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NY Has Hyper-Local Weather Observation Stations Scattered Across The State Called A ‘Mesonet’ That Deliver Real-Time Weather Data —Headquartered Out Of SUNY Albany —But This Artery-Like System Must Be Maintained, Upgraded & Incorporated With NOAA Modeling To Keep Pace With Tech & Climate Change

Schumer Says A Bang-For-The-Buck Investment In UAlbany-Hosted Systems Can Help Beef-Up NY’s Weather Warning Web By Adding More Observation Locations, Maintaining Existing Network & Filling Coverage Gaps, So Storms Like Ida Are Better Understood 

Schumer: Without Upgrades & Fed Investment, NY’s Weather Monitoring Ability Could Remain Partly Cloudy

On the heels of Hurricane Ida’s recent torrent, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer revealed that New York’s severe weather warning system, a web-like scattering of 126 observation stations across the state called a mesonet – hosted by the University at Albany (UAlbany) – needs upgrades and funding for maintenance as climate change makes extreme weather more and more frequent. Schumer announced a push to secure $3 million in the upcoming federal budget to upgrade hyper-local and real-time weather-monitoring technology in New York. 

“What we saw with Hurricane Ida and what we see more and more is that storms change rapidly, varying in course, rainfall and other factors—and we need to keep up with all of it in real time,” said Senator Schumer. “The good news here is that New York has an artery-like system of weather observation stations scattered across the state – developed by our very own UAlbany – at least one in every county, that help us perfect monitoring, forecasting and emergency response with hyper-local data. The issue is, they need to be maintained and upgraded to keep pace with the new challenges posed by climate change and how those challenges make it critical to be as precise as possible with local warning and forecasting.”

Schumer explained how $3 million in Congressionally Directed Spending to UAlbany, which hosts NY’s mesonet weather data program, will provide a key upgrade to these systems that unlocks key data from the lower atmosphere, along with a $30 million dollar national investment in the country’s mesonet weather observation system. Schumer said Ida showed we need sharper understanding of the rapidly evolving real-time conditions, and the technology exists to achieve the goal. Schumer warned that without upgrades or delayed investment in NY’s system, that local monitoring and forecasting ability could become partly cloudy, which could impact both storm prediction and public safety. 

“A small amount of federal dollars—just $3 million for New York upgrades and then a $30 million dollar investment for maintenance and expansion nationally—much of which will flow to New York and UAlbany – will ensure this critical tool continues providing hyper-local and real-time weather data and situational awareness in NY and across the country, and this is an investment we must make to protect lives, property and the economy when Mother Nature delivers a punch,” Schumer added.

According to the UAlbany, data from the NYS mesonet informs forecasters and emergency managers (including those at the NYS DHSES) to help mitigate the harmful effects from high-impact, extreme weather-related disasters. The NYS mesonet provides real-time data to operational forecasters and emergency managers from across the state with updates every five minutes. These data are combined with data from other surface networks, weather radar, and satellites to provide real-time weather information and to improve numerical weather prediction models for even greater accuracy and precision than ever before, giving emergency managers and forecasters much greater confidence in their warning products and in subsequent protective action.

The mesonet network is composed of 126 standard stations, spaced an average 19 miles apart, with at least one station located in each of New York’s 62 counties. All data is transmitted in real-time to the UAlbany, where it is quality controlled and archived, and then disseminated to a variety of users, including local meteorologists. A majority of stations are run off of solar power and communicate via cellular signals.

Seventeen mesonet sites have advanced LiDAR and microwave radiometer systems that scan the upper atmosphere and report back in real time; the $3 million investment would help expand this even further.

Schumer announced, today, that he is pushing for $3 million to upgrade New York’s weatherwarning system, by establishing a dedicated Profiler Research Testbed – entitled, The Empire State Vertical sensing Evaluation Regional Testbed Experiment (The Empire State VERTEX) program – to study the boundary layer – one of the next frontiers to improve warning and prediction of extreme weather disasters as described above. Schumer said upgrades to the system are needed and would include technological updates that would provide critical data on one of the most important parts of our atmosphere, build further scientific consensus on the validity of this data, and propose pathways for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to incorporate this data into its models.

Schumer also announced he is pushing for $30 million dollars for the national mesnoet system. The National Mesonet Program (NMP) is a public-private partnership in concert with the NOAA and the National Weather Service (NWS) to cost-effectively leverage available commercial and other non-Federal weather data to maximize the public benefit. Schumer said the national system, too, needs this funding to be maintained, expanded, and provide similar upgrades like New York’s and that he will push for both in the upcoming federal budget. With 126 existing stations in New York, much of this funding will flow to the state to maintain its mesonet, one of the best in the country. 

“Both New York and the nation’s mesonet systems need these upgrades to make real-time data sharper, and NOAA must work to include all of this critical data into its own systems. The bottom line is that without upgrades and federal investment, New York’s forecasting ability could become partly cloudy when it needs to be clear and concise,” Schumer added. 

Experts say that the value of the mesonet is that it improves the situational awareness of emergency managers and first responders on the ground immediately before, during and after a weather emergency by answering key questions like, what just happened, what is happening right now, what is likely about to happen next. Experts say that these are potentially life-and-death questions when flooding rains are falling. The mesonet provides critical amounts of new data that answers those questions in real time in a way that was not possible before it was built – specifically during Irene, Lee and Sandy. Combined with further investments in supercomputing, weather monitoring aircraft, and radar, the mesonet data is another critical tool in the country’s pocket for addressing worsening storms.