The Advantages of a High Density Observation Network during Synoptic and Mesoscale Weather Phenomena

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Sunday, 4 January 2015
Taylor McCorkle, Oklahoma Mesonet, Norman, OK

This poster will examine the advantages of a high density weather observation network and how it could improve the understanding of various mesoscale and synoptic scale weather phenomena. The difficulty with forecasting and understanding weather phenomena is due the complexity of the atmosphere and how its defining features can change dramatically within a matter of just a few miles. Synoptic, and even mesoscale events' atmospheric features have been known to vary simultaneously at different locations and at different stages of development. A high density network has the ability to capture data from multiple points in a given mesoscale or synoptic event, and can illustrate a more complete picture of how the event is evolving. The Oklahoma Mesonet is a high density observation network with at least one station located in every county in the state, and an average spacing of only 25 kilometers between stations. This high density network makes Oklahoma's weather the most observed and monitored in the world. The Oklahoma Mesonet is not only unique in its spatial density, but also unique in that it reports measurements of various atmospheric parameters every 5 minutes, 24 hours a day. Such variables being monitored include, but are not limited to, temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, precipitation, soil moisture and temperature, and many more. The Oklahoma Mesonet not only offers a dense network, but continuous measurements, making it the perfect system for observing meteorological phenomena that are both large scale and quickly evolving. To illustrate the advantages of utilizing a network such as the Oklahoma Mesonet, a series of meteorological case studies were detailed using a high temporal resolution of data taken at various Mesonet sites during a particular event. The synoptic and mesoscale phenomena that were analyzed include a frontal passage, tropical storm Erin's re-intensification, the May 24, 2011 tornado outbreak, and the historic 2010 rainfall event in Oklahoma City. Without the unique structure of the Oklahoma Mesonet, the fine details of these events would not have been captured in such a complete manner. The purpose of this poster is to display subtle, yet important details captured by Mesonet observations that otherwise would not have been accounted for if this high density network was not available. If other networks similar to the Oklahoma Mesonet were implemented in high impact weather locations such as the gulf coast, the information obtained from local weather events could better prepare communities for inclement weather as well as reduce possible injuries and fatalities. There are many things that are yet to be understood about the atmosphere and its evolution, but with higher density observation networks, the goals of research and discovery become much more attainable.