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Maryland to build weather station network to improve forecasts

“Mesonet” will contain 75 weather-observing towers across the state

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), speaking during an interview with the AP in 2020, has announced that the state will build a network of weather stations to improve forecasting. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Maryland announced plans Monday to build out a network of high-resolution, real-time weather observation towers to improve readiness for dangerous conditions.

A partnership between the state and the University of Maryland College Park, the Maryland Mesonet will consist of 75 observation towers spread across the state. The goal is to provide emergency managers with accurate data more quickly and to improve lead time on National Weather Service severe weather alerts in the event of major storms and other emergencies, state officials said.

“We’re increasingly aware of our vulnerability to these disasters,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said at a news conference.

Maryland is joining dozens of other states, universities, research institutions and commercial groups that operate similar networks across the country. The networks are part of the National Mesonet Program, a nationwide web of weather stations aimed at helping meteorologists “produce the best forecasts and warnings possible, helping save lives and protect property in the U.S.”

Mesonets provide weather data at what is known as the mesoscale — a level of detail between large-scale weather patterns and individual storm cells — said James Lee, meteorologist-in-charge at the Weather Service’s Baltimore-Washington forecast office in Sterling, Va. Those observations are especially valuable during active weather emergencies such as tornado outbreaks.

“We’re data hungry,” Lee said. “Assuming the data is high quality, and I have no reason to believe it won’t be, that information will supplement our existing data set.”

The mesonet data will be made public for use in applications that could help inform decisions by Maryland school systems, farmers, fishermen, environmental agencies, wind and solar energy producers and the transportation industry.

Maryland is spending $4 million on the project, officials said.

The investment comes as the state develops a new resilience office, headed by a chief resilience officer within its Department of Emergency Management, to oversee preparation for and adaptation to severe weather events.

“We’re laying the road map for a more weather-resilient Maryland,” Hogan said.

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