In meteorology (and climatology), a mesonet, portmanteau of mesoscale network, is a network of (typically) automated weather and environmental monitoring stations designed to observe mesoscale meteorological phenomena. Dry lines, squall lines, and sea breezes are examples of phenomena that can be observed by mesonets. Due to the space and time scales associated with mesoscale phenomena, weather stations comprising a mesonet will be spaced closer together and report more frequently than synoptic scale observing networks, such as ASOS. The term mesonet refers to the collective group of these weather stations, and are typically owned and operated by a common entity. Mesonets usually record in situ surface weather observations but some involve other observation platforms, particularly vertical profiles of the planetary boundary layer (PBL).
The distinguishing features that classify a network of weather stations as a mesonet are station density and temporal resolution. Depending upon the phenomena meant to be observed, mesonet stations utilize a spatial spacing of 1 to 40 kilometres (0.62 to 24.85 mi) and report conditions every 1 to 15 minutes. Micronets (see microscale and storm scale), such as in metropolitan areas such as Oklahoma City, St. Louis, and Birmingham UK, may be even denser in spatial resolution.
Thunderstorms, squall lines, drylines, sea and land breezes, mountain breeze and valley breezes, mountain waves, mesolows and mesohighs, wake lows, mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs), tropical cyclone and extratropical cyclone rainbands, macrobursts, gust fronts and outflow boundaries, heat bursts, urban heat islands, and other mesoscale phenomena can cause weather conditions in a localized area to be significantly different from that dictated by the ambient large-scale conditions. As such, meteorologists need to understand these phenomena in order to improve forecast skill. Observations are critical to understanding the processes by which these phenomena form, evolve, and dissipate.
The long-term observing networks (ASOS, AWOS, Coop), however, are too sparse and report too infrequently for mesoscale research. ASOS and AWOS stations are typically spaced 50 to 100 kilometres (31 to 62 mi) apart and report only hourly at many sites. The Cooperative Observer Program (COOP) database consists of only daily reports. "Mesoscale" weather phenomena occur on spatial scales of tens to hundreds of kilometers and temporal (time) scales of minutes to hours. Thus, an observing network with finer temporal and spatial scales is needed for mesoscale research. This need led to the development of the mesonet.
Mesonet data is directly used by humans for decision making, but also boosts the skill of numerical weather prediction and is especially beneficial for short-range mesoscale models. Mesonets, along with remote sensing solutions (data assimilation of weather radar, weather satellites, wind profilers), allow for much greater temporal and spatial resolution in a forecast model. As the atmosphere is a chaotic nonlinear dynamical system (i.e. Butterfly effect), this increase in data increases understanding of initial conditions and boosts model performance. In addition to meteorology and climatology users, transportation departments, energy producers and distributors, other utility interests, and agricultural entities also have a need for fine scale weather information. These organizations operate dozens of mesonets within the US and globally. Environmental, emergency management and public safety, and insurance interests also are heavy users of mesonet information.
In many cases, mesonet stations may (by necessity) be located in positions where accurate measurements may be compromised; for instance, this is especially true of the stations built for WeatherBug's network, many of which were located on school buildings. The potential bias that these locations may cause must be accounted for when entering the data into a model, lest the phenomenon of "garbage in, garbage out" occur.
Mesonets were born out of the need to conduct mesoscale research. The nature of this research is such that mesonets, like the phenomena they are meant to observe, are short-lived. Long term research projects and non-research groups, however, have been able to maintain a mesonet for many years. For example, the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground in Utah has maintained a mesonet for many decades. The research-based origin of mesonets has led to the characteristic that mesonet stations tend to be modular and portable, able to be moved from one field program to another.
Whether the mesonet is temporary or semi-permanent, each weather station is typically independent, drawing power from a battery and solar panels. An on-board computer takes readings from several instruments measuring temperature, humidity, wind speed & direction, and atmospheric pressure, as well as soil temperature and moisture, and other environmental variable deemed important to the mission of the mesonet, solar irradiance being a common non-meteorological parameter. The computer periodically saves these data to memory and transmits the observations to a base station via radio, telephone (wireless or landline), or satellite transmission. Advancements in computer technology and wireless communications in recent decades made possible the collection of mesonet data in real-time. The availability of mesonet data in real-time can be extremely valuable to operational forecasters as they can monitor weather conditions from many points in their forecast area.
Early mesonets operated differently from modern mesonets. Each constituent instrument of the weather station was purely mechanical and fairly independent of the other sensors. Data were recorded continuously by an inked stylus that pivoted about a point onto a rotating drum covered by a sheath of graphed paper called a trace chart, much like a traditional seismograph station. Data analysis could occur only after the trace charts from the various instruments were collected.
One of the earliest mesonets operated in the summer of 1946 and 1947 and was part of a field campaign called The Thunderstorm Project. As the name implies, the objective of this program was to better understand thunderstorm convection.
