The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency announced Friday the launch of Keystone Mesonet, an internet-based one-stop shop for weather and environmental data. The website provides users with all Pennsylvania and federally owned weather data in one location, rather than visiting multiple sites, according to a news release from PEMA.
Keystone Mesonet is the product of a multiyear partnership with Penn State University and the departments of environmental protection, conservation and natural resources, transportation, the state Turnpike Commission and PEMA.
“This system will provide emergency managers with real-time data to help inform decision making and preparedness for weather-related events,” PEMA Director Randy Padfield was quoted in the release. “But the system also provides data like fuel moisture, which is essential for monitoring wildland fire threats, and roadway temperature, which is crucial for travel conditions.”
Although other states have mesonets, the Keystone Mesonet is unique to Pennsylvania. Sharing data from multiple agencies rather than a single entity, the mesonet includes data from hundreds of observation sites throughout the state. Each contributor continues to own and maintain its own equipment while sharing these data in near real-time, helping build a better overall weather picture across the commonwealth. With a greater data picture, forecasters can use these observations to provide better forecasts, issue faster weather warnings and identify more localized impacts, PEMA said.
“The ability to access real-time weather information for multiple existing weather networks across the state will have numerous potential opportunities for new research, tool development and to assist in weather forecast development,” Kyle Imhoff, state climatologist at Penn State University, was quoted.
The weather data is displayed on a map using a web browser or can be ingested into GIS-capable software using a download link. The Keystone Mesonet will also soon allow emergency managers to receive alerts for extreme weather when sensors trigger for events like heavy rainfall rates and strong winds.
In addition to developing the Keystone Mesonet website, Penn State University will soon be adding a new, university-owned data set to the mesonet cadre. This data set will include the first statewide soil moisture data set, filling a huge gap in the agricultural community’s needs.