What is a mesonet?
A "mesonet" is a combination of the words "mesoscale" and "network."
In meteorology, "mesoscale" refers to weather events that range in size from about one mile to about 150 miles, for example: thunderstorms, strong winds, bursts of heat, etc. These events can last from several minutes to several hours, and sometimes may go undetected without densely spaced weather observations.
This is where a “network” of interconnected weather stations, i.e. a mesonet, comes into play. Each mesonet station is equipped with upwards of a dozen sensors, for parameters like rain rates, soil moisture and air pressure, that can supply continuous, nearly instantaneous data to local, state and federal agencies.
Mesonet data can inform decisions in many areas, from agriculture and transportation to education, weather forecasting, and emergency management. Historical trends in data and the real-time information provided through a mesonet system can give emergency management officials advanced warning of severe weather, predict areas that are likely to flood, and allow for better warning systems, preparedness, and mitigation efforts.
A mesonet system in Tennessee will save lives, aid disaster recovery, and mitigate economic disruptions from disasters.
How do we get a mesonet in Tennessee?
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency has requested $3 million for the mesonet, alongside the Flood Predictor Tool.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency has requested $3 million for the mesonet, alongside the Flood Predictor Tool. Protect Tennessee supports this request and asks that it be granted in the final budget passed by the Tennessee General Assembly.
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A series of storms broke out in Arkansas on the night of Dec. 10, 2021 during unseasonably hot and humid conditions, racing across Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky. They produced the nation’s deadliest December tornado outbreak, with at least 90 fatalities, 80 of them in Kentucky. One of the tornadoes cut a path on the ground for more than 165 miles, and was as much as a half-mile wide when it tore through western Kentucky.
John Gordon, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Louisville, said the Kentucky Mesonet was essential for tracking the December 2021 unusual tornado outbreak, allowing the NWS to issue warnings.
Once a tornado is on the ground, forecasters use the mesonet to look at whether conditions there are likely to sustain it, stop it or elevate it, he said. Before the Kentucky Mesonet, the nearest weather station could have been many miles away, leaving meteorologists to rely on weather radars that help but do not directly tell forecasters what is happening on the ground.
“The mesonet gives us ground truth,” Gordon said.