FAIRMONT, W.Va. – A project to create a “weather-ready nation” has been renewed and expanded for another year. Global Science and Technology Inc was awarded $10.4 million to continue their National Mesonet Program based out of the High Tech Consortium in Fairmont.
“The goal here is to provide data that the National Weather Service would otherwise not have access to in order to improve weather forecasting,” according to program manager, meteorologist Paul Heppner.
The NWS relies heavily on data coming from airports around the nation. However, the Mesonet Program offers a 1,000 more weather gathering sites across the U.S.
“The mesonets fill in the gaps, both the fixed sites and the mobile platforms, by giving more data in between the airports,” Heppner said.
He described it like this. Take a piece of paper and randomly draw 5 dots. Those are the airports. Then add 20 more dots. Those are GSTs fixed and mobile platform weather centers where data is gathered to create a clearer picture of what’s happening in the atmosphere.
The mobile centers can travel for hundreds of miles compiling data that goes directly to the NWS.
“Each of these trucks takes observations silently while they’re going along for hundreds of miles,” said Heppner. “So it’s really filling in gaps. And yeah, you might pass a truck down the road and it’s taking observations that help the Weather Service and helps our public by giving better forecasts.”
GST employs a half dozen software engineers and quality control workers at the High Tech Consortium. Heppner said it takes an even bigger team to keep the program up and running. They have university and corporate partners who help with the data gathering.
The program renewal is for one year and ends September 30, 2014.