February 27, 2004
Agronomists provide link in storm forecasting
by Melea Licht, agronomy communications
|Daryl Herzmann (left), who maintains
the Mesonet, and agronomy professor Raymond Arritt, principal investigator
on the Mesonet project, at a weather collection station similar to what the
KCCI-TV SchoolNet stations offer. Photo by Bob
Janis Diehl heard the storm warning via weather radio as she worked in the
Story County Emergency Management office.
"The storm really sneaked up on us. People in Nevada were calling 911
wanting to know what was going on. When the warning was issued, everyone
calmed down. It was so much nicer to know what was going on, what was to
come and how much danger we were in," Diehl said.
The June 18 storm last summer downed power lines and trees and dropped an
inch of rain in a few minutes. It ended shortly after the warning was
issued. No one was injured.
Diehl didn't know that one link helping to keep her informed about severe
weather was the Iowa State agronomy department.
Iowa State researchers relay weather data from KCCI-TV "SchoolNet 8"
stations to the National Weather Service station in Johnston through the
Iowa Environmental Mesonet, a partnership of government, private and
academic units focused on environmental monitoring and prediction. The
partnership is administered from the Iowa State campus by the agronomy
department. It was created in 2001 to develop a denser network of weather
data for agriculture, but its largest impact has been improving severe
SchoolNet 8 is a collection of 50-plus weather observing stations located at
schools throughout central Iowa that report, via the Internet, live
information about temperature; wind direction, speed and gust speed; wind
chill, precipitation and barometric pressure.
Mesonet software monitors SchoolNet station data and relays observations
meeting severe weather criteria to the National Weather Service, where it's
used in forming severe weather warnings.
Daryl Herzmann, an Iowa State ag meteorology program assistant, maintains
The turn-around time for the Nevada storm, from observation to issuing the
warning, was two minutes, Herzmann said.
"At 12:30 p.m., the radar didn't show anything over the city of Nevada. By
12:35 p.m., a popcorn storm blew up over the town and triggered a Mesonet
response, alerting the National Weather Service of the dangerous wind
conditions. The weather service issued a severe weather warning to Story
County residents by 12:37 p.m," he said.
Without the Mesonet connection, the severe wind gust that triggered the
warning would not have been relayed to the National Weather Service so
The Mesonet continually monitors observations from the SchoolNet stations.
Every minute, observations are checked for wind gusts higher than 50 mph
and, if found, automatically sent to the National Weather Service within 90
seconds. Prior to the Mesonet, KCCI passed observations to the weather
"The Mesonet has made the KCCI SchoolNet an important part of the storm
warning decision-making process," said John McLaughlin, chief meteorologist
at KCCI-TV. "The ability to be alerted instantly to wind gusts over 50 mph,
along with the automatic alerts sent to the National Weather Service, make
this system a first in the country. There is no doubt this has resulted in
better emergency weather information for the public."
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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