New York's mesonet: profiling stations

Jan 7, 2015

Scientists from the University at Albany are designing the state's weather detection system to be the most sophisticated in the country. In the second part of a series, we take a look at the system’s technological advancements.

The New York State Mesonet won’t the first of its kind. UAlbany is modeling much of the network after Oklahoma’s.

"We like to use the word 'game changer.' "

New York's mesonet would be the most sophisticated developed so far. Seventeen of the 125 weather stations would be outfitted with laser technology capable of recording atmospheric data up to six miles high.
Why is that such a big deal? Because it’s the biggest innovation to how that information is gathered in more than 100 years.
Jason Franklin is the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service (NWS)  in Buffalo. They’re one of three sites across the state that uses weather balloons.

NOAA National Weather Service balloon is launched.
Credit NOAA

“Twice a day, one staff member goes over to our shelter and fills up the balloon with helium, and then attaches the instrumentation to it, and then lets it go,” Franklin said.
The instruments transmit data back to the ground as they disappear into the atmosphere. The NWS reports only about 20 percent of that equipment ever finds its way back home.
Not only does this cost over $350,000 a year, Chris Thorncroft says it doesn’t even provide adequate information on the atmosphere over the state.
“Instead of having three sites twice a day, we're going to have seventeen sites every five minutes. And, we like to use the word game changer,” Thorncroft said.
These special stations, called profiling stations, could help meteorologists determine the difference between a snow storm and an ice storm, for instance. They could also have non-weather related uses, like tracking the movement of toxic chemicals in the event of a terrorist attack or industrial accident.
As part of an ongoing series about the New York State Mesonet, next we’ll explore how this weather data will be made available to the public.