What is a mesonet?

In meteorology and climatology, a mesoscale network, or mesonet, is a network of automated environmental monitoring stations designed to observe meteorological phenomena on the mesoscale. In meteorology, “mesoscale” refers to weather events that range in size from about 1 mile to about 150 miles.

Mesoscale events last from several minutes to several hours. Thunderstorms, snow squalls and wind gusts are examples of mesoscale events. Due to the space and time scales associated with mesoscale phenomena, weather stations comprising a mesonet are spaced closer together and report more frequently than the larger synoptic scale observing networks run by the National Weather Service.

The Institute for Rural Partnerships is a great example of the Wisconsin Idea.

Just recently, UW-Madison received funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to purchase and install a mesonet across Wisconsin. A Wisconsin Environmental Mesonet and the data provided will support a wide range of research interests, including applications that involve many collaborators across the state.

A majority of Midwest states already have some type of mesonet guiding everyday use and decision-making. Wisconsin will now join that infrastructure.

Mesonets provide real-time weather and soil data for anyone to use. This helps support farmers, crop consultants and extension agents, support fire weather prediction, reduce economic losses in agricultural production, assist in weather warning issuance and forecasting, assist in emergency planning and preparedness, improve public safety, and support K-12 education.

Mesonets also provide data to a wide variety of researchers, scientists and teachers. Data from existing mesonets support a variety of weather and agriculture models. Observations from a mesonet can help support and improve the development of local temperature forecasts, as well as predictions for water demand by crops.

Steve Ackerman and Jonathan Martin, professors in the UW-Madison department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, are guests on WHA radio (970 AM) at 11:45 a.m. the last Monday of each month. Send them your questions at stevea@ssec.wisc.edu or jemarti1@wisc.edu.

Category: Meteorology, Severe Weather

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