A mesonet is a particular type of observing network, with weather stations spaced close enough together to adequately sample "mesoscale" weather. "Meso-“ refers to weather phenomena that range in size from less than a mile to hundreds of miles long and last a few minutes to hours.
The idea of a network of weather stations (a mesonet) is nothing new, and scientists have long known its value. The first "mesonet" was deployed hundreds of years ago, with weather stations deployed across much of central Europe. However, data had to be collected with hand-held instruments, with the results gathered by mail. Fortunately, today's technology now permits real-time data collection throughout the depth of the atmosphere.
The New York State (NYS) Mesonet consists of 180 state-of-the-art environmental monitoring stations, including 126 Standard sites which serve as the foundation of an Early Warning Severe Weather Detection network for the entire State of New York. Mesonet sites are distributed statewide with every county across New York having at least one or more sites. The NYS Mesonet provides local, updated weather information in real-time 24/7 to government, academic, and private sector partners as well as the general public. The Mesonet was designed and developed by research scientists at the State University of New York at Albany's Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, and through collaboration with the Oklahoma Mesonet.
Like most mesonets, the New York State Mesonet's Standard sites collect measurements of a number of surface and atmospheric variables, such as air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, surface pressure, soil temperature, soil moisture, solar radiation, snow depth, and precipitation amounts for rainfall and snow accumulation.
What makes the New York State Mesonet unique is that in addition to its 126 Standard stations, the Mesonet also operates a network of 17 "Profiler" sites. Each Profiler site is equipped with state-of-the-art vertical profiling instrumentation that capture vertical profiles of temperature, relative humidity, and "3D" wind speed as well as an accurate measurement of boundary layer height and cloud base height. In addition, data from profiler instrumentation allow aerosol and cloud optical properties to be derived. The NYS Mesonet also operates two additional networks, including a network of 17 "Surface Energy Budget (SEB)" sites, that monitors radiative, heat, moisture, CO2, and ground flux, and a network of 20 Snow sites, that measures the Snow Water Equivalent (amount of water within the snow pack). All data are collected in real-time.
These surface and above-ground observations provide a very detailed, three dimensional "image" of the atmosphere at very high spatial and temporal resolutions. These high-resolution data and products are provided to the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office (NWS-WFO) and the New York State Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services (DHSES) to augment and improve their forecasting and emergency management decisions.
For Standard surface measurements, the data are collected every 1 to 5 minutes, with 5 minutes the standard data rate for most sensors. Profiler data are averaged over 5-minute periods. SEB data are averaged over 5-minute periods for radiation and soil flux, and 30-minute periods for heat, moisture, and CO2 flux. All observations are packaged, and transmitted, via the internet, to a central Mesonet ingest system located in the University at Albany's state-of-the-art, Tier-3 certified Data Center. The data are quality assured, archived, and disseminated in real-time to generate a wealth of products available to user consumption through the New York State Mesonet web portal.