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Mesonet program aims to fill gaps in weather tracking

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH)– When tracking weather, a large amount of information comes from reporting stations, which are typically found at places like the airport. While that information is incredibly helpful, there is still a large portion of the area in Indiana that is not served.

“In any season, sometimes it is hard to gauge what is occurring, specifically in rural areas, when you don’t have a reporting station currently. And so you have to, for the lack of a better term, use interpolation to fill the gaps, essentially,” Storm Track 8 meteorologist Marcus Bailey said.

Storm Track 8 relies on weather spotters and viewers to get additional information, according to Bailey.

“If you don’t have truth on the ground, whether it be snow falling, how much it is, what that precipitation change over might be, that kind of stuff, then you’re having to rely on — at least as a TV meteorologist — viewers reporting, saying, ‘Here’s what’s happening,’ and that’s how we fill the gaps,” Bailey said.

Thirty-eight states so far, including Indiana, are operating or building a Mesonet, which is a network of automated weather monitoring stations, to fill the gaps between National Weather Service sites.

The Mesonet is a good step in climate change as well as weather, according to Alex Brown, who covers environmental issues as a staff writer for Stateline.

“In these spots where there hasn’t been a weather station in the past, having that information moving forward will help inform them on how the climate is changing, and what to expect on a much more localized level,” Brown said.

The Mesonet is also a vital addition for businesses relying on the most accurate weather information, according to Brown.

“Certainly agriculture, transportation, letting schools and educational institutions know about when it’s safe for athletes to practice outside or when to maybe call off a day of school due to weather,” Brown said.

By adding more weather reporting stations around the state, Bailey says that means more people will get the information they need, and it will be more centralized to their location.

“When you’re in a severe weather mode and time is of the essence and you want to warn people what is happening in this specific county that has a Mesonet, we can tell you down the line what they just experienced because we’re getting that real-time data,” Bailey said.

Visit the Purdue Mesonet Data Hub to see an example of a Mesonet at work in Indiana.