September 25, 2008

2 Min Read

The next generation of Kansas weather monitoring has begun, according to Kansas State climatologist, Mary Knapp.

With 14 new and improved weather data collection towers installed by the end of the year, Kansas will benefit from more accurate and detailed weather information, said Knapp, who runs the Kansas Weather Data Library, based in K-State Research and Extension.

"The goal is to locate underrepresented sites for automated weather data collection in Kansas - particularly in the north central area and the Flint Hills of southeast and east central Kansas - and fill in the gaps with improved automated monitoring towers," Knapp said.

New 30-foot towers have been installed in Jefferson, Clay, and Washington counties, and plans call for similar towers in Wabaunsee, Cherokee, and other counties.

Led by the Kansas Water Office and funded through the Kansas legislature, the new and improved towers are part of the comprehensive automated weather monitoring project called "Kansas Mesonet," a system of stations across the state that measures surface meteorology information every minute of every day.

The data is used primarily to improve the safety of citizens in the state, and to increase the productivity of businesses and producers, Knapp said.

The towers record air temperature and relative humidity (5 feet above ground), wind direction and speed (both at 30 feet and 6 feet), solar radiation, total precipitation (15 inches above ground), and soil temperature and moisture at five different depths (up to 48 inches).

"Soil temperature and moisture measurements affect everything from crop planting decisions and possible crop freeze injury determinations, to potential damage to building foundations," Knapp said.

The additional monitoring stations in Kansas Mesonet will potentially help conserve the state´s natural resource supplies and keep citizens healthy and safe, said Knapp. For instance, she explained that better water runoff information will mean better flood forecasting. More detailed weather data will help individuals and businesses determine their energy demands. Wind models will help show how far particulates and smoke from burning will travel.

Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is looking into the drought/water table response in southwest Kansas, and the towers are expected to assist its research.

The word "mesonet" is a combination of the words "mesoscale" and "network," Knapp said. In meteorology, "mesoscale" refers to weather events that range in size from about one mile to about 150 miles across. Mesoscale events last from several minutes to several hours. Thunderstorms, wind gusts, heatbursts, and drylines are examples of mesoscale events.

More information about the Kansas Weather Data Library at K-State is available on the Web site:

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