When properly used, Mesonet data have the capacity to help save lives, save Oklahoma businesses and taxpayers millions of dollars annually, reduce energy consumption, educate the next generation of citizens and make an incalculable contribution to research projects every year. The most notable professions that the Mesonet influences are weather forecasting, agriculture, education, emergency management, wildland fire management, energy industry, transportation and scientific research.
The National Weather Service operates 15 Automated Surface Observing System weather stations in Oklahoma. These stations usually report atmospheric measurements once every hour. However, much of Oklahoma's most destructive or least predictable weather occurs on a scale small enough to be missed by these federal stations. The Mesonet provides weather forecasters with more frequent and more localized information. Better forecasts of excessive rainfall and real-time measurement of soil moisture conditions will help to improve the lead time on flood warnings issued by the National Weather Service. These forecasts could allow for the pre-release of water from storage reservoirs before water levels rise too high.
"It's difficult to even imagine issuing warnings or forecasts without Oklahoma Mesonet data anymore. Hazardous weather events happen (or don't happen) usually because of subtle features which can be found in the data rich Oklahoma Mesonet. Whether we're trying to determine the next area for severe weather, winter weather, or critical wind shifts in a wildfire environment, Mesonet data importance can not be overstated."
The Oklahoma Mesonet provides a unique learning opportunity for Oklahoma schools. Near real-time data are available to public and private schools in Oklahoma for free. Learning activities using Mesonet information range from science and mathematics to economics and communications.
Mesonet data are used in a host of meteorological, agricultural and hydrological research projects funded by the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Energy. In addition, the Mesonet infrastructure is used to support field monitoring activities of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
Agricultural applications of the Mesonet include improved insect and disease advisories, spraying recommendations, irrigation scheduling, frost protection, planting and harvesting recommendations and prescribed burn advisories. Agriculture is such a large Oklahoma industry that any increase in efficiency from more accurate environmental information can translate into several million dollars in statewide savings each year.
Natural resource applications of the Mesonet include guidance for the increasingly important practice of prescribed burning. One of the major uses of OK-FIRE is to provide such guidance, so that prescribed burns can be conducted in a safe and effective manner. Over a million acres per year are typically burned via prescribed fire in Oklahoma.
Mesonet data are valuable in the renewable energy industry. For example, with Mesonet data to guide their placement, wind and solar generators can provide a source of non-polluting, renewable energy. Long-term data can be gathered on the thermal properties of Oklahoma soils to help designers optimize the size and reduce the installation costs of ground coils used in ground-source heat pumps. Mesonet data are critical to a variety of operations in the electric utility industry. Industry officials use Mesonet data to help make real-time decisions to prepare for damaging weather, respond to downed power lines, and protect the safety of their field personnel. Research based on Mesonet data helps generation facilities make more accurate forecasts of electric load, which helps reduce unnecessary consumption and keep prices down.
Mesonet data help emergency management officials deploy personnel, pre-position and move critical assets, and assess a variety of threats including hazardous materials spills. Paired with training and data access provided through the Mesonet's award-winning OK-First program, Mesonet data serve as the backbone for critical weather-informed decisions that help save lives and property.
"OK-First is single handedly the most valuable tool that emergency managers have available to them. Weather affects everyone all of the time. OK-First is the tool you use to monitor, base life saving decisions, and trust fully during events that rock the core of your community, regardless of the type of weather taking place. When emergency managers think weather, they use OK-First."
With over half of Oklahoma's acres consisting of wildlands, wildfires frequently occur throughout the state. OK-FIRE, a weather-based system for wildland fire management, has been developed to allow fire managers to not only assess the fire danger conditions over the next several days, but also to monitor current conditions during a wildfire to aid in suppression strategies.
Road crews from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation use the Mesonet rainfall and temperature measurements to anticipate which roads to sand during potential icing conditions. Even determining whether the temperature and relative humidity are suitable to allow paint to dry on roads and bridges will save Oklahoma tax dollars.