The state of Maryland is building an automated network of weather stations to help with forecasting and emergency alerts.
The state and the University of Maryland will partner to build a mesonet, which is short for mesoscale network. The mesonet will feature 75 monitoring stations when completed, with the first third in operation by next summer.
Sumant Nigam, chair of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the university, said the design phase is already underway.
“We are currently in the design phase using numerical weather modeling experiments to determine the optimal placement of the towers,” Nigam explained. “Are there locations where weather monitoring would yield greater dividends regarding a weather forecast?”
Nigam noted the stations would transmit data to UMD every five minutes and then be made available to the National Weather Service and state and county emergency management.
Each tower will take numerous measurements, including barometric pressure, temperature, and humidity, but also hydrologic measurements, such as soil moisture. Nigam noted the soil moisture data would help in extreme rain events to determine where flooding is a greater risk.
“Because we know that the soil is saturated, it cannot absorb any of the incoming rainfall, which will then run off quickly and lead to flooding,” Nigam pointed out. “Knowing that the soil is saturated in advance will allow the emergency management officials to issue a flood warning with greater lead time than otherwise.”
The state of Maryland has committed 4 million dollars to the project. The network is anticipated to be completed around the end of next year.