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Mesonet Gives New York State Early Bad Weather Warnings
New York Ag Connection - 11/12/2019

State University of New York Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson credited the New York State Mesonet at the University at Albany with playing a critical role in helping predict dangerous flooding in the Mohawk Valley earlier this month.

Launched in 2014 by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the University at Albany, and the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES), the New York State Mesonet is the most advanced and largest early warning weather detection network in the country. It predicted two inches of additional rain at sites in Hamilton and Herkimer counties that was missed by conventional weather radar, giving forecasters and emergency managers real-time insight into the unfolding threat.

"The capability of the New York State Mesonet to support more accurate prediction of dangerous flooding in the Mohawk Valley by measuring soil saturation, once again proves that SUNY is committed to helping communities prepare and respond to severe storms," said Johnson. "Students studying climate science and meteorology at the University at Albany have unparalleled access to expert faculty and the most advanced weather-detection technology that together help state and local leaders make critical decisions that mitigate disaster and keep people safe."

UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez said, "The New York State Mesonet is a prime example of the way UAlbany can put its expertise in the atmospheric sciences and emergency preparedness to work to benefit the people of the State of New York. Governor Cuomo's foresight in building this network has led to stronger collaborations between UAlbany, DHSES, and the National Weather Service that are helping keep New Yorkers safe from severe weather."

In addition to real-time, accurate rain data, the New York State Mesonet provided critical information on soil saturation in the hours leading up to the storm that better prepared forecasters at the National Weather Service to predict the resulting flooding. Prior to its construction, this soil moisture data was not available.

The New York State Mesonet consists of 126 weather stations across the state that provide detailed, real-time data to emergency managers, utilities, transportation facilities, farms and other weather-sensitive businesses across New York.

Governor Cuomo directed the Mesonet be built with $30.5M in FEMA hazard mitigation funds with the express charge to reduce the weather blind spots that have hampered the state's ability to respond to emergencies in the past, such as when Tropical Storm Irene devastated parts of the Catskills, North Country, and Schoharie Valley in 2011.

In its forecast discussion Friday morning, the National Weather Service (NWS) in Albany cited the Mesonet's observations as "key to assessing near-term flood potential and wind threats with the storm."

The rainfall detected overnight Thursday into Friday by the Mesonet is a case study in why the system was built. The NWS continued to use Mesonet wind data to inform high-wind warnings throughout Friday morning.

New York is among the most weather-sensitive states in the nation, and flooding from increasingly frequent heavy rains is the number one weather risk to the state posed by the changing climate.

In addition to the Mesonet, UAlbany is home to the largest concentration of weather and climate scientists in New York. UAlbany's Weather Enterprise includes the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, the xCite Lab, and Center of Excellence in Weather-Climate Business Analytics.

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