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TexMesonet provides real-time weather information Posted on August 12, 2020

 

Transcript

Nathan Leber – TexMesonet and Hydrosurvey Manager, Texas Water Development Board (0:04):

A mesonet is a network of weather stations. TexMesonet analyzes weather data at a much smaller scale than what is currently available. We look at things like individual thunderstorms or differences from one location to another that are within 20 miles from each other. Whereas the existing weather station coverage would not pick up those small-scale differences

These weather stations are highly scientific and require very precise calibration. Attached to that 10-meter tower are wind sensors, temperature sensors, relative humidity sensors, at multiple levels. We also have precipitation gauges on the ground, and we generally include four depths of soil moisture and soil temperature probes.

TexMesonet stations transmit data every 15 minutes. This allows first responders, national weather service forecasters, and the general public to see what's happening in their area in near real-time.

Troy Kimmel – University/Incident Response Meteorologist and Sr. Lecturer, University of Texas (1:14):

Nowadays, we've got all this fancy stuff in weather forecasting that shows us pretty maps and charts, and what models think about this and that, but it's so important to have a good foundation and remain situationally aware. Nothing like the Texas Mesonet is going to tell us what's happening now.

Gregory Waller – Service Coordination Hydrologist, National Weather Service (1:36):

We can still get the job done with radars and with satellites, but the value of a Texas Mesonet is to put gauges in a real-time manner to verify what we're seeing, to verify the accuracy, and increase the accuracy of our radar estimates and our satellite estimates. 

Nathan Leber – TexMesonet and Hydrosurvey Manager, Texas Water Development Board (1:53)

The goal of TexMesonet is to cover the state in weather stations that have at least a 20-mile buffer between the stations—that ensures coverage adequate to make appropriate forecasts for our state.

Gregory Waller – Service Coordination Hydrologist, National Weather Service (2:06):

Right now, most of the official observing sites are at large airports, but a mesonet fills in the gaps so that all the counties can have one and all the regions can have one. It gives us a more defined, detailed look at the smaller-scale weather phenomena that can go on.

Troy Kimmel – University/Incident Response Meteorologist and Sr. Lecturer, University of Texas (2:23):

Flash flooding is an issue in Houston. It's an issue in Longview. It's an issue in northwest Texas. It's an issue all across the state, and to have that real-time rain gauge information and know what's hitting the ground is so important.

Gregory Waller – Service Coordination Hydrologist, National Weather Service (2:38):

The beauty is the Texas Mesonet has all the meteorological information. So, we can look at wind data and temperature data, and pressure data set to help us find the fine boundaries that may cause thunderstorms to develop or allow thunderstorms to develop. It has the rain gauge data to allow us to verify how accurate our rainfall estimates are coming from our radars. And some of them have soil moisture parameters to allow us to know how saturated the soils are to aid with runoff. So, it’s all of the above.

It increases the lead time on, on warning operations, and it adds verification to warning products in some cases. 

But our forecasts are better, and lives are saved because the Texas Mesonet data is in there to help us improve accuracy and timeliness.

[Lower third graphic: Visit TexMesonet.org for more information]

Troy Kimmel – University/Incident Response Meteorologist and Sr. Lecturer, University of Texas (3:20):

The mesonet and our weather observation tools are our ground truth.

Soundbites

Flood information from TexMesonet

Gregory Waller – Service Coordination Hydrologist, National Weather Service

"The National Weather Service mission—issue forecasts, observations, warning products so that the public can make the decisions to save lives and save property. Accurate data going into the decision-making process is critical. And so, accurate Texas Mesonet data helps us with forecasting river heights, forecasting rainfall, anticipating flash flooding based on heavy rain events. So, it's just, it's integral to the entire process, in the warning decision-making process."

TexMesonet allows precipitation estimates to be more accurate

Gregory Waller – Service Coordination Hydrologist, National Weather Service

"Texas is known for going through periods of extreme drought, followed by periods of floods. And when you're in the drought, then it becomes critical for agriculture, the drought declaration. The National Weather Service precipitation products are included by the state climatologist in the decision making of where to outline drought. If you have rain events during this drought, because drought can mean just lower-than-normal rain, we want to make sure we're not overestimating. And the Texas Mesonet will allow our precipitation estimates to be more accurate, even on the light rain events, so that we have a better idea of the soil moisture conditions and the drought conditions. So, it actually adds accuracy to the drought products as well, by having a dense network to verify rain that has fallen."

Drought information from TexMesonet

Troy Kimmel – University/Incident Response Meteorologist and Sr. Lecturer, University of Texas

"Just as important as flooding, we also have the drought situation. Part of that is tied back to the fact that about half the state of Texas is in a climatological area, generally west of Austin, that is operating in a moisture deficit on an average annual basis. When you start getting east of Austin, we generally operate with a moisture, a surplus, but the problem with that is being right on the edge of that in the state of Texas. It can easily shift back and forth. And as a result, just as important as flash flooding or hydrologic usage for the Texas Mesonet, those zeroes, zero rainfall, those are important reports. We want to know that as well. It's useful for the Drought Monitor for national and state drought programs that are in place. It’s very important information."

Wimberley Floods

Nathan Leber – TexMesonet and Hydrosurvey Manager, Texas Water Development Board:

"Following the 2015 Wimberley floods, we saw the deficiencies in the existing network. We saw a lot of rain come down in a very localized area, resulting in quite a bit of water coming downstream that was unaccounted for. We have tried to build out the network in those locations to support first responders, as well as forecasters, to be able to determine when a similar event would happen in Blanco or Wimberley."

This article is posted in Flood / Technology / Weather / Drought .