Local partnerships key for expansion of statewide project, director says
The Kentucky Mesonet will be installing a station in Butler County thanks to a partnership with several local organizations.
“We view Butler County as a model for expansion of the Kentucky Mesonet moving forward,” said Dr. Stuart Foster, state climatologist and director of the Kentucky Mesonet. “As we add more stations, funding tied to local partnerships will be critical.”
The Butler County Extension Service has coordinated the project with local farm leaders and government officials, according to Greg Drake, Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Our local elected officials have really good vision to step up to the plate and fund the Mesonet station because it’s something everyone in our county can use,” he said.
The station near Woodbury is being funded with support from the City of Morgantown, Butler County Fiscal Court, Butler County Farm Bureau and the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund, Drake said. He also noted the support of Sam and Helen Moore, who donated the property for the Mesonet site, and local meteorologist Landon Hampton, who has been instrumental in moving the project forward.
The Butler County station will be the 66th in 65 counties across the state. The Mesonet stations collect real-time weather and climate data on temperature, precipitation, humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and direction and transmit it 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.
Instrumentation at the Butler County station will include soil probes to monitor temperature and moisture as a way to provide extra value to farmers and the agriculture community, Dr. Foster said.
“We are looking forward to having the Mesonet data available because the weather means so much for production agriculture,” Drake said. “Now Butler County farmers who depend on accurate record keeping will have a local source of weather data. This site will give us a permanent, official record of how and when weather events happen.”
In the past year, Dr. Foster and others have been working to build a broad base of support across Kentucky to continue development and maintenance of the Mesonet. The first station was installed at the WKU Farm in May 2007. The project was initially funded with a $2.9 million federal grant for the Kentucky Climate Center, part of WKU’s Applied Research and Technology Program.
Dr. Foster has been in discussions with several counties about adding Mesonet stations. “We received word earlier this week that funding was approved to add a station in Boyle County,” he said.
The station and yearly maintenance fee will be funded by the Boyle County Extension District, according to Jerry Little, Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources. “We don’t currently have a site in Boyle County and with the number of weather events we have had over the years it was decided by our local Extension leadership and the county judge-executive to look into having a site in our county,” Little said.
As part of the new funding model, local partners are agreeing to help pay for operational and maintenance costs of the station in their community. “We strongly believe that local partnerships, complemented by support through federal and state programs, will be a key element in our effort to sustain and grow the Kentucky Mesonet,” Dr. Foster said. “We will focus our efforts in those communities where we have those partnerships.”
In addition to initial equipment/instrumentation and site preparation, the Mesonet costs include personnel, IT operations, regular site maintenance and repairs, wireless phone/data connections, vehicles and insurance.
“We feel the Mesonet provides real value for the low cost of the network in terms of public safety and contributions to economic development,” Dr. Foster said. “We know that it is important for agriculture, the energy sector and any business or activities that are weather sensitive. Through our partnership with the National Weather Service, meteorologists rely on the Mesonet as an essential source of data to help with forecasting and to better target severe and winter weather warnings.”
The new Mesonet sites will join the statewide network of stations located in Adair, Allen, Barren, Bath, Boone, Breathitt, Breckinridge, Bullitt, Caldwell, Calloway, Campbell, Carroll, Casey, Christian, Clark, Clinton, Crittenden, Cumberland, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hardin, Harrison, Hart, Henderson, Hopkins, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, LaRue, Lawrence, Letcher, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Mason, McLean, McCreary, Meade, Mercer, Metcalfe, Morgan, Muhlenberg, Nicholas, Ohio, Oldham, Owen, Owsley, Pike, Rowan, Shelby, Simpson, Taylor, Todd, Trigg, Union and Warren counties.
Contact: Stuart Foster, (270) 745-5983