Operating a Surface Mesonet during Extreme Weather Events

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Sunday, 4 January 2015
Jessica M. Tomaszewski, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and C. Fiebrich

The Oklahoma Mesonet is a world-class network of environmental recording stations that operate together to observe mesoscale meteorological phenomena spanning each county across Oklahoma. Over 120 automated stations equipped with a similar set of instrumentation record measurements around the clock to be transmitted to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey (OCS) every 5 minutes. The Mesonet records air temperatures, relative humidity, rainfall, winds, pressure, solar radiation, soil temperatures, and soil moisture. These data are used to form hundreds of products that are made available in real-time to public safety officials, emergency managers, farmers, weather forecasters, and the general public alike. In order to maintain this constant supply of data that decision makers across the state depend on, the Oklahoma Mesonet and its data are carefully monitored and assured for timely collection and transmittal by the Mesonet Operations Team. The initial points of contact within Mesonet Operations are University of Oklahoma undergraduate students. These student “Operators” work to assess and enhance data communications between each Mesonet station and OCS, ensuring all data are properly recorded on-site, transmitted to OCS, and compiled within minutes as Mesonet products to be readily available to users. During its 20 years of existence, the Mesonet has experienced and documented a wide variety of extreme mesoscale events including ice storms, downbursts, and direct tornado strikes. These high-impact weather events are high-impact within Mesonet Operations as well, for Operators on duty must work with enhanced diligence to monitor the stream of valuable data flowing from station to user and quickly troubleshoot and remedy any interruptions in this process. The opportunity to assist in the creation of real-time weather data from source to production, especially during extreme events, provides a unique learning experience that ties together meteorological and technical concepts for the undergraduate employees at the Mesonet.