://www.nyfb.org/about_nyfb/New_York_Agriculture_45_pg.htm

Ice storms are notorious across New York. In December 2008, for example, 1.7 million people across Upstate New York and New England lost power due to downed tree lines and snapped poles1. Data from the Mesonet will enable more accurate ice storm prediction, providing electric companies much greater lead time in deploying resources prior to storm occurrence. In addition, Mesonet data will provide precise measurements of precipitation amounts and soil and air temperatures, further improving mitigation measures.

During the summer months, data from the Mesonet can improve summer temperature forecasts, allowing energy companies to better estimate daytime energy needs. More accurate summer temperature forecasts reduce the chances of regional “brown outs”.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/December_2008_New_England_and_Upstate_New_York_ice_storm

Improved hazardous plume dispersion

As a global city, New York City remains a target of terrorism. More likely, industrial accidents can release plumes of hazardous material in densely populated areas. The New York State Mesonet provides the capability to observe the low- to mid-level winds in and around the New York City metropolitan area at high-resolutions in real-time. This allows the three-dimensional flow through the cityscape to be monitored. In the event of a hazardous plume, the air flow dispersion can be tracked live, thereby evacuating those areas most at risk.