In 1982, Oklahoma scientists recognized the need for a statewide monitoring network. At OSU, agricultural scientists wanted to upgrade weather instruments at their research sites. Their primary goal was to expand the use of weather data in agricultural applications.
Meanwhile, scientists from the OU meteorological community were helping to plan and implement a flood-warning system for Tulsa. The success of Tulsa's rain gauge network pointed to the potential for a more extensive, statewide network.
OSU and OU joined forces in 1987 when they realized that one system would help both universities achieve their respective missions. The two universities approached the Governor's Office and, in December of 1990, the Oklahoma Mesonet Project was funded with $2.0 million of oil-overcharge funds available from a court settlement. Both universities contributed almost $350,000 each to bring the grand total to $2.7 million.
In addition, the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (OLETS) donated the use of their communications infrastructure to help move the data from the remote sites to OU.
Once funding was available, the Mesonet Project progressed quickly. Committees were formed, potential station sites were located and surveyed and instruments were chosen. In late 1991, the first Mesonet towers were installed and, by the end of 1993, 108 sites were completely operational. Three more sites were added soon thereafter to supplement a U. S. Department of Agriculture network in the Little Washita River Basin.
In 1996, three sites were added near Tulsa for an Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality study of air pollution. Thus, by the fall of 1996, the total number of Oklahoma Mesonet sites was 114.
Since 1996, 14 sites have relocated to other areas in the same town, 4 sites have been retired, and 10 sites have been added resulting in our current 120 station network.
A 2009 National Research Council report named the Oklahoma Mesonet as the "gold standard" for statewide weather and climate networks. The Mesonet is unique in its capability to measure a large variety of environmental conditions at so many sites across an area as large as Oklahoma. In addition, these conditions are relayed to a wide variety of customers very quickly after the observations are taken.