Nebraska Mesonet Monitors the State’s Weather

Martha Shulski portrait
Natural Resources

Nebraska Mesonet Monitors the State’s Weather

Can your county sponsor a weather station?

Interview with Martha Shulski by Emily Long

The Nebraska Mesonet is a network of 66 weather-observation stations around the state that continuously monitor air temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, soil temperature and moisture. The stations provide real-time, research-quality data to scientists and consumers who need or want the information.

However, only 45 counties of Nebraska’s 93 have a weather station, and more are needed. 

“Our goal is to have one station per county in Nebraska. The more data you have, the better,” Shulski said. “A lot of people want to have local data, so if we could get a grid pattern across Nebraska, we can represent the state fairly well.”

The total cost of components for one weather station is $15,000, plus a commitment of a $2,600 annual maintenance and operational fee, Shulski said. By sponsoring a weather station, weather conditions can be monitored and the information used for predictions and protecting resources. Data from the weather stations have been used in agriculture; for example, cattle producers use it to see what measures need to be taken to protect cattle. Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources also use the information generated by the Nebraska Mesonet weather stations, Shulski said. 

GETTING A WEATHER STATION

County entities often collaborate to fund a weather observation station, Shulski said, including both public and private companies that would find the information to be valuable.

The data are collected via phone modem, connected with Nebraska Mesonet through cellphone and the internet. Each station is powered by solar panel. 

The data are available hourly, she said. As the data are coming in, a Nebraska Mesonet staff person is checking to make sure it seems reasonable. 

The typical setup of a weather station is a tripod configuration with a solar panel at the bottom. The solar panel is facing south so it can capture the sun from the southern hemisphere. The weather station must be on flat, open ground, away from structures or trees. The locations are determined partly by the sponsors’ desires and partly by the best location to get the most accurate data.

Shulski said a Nebraska Mesonet technician sets up each weather station and maintains the station after its installation.

Components of the weather observation stations:

  • Tripod setup configuration
  • Solar panel 
  • Gill sun shield
  • Temperature and humidity sensor
  • Solar radiation arm
  • Wind vane/anemometer
  • Propeller-type temperature sensor
  • Wind vane
  • Barometer
  • Data logger with battery and communications equipment
  • Underground cables
  • Precipitation gauge
  • Soil temperature and moisture sensors
  • Wind temperature sensor

UPDATES

The Nebraska State Climate Office continues to update the weather stations to better serve the agricultural community. In the 2017 growing season, new products were implemented, including a growing-degree-day tracker, Shulski said. The office also is working on having a local, in-house database so that people can have the whole data set at their fingertips. 

“The other aspect that they’re looking into is notifying people when certain weather events occur. For example, if the wind goes over a certain speed amount or the temperature hits freezing, it will send users who sign up with this service an alert. They’ll be notified if their area had freezing temperatures the night before so they know they need to take the right precautions. Whatever identifies as their threshold of interest – it’ll send them an alert for that,” Shulski said. 

For more information and how to sponsor a weather station, contact the Nebraska State Climate Office at (402) 472-6711 or visit mesonet.unl.edu.