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Graduate student, faculty members publish research on climate data

As the Kentucky Mesonet continues to expand across the state, WKU faculty and students are engaging with climate data from various historical datasets and data produced by the Mesonet to better understand changing weather patterns and processes across the state.

Both the Mesonet and the Kentucky Climate Center, along with other research initiatives in Department of Geography and Geology, provide opportunities for students and faculty to engage with climate data at multiple scales across time and space. The goal is to publish cutting-edge research on climate issues that can help expand our knowledge about changing climates and provide policy makers and others with meaningful information to address challenges presented by weather events.

Ronnie Leeper of Bowling Green recently graduated from the MS Geoscience program after completing a research project that analyzed atmospheric responses to land cover change.  His thesis has been published as a peer-reviewed monograph titled “Near-surface Atmospheric Response to Simulated Changes in Land-cover, Vegetation Fraction, and Soil Moisture over Western Kentucky” in Publications in Climatology 62(2), pp 41. The monographs are published by Legates Consulting in Middletown, Del., in partnership with the University of Delaware.

Leeper currently works with Dr. Rezaul Mahmood, associate director of the Kentucky Mesonet and Climate Center, as a research associate on a USDA-ARS-funded project investigating meteorological and climatological control on emission fluxes and their dispersion.

Dr. Mahmood and Dr. Stuart Foster, director of the Kentucky Mesonet and Climate Center, recently published a chapter in a new book on historical climate patterns. Their chapter is titled “Spatial metadata for weather stations and the interpretation of climate data” and appears in Historical Climate Variability and Impacts in the United States published by Springer-Verlag in New York.

“Student engagement in the research activities of our faculty is a critical element of the educational process in the department,” noted Geography and Geology Department Head David Keeling. “Our goal is to train students to be critical thinkers, active researchers and lifelong learners. Ronnie Leeper’s accomplishment in having his thesis published as a research monograph is a testament to this goal and to the mentoring provided by research faculty in the department.”

For information, contact Stuart Foster at (270) 745-5983.

About the Kentucky Mesonet

Since the Mesonet’s first station at the WKU farm in Warren County became operational in May 2007, 45 stations have been installed toward a goal of 100 stations statewide.

The Mesonet stations collect real-time weather and climate data on temperature, precipitation, humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and direction. Data is packaged into observations and transmitted to the Kentucky Climate Center at WKU every five minutes, 24 hours per day, throughout the year and is available online at www.kymesonet.org.

The statewide automated environmental monitoring network supports a variety of needs across Kentucky in agriculture, education, emergency management, energy, engineering and construction, recreation, transportation, water supply management and weather forecasting.

Stations are located in Adair, Allen, Barren, Boone, Breathitt, Bullitt, Caldwell, Calloway, Campbell, Carroll, Casey, Christian, Clark, Clinton, Crittenden, Cumberland, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hardin, Harrison, Hopkins, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Lincoln, Logan, Madison, Marshall, Mason, McLean, Mercer, Metcalfe, Morgan, Ohio, Owen, Owsley, Rowan, Taylor, Trigg, Union and Warren counties.

Additional site installations are progressing in Breckinridge, Henderson, Lewis and Nicholas counties. Site license agreements have been reached in Marion and Muhlenberg counties with preferred sites identified in Boyd, Nelson and Shelby counties. Mesonet officials are actively pursuing sites in about 20 other counties, including Bath, Bell, Harlan, Lawrence, McCreary, Pendleton, Pike and Todd.

State Climatologist Stuart Foster is director of the Kentucky Mesonet and the Kentucky Climate Center. Dr. Rezaul Mahmood, associate professor of Geography and Geology, is associate director of the Kentucky Mesonet and the Kentucky Climate Center. The Kentucky Mesonet staff includes meteorologists and staff with expertise in instrumentation, information technology, quality assurance, and education outreach.  The Kentucky Mesonet also provides opportunities for WKU student employees and interns to work side-by-side with professional staff.

Initial funding for the project was secured by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell through a $2.9 million federal appropriation for the Kentucky Climate Center, part of WKU’s Applied Research and Technology Program in the Ogden College of Science and Engineering.

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