A Model for Effective Public-Private Partnership
The National Mesonet Program (NMP) integrates state, local, and private sector assets at a fraction of the cost of deploying and sustaining additional federal assets. From the founding networks to fledgling new additions, NMP forms a true collaboration, sharing best practices and honing business models to ensure efficient and effective delivery of the highest quality observations in high stakes arenas.
National Mesonet Monitoring Regions
Partner networks are grouped into four regions:
Pennsylvania State University, the University at Albany-SUNY, the University of Massachusetts, Rutgers University, and the University of Delaware all participate. Throughout the region, private sector partners Earth Networks, WeatherFlow, Panasonic, and Weather Telematics provide critical data during high impact weather events, including intense summer convection, severe winter storms, and significant coastal and inland flooding events (such as Hurricane Irene in 2011 in Vermont). The northeast corridor is one of the nation’s most populated urban areas and there remain significantly data-sparse areas which hinder forecast accuracy, emergency response, and energy efficiency initiatives. Additional support of NMP will enable the private sector to engage more state universities and local government entities to leverage and further develop critical monitoring assets in this region.
The NMP has high levels of participation from the networks throughout the southern U.S. However, the station density for the region remains well below desired levels, particularly in the emerging “Dixie Alley”, which is characterized by the relatively high number of strong and long-tracked tornadoes found there as well as numerous heavy precipitation events. The region encompasses much of the lower Mississippi Valley, stretching from eastern Texas and Arkansas across Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina and extends as far north as southeast Missouri and western Kentucky. Although tornadoes are less frequent in these states versus the southern Plains, 63% of overall tornado-related fatalities occur here due to the higher population density and highest percentage of manufactured homes. Complicating matters even further is the fact that tornadoes are much less visible in this region, as they are often embedded in heavy rain shafts and the hilly topography and heavily forested landscape make them difficult to see. Finally, more than 50% of tornadoes in this region happen at night, so increasing accuracy and warning times are absolutely critical to reducing the loss of life and property.
Midwest / Ohio River Valley
Given the well-known weather extremes experienced across the plains combined with its vast agriculture and emerging renewable energy resources, numerous mesonets have been established to help enhance the outputs of these market sectors. The NMP has effectively leveraged these existing capabilities and in many cases helped facilitate improvements in their network densities, geographical distributions and frequencies of data delivery. However, numerous additional available resources remain that could be tapped, particularly throughout the Ohio River Valley where additional public-private partnerships combined with a robust federal funding under the National Mesonet Program will serve to catalyze increased monitoring capabilities in those locations where they are most needed.
West Coast / Intermountain
The western half of the country experiences nearly every type of weather extreme including coastal flooding, monsoons, droughts, intense thunderstorms and heavy snowfalls. It is also the area of the country experiencing some of the most rapid population and business growth, both of which are highly weather sensitive. Given the vast geography and terrain variability, the region is also plagued with significant radar coverage gaps. Participation in the NMP by Washington State University, Colorado State University, the University of Utah, Utah State University, New Mexico State University, Texas Tech University, and several private sector partners has helped to begin addressing the numerous coverage gaps, but there is significant room for greater participation throughout the region.
Growing the National Mesonet
A new three-year data services contract, awarded to SGT, Inc., provides a stable funding base and an open, transparent collaborative business model that focuses over three dozen academic and commercial partners on improving our collective efficiency and effectiveness through best practice sharing, driven by a common roadmap to enhance the value of the products of our public-private partnership over the next three years. Two of our commercial partners, Earth Networks and Synoptic Data, have taken the lead in our improvement program, facilitating data set quality control and delivery to NOAA and serving as mentors for other partners as requested.
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