NYS Mesonet, NOAA Partner to Enhance Winter Weather Observations

Pine trees, laden with snow, in front of an academic building on the UAlbany campus
Photo by Patrick Dodson

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 26, 2021) – Researchers at the New York State Mesonet are partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on a new project that aims to enhance winter storm observations using the network’s real-time data.

The NYS Mesonet, headquartered at the University at Albany, is an advanced weather network that features 126 standard observation stations located throughout the state. The stations are spaced within 20 miles of each other, including at least one in every county and borough. Each offers continuous updates of various localized weather variables with updates every five minutes and real-time camera images.

This new project will demonstrate quantitatively, at a statewide level, how local winter weather operations can be improved using NYS Mesonet measurements, including snow depth, snowfall rates and accumulation, snow water equivalent, freezing rain and precipitation type.

It will also produce a new suite of customizable weather products that can improve situational awareness and prediction lead times around winter storms.

NOAA is providing $600,000 in support over the next two years.

“Winter storms are among the most impactful weather events, but remain difficult to monitor and predict,” said Jerry Brotzge, NYS Mesonet project manager and the project’s principal investigator. “This project builds on our prior work to transform largely experimental data and associated variables into trustworthy, reliable products for use in NOAA’s winter weather operations and by other industry partners.”

“Winter weather observational products, which are critical for situational awareness and public warning, are still largely experimental and not readily available,” added June Wang, a research associate professor in UAlbany’s Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences and the NYS Mesonet quality assurance manager. “We are excited to work with NOAA to formally evaluate and refine the use of our measurements for this application.”

Using NYS Mesonet data, project researchers will collaborate with NOAA, along with other industry partners, to build and refine the winter weather products. For example, the transportation industry can use the products to assist in more timely snow removal, salt deployment and road closures. Utilities can improve monitoring of ice conditions, enabling a faster response for power restoration. Other beneficiaries include the agricultural, tourism and public health sectors.

Data from the NYS Mesonet is already used regularly by the National Weather Service (NWS) and statewide emergency managers. Over the past 12 months, it was referenced in more than 320 NWS forecast discussions, advisories and warnings, most often during winter weather situations.

Live data updates are streamed to the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, which manages state and local resources during high-impact weather. County-level managers also regularly access NYS Mesonet data for resource deployment and post-event recovery efforts. The NYS Department of Transportation and NYS Thruway work closely with the network as well.

Brotzge expects similar engagement and use of the winter weather products once created.

“The impacts of these new NYS Mesonet products will be far-reaching and multi-faceted,” he said. “Improved accuracy and precision in monitoring will lead to improved safety, efficiency and cost savings, in turn, making New Yorkers more resilient to increasingly extreme winter weather events.”

Research results will be presented at regional and national conferences, such as the Northeast Regional Operational Workshop, National Weather Association and American Meteorological Society annual conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals. Workshops are also planned to engage NYS Mesonet users with the new winter-focused products.

Project funding will support training for a post-doctoral scientist and two or more undergraduate students.