Tractor Trailers Helping To Create A Mobile Network Of Weather Observations
Written by Pierce Legeion
Last updated on October 05, 2012 @ 8:25PM
Created on October 05, 2012 @ 6:42PM
Local citizens are helping collect more weather observations than ever before.  The National Weather Service is heading up a $9.6 million dollar project to install weather sensors to tractor trailers.

The sensors as a group are known as a mesonet.  Fixed mesonets, or those that stay in one location, have been around for decades.  But this is one of the most ambitious mobile mesonet projects in history.

Thousands of weather sensors have been attached to tractor trailers traveling all over the country.  The sensors automatically measure air temperature, wind, pressure, humidity, and even the temperature of the road.  All of this information is being sent to the National Weather Service.  The idea is that more observations in more areas will help improve current weather forecast models and help them to become more accurate.
 
"They're tending to get out into areas that have not been really sampled before, and I think that's the excitement of it...is sampling areas that traditionally have not been.  And as the fleet over the years will grow, there'll be more definition which is given" says Paul Heppner who manages the installation program.

The sensors collect information every 10 seconds, meaning that with thousands of sensors out there, the National Weather Service gets in literally millions of observations every month.  They're still figuring out how best to use this information.  In addition to improving forecasts they hope to be able to improve warning time during severe weather.
 
A lot of people 5 News talked to today think it's a pretty cool idea.

There was a lot of discussion in particular about how these sensors will measure the temperature of the roads as the trucks are traveling and some folks already had some ideas to make that better.

We got this comment on Facebook from one woman who said this: "It's an interesting idea, but what about the people who don't live near highways...so the data isn't really helpful."  It's important to note that this is just the third year of the project and expansion into other areas may be possible in the future.

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