Towering Ambitions for Forecasts

Maryland Mesonet to Provide Early Weather Warning in a Changing Climate

With little warning, the derecho of June 2012 roared out of the Midwest to topple trees, damage buildings, claim lives and knock out power to millions across the mid-Atlantic.

University of Maryland faculty and students gathered with emergency management and meteorology professionals on a blustery October day west of Ellicott City, Md., to make sure the state never suffers a surprise like that again. They built the first of 75 towers in the Maryland Mesonet, which will dot the state at approximately 10-mile intervals as one of the nation’s most sophisticated weather monitoring systems.

“Having one of these towers in western Maryland could have caught the derecho coming from West Virginia and given us extra lead time to warn people to get inside and get ready,” says Matt Miziorko of the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

He helped construct the 30-foot tower studded with instruments to measure wind, precipitation, soil moisture and more. Each minute, it will provide data to state and federal forecasters, emergency planners and farmers deciding when to plant, says Professor Sumant Nigam, chair of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and leader of the $4 million collaboration between the state and UMD. “The capabilities of this system are truly unique compared to anywhere in the country.”


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