An Untapped Mesonet -- Crowdsourcing Private Weather Stations

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Thursday, 8 January 2015: 9:00 AM
132AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
David Schlotzhauer, NOAA/NWS, Slidell, LA
Manuscript (554.5 kB)

Handout (1.3 MB)

At the National Weather Service (NWS) Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center (LMRFC), extensive use is made of data from private weather station networks which provide their data via the internet. These networks of stations form a very widespread “informal” mesonet, with one specific network consisting of roughly 16,000 stations across the continental United States. Data from private stations has been very useful in the investigation of previous rainfall and associated flooding events. This presentation discusses both the benefits and challenges of working with the private station gauge data at the LMRFC and how the challenges have been overcome. Difficulties using private weather station data include the non-standard, varying format used by each of the private networks and the widely varying quality of reported meteorological data.

The use of scripting allows LMRFC staff to quickly and easily gather private weather station data. Programs have also been written to quickly display this data and quality control it against neighboring stations and official networks. Although the initial impetus of this project was to obtain rainfall data, several local NWS weather forecast offices have expressed interest in viewing additional station parameters.

It is important to note that the private weather station networks provide very useful data and the websites are wonderful tools. However, several issues including data format and quality preclude easy use of the information. Despite these issues, with the improved data access through scripting, we have found that private weather stations can be readily viewed as an extended mesonet and the data they provide can be utilized to support both studies of past events and operational forecast operations.