ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — UAlbany junior Jordan Due says one reason she became interested in meteorology was to overcome her fear of thunderstorms and tornadoes.
“The more that I kind of grew up, I realize that oh, I can actually learn more about this, and I realized I wasn’t afraid of them anymore,” Due says.
She says once she faced the massive data flow coming in from the New York State Mesonet’s intricate network of 126 weather monitoring stations, she realized just how difficult it is to make a forecast—especially an accurate one.
She, her classmates, and instructors work tirelessly interpreting every reading from the farthest reaches of the atmosphere to tell you how to prepare for the weather on the ground.
“Should I style my hair today or is it going to rain? People want to know if they’re going to have to leave early for work if it’s going to start snowing, things like that. As a meteorologist, you have to take into account everything. Every little detail. You cannot overlook anything,” she explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
To get and use every micron of data, the Mesonet reports receiving $1.35 million in federal funding through the advocacy of Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. It will expand the Empire State Vertical Sensing Evaluation Regional Testbed Experiment, or VERTEX, by improving the research to decipher information UAlbany headquarters takes in from the monitoring station network, including 17 locations with microwave radiometers and Doppler LiDAR.
“They are based here on the ground and remotely sense the atmosphere above them. They’re sending a pulses into the atmosphere, and based on the return information, we can understand temperature, humidity, winds, all the way up into the upper troposphere,” explains NYS Mesonet Director Chris Thorncroft, who is also director of the UAlbany Atmospheric Sciences Research Center.
“There’s two parts to this. One is to fully exploit the weather information we get from our profiling sites that monitor how weather is changing. For example, how unstable is the atmosphere. It also tells us precipitation types in real time and how that evolves. The second part of this is the money will also support us to get this data ingested into weather prediction models where there’s a huge possibility they can actually improve forecasts,” Thorncroft goes on to say.
He says the National Weather Service is using such readings right now to predict the path of this weekend’s deep freeze, adding that the Department of Homeland Security Emergency Services constantly runs a live feed of data from Mesonet.
“How cold is it gonna get, how cold is it going to be tonight, how cold is it going to be tomorrow, and also if you have enough profilers like we have 17 in New York State, how can they tell us exactly where the high pressure is going to shift,” he explains.
He further says improving the network can save lives amid a massive shift in weather patterns linked to climate change.
“Over the last 50 years, we’ve seen a 75 percent increase in the frequency of extreme rainfall events, and we expect to see more and more extreme weather, even snow or rainfall and flooding,” Thorncroft says.