Fairmont company gets nearly $10 million to continue weather-related work
October 9, 2012 ·
This past summer’s derecho storm highlights the problems Mother Nature can bring to a community. Advancements in weather prediction can be critical to estimating the impact of a storm.
The company Global Science and Technology in Fairmont is continuing its work in researching weather patterns, thanks to money from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The work is related to the national mesonet program, a series of networks and mobile platforms that monitor weather patterns.
These platforms are not operated by the federal government; they are controlled by state agencies and private networks.
They are located all over the country. The objective of the program is to gain better information on weather, and provide it to services like the National Weather Service.
GST is working with partners across the country to compile information from these networks and relay it to NOAA.
Paul Heppner is the program manager with GST.
"Global Science and Technology is not taking the observations, these observations, whether they be for mobile platforms or fixed sites, or being taken by partner networks," he said.
"Our job as prime contractor is to work with all the partners, and to make sure that their data is going to the government in a timely fashion, and just deal with whatever problems and issues might come up in the transfer of that data."
GST has been awarded nearly $10 million more to continue work over the next year that it has already been doing with the mesonets.
There’s some new emphasis, however, on gathering data on temperature, wind, and moisture in the atmosphere. Heppner explains.
"There’s increased emphasis by the National Weather Service to try and obtain data that’s a little bit above the ground. In meteorological lingo, we call it the boundary layer; it’s the first 5,000 feet above our heads," Heppner said.
"It’s important to know the temperature and the moisture in there, because that is the heat and the moisture that makes clouds, particularly in the summertime when we have thunderstorms."
There are two types of “mesonets:” ones that are set or fixed, like weather stations, and then there are “mobile” mesonets.
The mobile mesonets are basically vehicles with the equipment needed to gather weather-related data while they travel.
Heppner says these technologies help fill in gaps in knowledge of weather data, because they cover areas where no infrastructure currently exists to collect information.
"The old traditional model was, oh, a weather station takes an observation once an hour or once every half hour. The Weather Service is trying to speed that up and say, can we get it every five minutes," Heppner said.
"If you’re taking weather observations every five minutes, you’re not going to miss a thunderstorm coming over your weather station, so you’re going to sample that event, you’re going to get data when that occurred," he said, "that’s the whole point of increasing the frequency so events are less likely to go undetected."
Heppner says he’d like to see a day when all American vehicles on the road acted as mobile mesonets. But he says there are obstacles to overcome for that to happen.
"It really sort of hasn’t been thought of, up until maybe a few years ago, 10 years ago it really wasn’t thought of. Some makes and models will actually give you an air temperature reading. A lot depends on Detroit," said Heppner.
"There will be legislation in the next couple of years, which may sort of dictate the direction in which it’s going to go. Should vehicles or will vehicles have to be equipped with technology that will take information, like weather information."
While the company has offices in other states, the mesonet program work will be managed through Fairmont.