The winds of change are blowing for the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU with plans for equipment upgrades and network improvements as well as the unveiling of a new logo.
As the Commonwealth’s official source for weather and climate data, the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU provides real-time information from a statewide network of 66 stations in 65 counties, but the new logo highlights the fact that the Mesonet is based WKU. The Mesonet, which is housed at the Kentucky Climate Center at WKU, is the only network of its kind in the Commonwealth.
“The Kentucky Climate Center brings positive recognition to Western Kentucky University on the national scene within the scientific community, while our new logo will help to build awareness of the service that Western Kentucky University provides to residents through the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said Dr. Stuart Foster, state climatologist and director of the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU.
The new logo will be added soon to the Mesonet website. In addition, the Mesonet will be installing new equipment, making instrumentation upgrades and expanding services thanks to state funding and support from other agencies.
The 2016-2018 budget approved earlier this year by the General Assembly includes $750,000 a year for the Mesonet,
“We are pleased that state legislators and the governor recognized the value the Mesonet provides for citizens throughout Kentucky,” Dr. Foster said. “Funding through the state budget, supplemented by local sponsorships and federal grants and contracts, as opportunities arise, will enable us to solidify and expand our operations, our service and our brand across the state.”
The Mesonet stations collect real-time 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. The data is available online at www.kymesonet.org.
Soil monitoring probes have been added this year at stations in Butler, Carroll, Madison, Marshall and Shelby counties. The probes, which measure soil temperature and moisture at multiple depths, were provided to the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU through the Natural Resources Conservation Service with support from its state and national offices.
“Our goal is to add soil monitoring across the network at a majority of sites,” Dr. Foster said.
The additions bring the total number of sites with soil monitoring capabilities to 10 (the other five are Barren, Caldwell, Fayette, Hardin and Warren) with plans to install similar equipment in Christian County.
“There is increased interest within Kentucky, the Midwest and nationwide in monitoring soil conditions as an indicator of drought and flooding risk,” he said.
Dr. Foster anticipates that the Kentucky Mesonet’s soil monitoring capability will play a key role as NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System develops a Midwest Drought Early Warning System over the next few years.
A $105,000 matching grant from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund will allow the Mesonet to replace modems, relative humidity probes and some precipitation gauges across the network.
“Replacement of modems to facilitate communication with our stations and the transfer of data back to our network operations center at WKU will be our first priority,” Dr. Foster said.
Each Kentucky Mesonet station collects more than 105,000 observations and more than 2.7 million data values each year. “The instrumentation upgrades should help increase the reliability of our near real-time weather observation updates,” he said.
The Mesonet’s statewide network includes stations in Adair, Allen, Barren, Bath, Boone, Breathitt, Breckinridge, Bullitt, Butler, Caldwell, Calloway, Campbell, Carroll, Casey, Christian, Clark, Clinton, Crittenden, Cumberland, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hardin, Harlan, 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.
About the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU: State Climatologist Stuart Foster is director of the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU and the Kentucky Climate Center. Dr. Rezaul Mahmood, professor of Geography and Geology, is associate director of the Mesonet and the Kentucky Climate Center. 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. The first station was installed at the WKU Farm in May 2007. In recent years, Dr. Foster and others have been working to build a broad base of support across Kentucky to continue development and maintenance of the Mesonet network.
Contact: Stuart Foster, (270) 745-5983