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Better weather information available for parts of Kansas

Folks in Haysville, Kansas, will soon know more precisely how much rain fell and how strong the winds blew in their most recent storm. So will residents in Olathe, Hiawatha, Hill City, Tribune, part of Ford County and the Rocky Ford area near Manhattan in Riley County.

That information and more is now available online as a result of an expansion of services by the Kansas Weather Data Library. The WDL, based at Kansas State University, is adding weather stations at those locations as part of its growing Kansas Mesonet at—a network that detects and records precipitation, air temperature, soil temperature, relative humidity, wind direction and speed, and solar radiation.

“Solar radiation is measured by a pyranometer, which observes radiation emitted by the sun,” said Chip Redmond, WDL manager. “That’s important in determining the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground, which has great influences on evapotranspiration. ET is a measure of the movement of water to the air from plants and soil as well as movement within the plant. It is crucial in determining when to irrigate crops.”

Say, for instance, a corn grower near Scandia in Republic County (north central) wants to know the soil temperature before she plants her crop. Or a market gardener near Parsons in Labette (southeast) wonders how much precipitation his lettuce received in the past week. Both can be found on the Mesonet website.

The seven new stations fill in gaps within the network across the state, Redmond said, and also have immediate applications for monitoring crop and plant growth near associated research sites. The new sites will assist in developing a larger climate record for Kansas for future research, which could greatly enhance agriculture in the state.

“We now maintain 47 weather stations across Kansas,” Redmond said. “All of them measure temperature, relative humidity, wind direction and speed at 2 meters high, solar radiation, soil temperature at 2 and 4 inches deep, and precipitation. We have several that also include pressure, soil moisture and wind direction and speed at 10 meters high with the upgraded Mesonet sites spread across the state.”

“We hope to upgrade all stations to that level eventually, however, it will take substantial funding to make that happen,” he said.

The website also has daily and weekly data for all of the locations dating back several years (depending on when they were established). Redmond said that anyone who can’t find what they are looking for online is welcome to contact the WDL directly. The library has additional historical data going back to 1850, which is not available online.

Most sites chosen for weather stations in the network are selected based on the lack of availability of automated weather data in the region and in keeping with recommendations by the World Meteorological Organization. Most are on private land with the permission of cooperating landowners.

“The addition of new weather stations will enhance research, both long and short term near each location,” Redmond said. “Frost, freeze, heat, precipitation and other patterns can be monitored on a more regional and local scale, and their effects can be analyzed immediately with real-time conditions.

“Long-term trends can vary even within regions, and this could greatly influence crop changes with time,” he added. “Higher spatial climate data can provide insight to long-term patterns critical for current and future agriculture.”

Date: 8/4/2014


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