UAlbany marks first expansion of statewide weather network in Lake Placid
By Zachary Matson
A statewide network of weather stations operated by the University at Albany will add its first new monitoring site since 2018 at the Uihlein Farm in Lake Placid this fall.
The New York State Mesonet is a network of 126 weather stations dispersed evenly across the state, in every county and borough, collecting data on temperature, precipitation, wind, humidity, snow depth and soil conditions. Online dashboards for each site offer real-time information and regularly-updated photographs. Many of the Adirondack sites are also part of a smaller set of sites that collect extra information on snow.
“Everyone can find their own backyard station,” said Junhong Wang, a UAlbany researcher and program director of Mesonet.
The network’s primary aim was to offer emergency managers high-quality weather data to use during severe storms and it was initially funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. But its broader uses are far reaching. Scientists use the data to improve forecasting and climate models; farmers use it to gauge soil moisture; renewable energy businesses use it to optimize equipment. Wang said the data has even been used in court cases to establish weather conditions at a particular place and time.
The Lake Placid site has a history of monitoring weather. The Uihlein family donated a portion of the farm to Cornell in the 1960s to study seed potatoes. In the 1970s, Cornell installed a weather station on the farm that gathered data for around five decades before a lighting strike in 2014 took the station offline.
When the farmland was returned to the Uihlein Foundation in 2021, board members started to explore ways to reinvigorate the weather station, said James McKenna, vice-chair of the foundation board and chief executive of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism based in Lake Placid.
The board members reached out to a technician who works at the Mesonet’s station at Whiteface who suggested they get in touch with program leaders at UAlbany. The network’s first site was established in Schuylerville in August 2015, and the initial build out of sites was completed in February 2018. While many people have offered to host a station, Wang said, the network never found a strong fit – until hearing from the Uihlein Foundation.
“We have been saying no to many people, but this is the first time we said yes,” Wang said.
The foundation donated the land for the station and invested nearly $35,000 to fund the equipment and sensors necessary for each of the network’s sites. McKenna said he hopes the weather station will offer residents and visitors to the region another source of weather information. He also said it can serve as a resource to educators and students who can pair classroom lessons using the data with field visits to the weather station.
Photos from the Mesonet site in Gabriels.
“It will be a good site for people to look back and look currently and get more people motivated for climate restoration,” McKenna said.
The pictures from the station’s camera will likely take in the farm’s open view to the Great Range, providing a scenic visual companion to the stream of weather data. The site’s history with Cornell also offers researchers an existing dataset to build on, providing a critical resource to scientists interested in the region’s changing climate and seeking decades worth of information.
“It’s a weather network, however, it’s also a climate network,” said Wang, who noted the climate is changing even more quickly at higher elevations. The new station will be the highest of those in the Adirondacks.
Wang said the site will be outfitted with sensors and equipment in the coming weeks and could go live with its public dashboard by the end of November.
“I just hope it doesn’t get hit by lighting again,” McKenna joked.
But even a lightning strike won’t stop the researchers from getting their data.
“It’s ok, we can fix that,” Wang said.
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