The following table is an incomplete list of mesonets that have operated in the past and present:
|Years of operation||Name of Network, Place||Spacing||No. of Stations
|1939-41||Lindenberger Böennetz, Lindenberg, Tauche, Germany||3–20 km (1.9–12.4 mi)||19-25||research on convective hazard, squall lines and wind gusts, to aviation|
|1940||Maebashi, Japan||8–13 km (5.0–8.1 mi)||20||research on convective hazard to aviation, examined structure of thunderstorms|
|1941||Muskingum basin||10 km (6.2 mi)||131||rainfall and runoff research|
|1946||The Thunderstorm Project, Florida||1 mi (1.6 km)||50||thunderstorm convection research|
|1947||The Thunderstorm Project, Ohio||2 mi (3.2 km)||58||thunderstorm convection research|
|1960||New Jersey||10 km (6.2 mi)||23||research on mesoscale pressure systems|
|1960||Fort Huachuca, Arizona||20 km (12 mi)||28||Army operations (military meteorology) research|
|1961||Fort Huachuca, Arizona||3 km (1.9 mi)||17||research on influence of orography|
|1961–Present||Dugway Proving Ground, Utah||9 mi (14 km)||26||air quality modeling and other desert area research|
|1961||Flagstaff||8 km (5.0 mi)||43||cumulonimbus convection research|
|1961||National Severe Storms Project (NSSP)||20 km (12 mi)||36||research on structure of severe storms|
|1962||National Severe Storms Project (NSSP)||60 km (37 mi)||210||research on squall lines and pressure jumps|
|1972–Present||Enviro-Weather, Michigan (now also adjacent sections of Wisconsin)||Varies||81||agriculturally centered; archive, varies from 5-60 min observations|
|1981–Present||Nebraska Mesonet, Nebraska||Varies||69
|originally agriculturally centered now multipurpose; archive, near real-time observations|
|1983–Present||South Dakota Mesonet, South Dakota||Varies||27||archive, real-time 5 min observations|
|1986–Present||Kansas Mesonet, Kansas||Varies||72||archive, real-time observations|
|1986–Present||Arizona Meteorological Network (AZMET), Arizona||Varies||27||agriculturally centered; archive, real-time observations, 15 min - 1 hr|
|1988–Present||Washington AgWeatherNet, Washington||Varies||177||agriculturally centered; archive, real-time observations, 15 min|
|1989–Present||Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) Weather System, Ohio||Varies||17||agriculturally centered; archive, hourly observations|
|1990–Present||North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network (NDAWN), North Dakota (also adjacent areas of NW-Minnesota and NE-Montana)||Varies||91||agriculturally centered; archive, real-time observations|
|1991–Present||Oklahoma Mesonet, Oklahoma||Varies||121||comprehensive monitoring; archive, real-time observations|
|1991–Present||Georgia Automated Weather Network (AEMN), Georgia||Varies||82||agriculture and hydrometeorology; archive, real-time observations, 15 min|
|1993–Present||Missouri Mesonet, Missouri||Varies||35||agriculturally centered; archive, real-time observations at 21 stations|
|1994–Present||**WeatherBug (AWS), across United States||Varies||>8,000||real-time observations|
|1997–Present||Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN), Florida||Varies||42||agriculturally-centered; archive, real-time|
|1999–Present||West Texas Mesonet, Texas||Varies||63+||archive, real-time observations|
|2001–Present||Iowa Environmental Mesonet, Iowa||Varies||469*||archive, real-time observations|
|2002–Present||Western Turkey Mesonet, Turkey||Varies||206+||nowcasting, hydrometeorology|
|2003–Present||Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS), Delaware||Varies||57||archive, real-time observations|
|2004-2010||Foothills Climate Array (FCA), southern Alberta||10 km (6.2 mi) average||300||research on spatial-temporal meteorological variation, and on weather and climate model performance, across adjoining mountain, foothills, and prairie topographies|
|2007–Present||Kentucky Mesonet, Kentucky||Varies||68||archive, real-time observations|
|2008–Present||Quantum Weather Mesonet, St. Louis metropolitan area, Missouri||Varies (average ~5 miles (8.0 km))||100||utility and nowcasting; archive, real-time observations|
|Present||North Carolina ECONet, North Carolina||Varies||99||archive, real-time observations|
|2012–Present||Birmingham Urban Climate Laboratory (BUCL) Mesonet, Birmingham UK||3 per km2||24||urban heat island (UHI) monitoring|
|2015–Present||New York State Mesonet, New York||Varies, averages 20 miles (32 km)||126||real-time observations, improved forecasting|
|Present||New Jersey Weather & Climate Network (NJWxNet), New Jersey||Varies||66||real-time observations|
*Not all stations owned by network.
**As these are private stations, although QA/QC measures are taken, these may not be scientific grade, and may lack proper siting, calibration, sensitivity, durability, and maintenance.
Although not labeled a mesonet, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) also maintains a nationwide surface observation network with the density of a mesonet. JMA operates AMeDAS, consisting of approximately 1,300 stations at a spacing of 17 kilometres (11 mi). The network began operating in 1974.
- Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP)
- Road Weather Information System (RWIS)
- Surface weather analysis
- Automated airport weather station
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- MADIS Meteorological Surface Integrated Mesonet Data Providers (MADIS)
- National Mesonet/UrbaNet Data Overview (NCEP Central Operations)
- Hydrometeorological Networks in the United States
- Personal Weather Station Network (Weather Underground)
- Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP) (wxqa.com)
- Midwest Mesonets and Specialized Instrumented Sites (Midwestern Regional Climate Center)
- FAESR: Surface In-Situ Networks (NCAR's Facilities for Atmospheric and Earth Science Research)