A documentary about the Oklahoma Mesonet and the way it has changed the very face of weather forecasting and environmental-related decision-making across the state debuts at 9:30 p.m., May 3, on OETA.
“Grab your popcorn because even Oklahomans who think they know all about the Mesonet are likely to be surprised not only by its history but the breadth of applications it provides to state residents and the communities and counties in which they live,” said Ron Elliott, Oklahoma State University emeritus professor and former head of the university’s department of biosystems and agricultural engineering.
Elliott, who serves as co-chair of the Oklahoma Mesonet steering committee with Oklahoma Climatological Survey Director Kevin Kloesel, believes the Mesonet should be counted among the state’s true treasures, and that it stands as a testament of public service to those who played pivotal roles in its creation and continued relevance to all of Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Mesonet, a world-class network of environmental monitoring stations that provide updated information every five to 10 minutes, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019. A system of 120 stations with at least one in every county, the network was designed and implemented by cooperating scientists at OSU and the University of Oklahoma, with the two universities continuing to provide valuable subject-matter expertise to this day.
“To me, one of the things that sets the Oklahoma Mesonet apart is its grassroots, continuing partnership between the state’s two major universities,” Elliott said. “Many people default to Bedlam when it comes OSU and OU, but in truth we work together in any number of ways to help Oklahomans live better lives.”
Kloesel agreed, adding one of the things easy to overlook about the Oklahoma Mesonet is the billions of observations that have time and again proven instrumental to Oklahoma residents, landowners, businesses and emergency management professionals.
“Weather never stops: it is a 24-hour-day, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year operation to get information into the hands of those who need it, and there is always someone, somewhere who needs timely, accurate and relevant weather and environmental information,” he said.
Kloesel, who also serves as an associate professor in OU’s College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences, hopes one of the things viewers take away from the documentary is an appreciation for the hundreds of people behind the scenes who have been critical to the Oklahoma Mesonet’s operation.
“There are so many people who deserve recognition, historically and those who work with the Mesonet today,” he said. “The Oklahoma Mesonet has been called the nation’s premier ‘gold standard’ when it comes to mesoscale observations and the way the system makes the data gathered available to those who need it. Having updated data available every five to 10 minutes allows weather forecasters and non-professionals alike to track what is coming in real time, and then make sound decisions based on the information.”
Providing Oklahomans with tools to make sound and sometimes life-altering decisions is a sentiment echoed by Tom Coon, OSU vice president and dean of the university’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Coon pointed out that much of people’s lives and livelihoods involves dealing with uncertainty and risk.
“Whether it is a farmer trying to decide the best time to apply a fungicide or begin harvest, or a grassland manager trying to determine when conditions will be optimal for a prescribed fire, the Mesonet provides a wealth of information that helps them reduce uncertainty about one of our most unpredictable phenomena: the weather,” he said.
Coon was quick to point out the Oklahoma Mesonet enhances the state’s economic productivity, the safety of every Oklahoma citizen and the security of the state’s food supply, in addition to enhancing understanding about Oklahoma’s variable and at times dangerous weather.
“Making the documentary has been a fun and interesting project. As someone who was well-versed about the Oklahoma Mesonet, I was still continually impressed at all the ways it affects the lives of so many Oklahomans as we conducted interviews across the state,” said Dave Deken, Oklahoma Mesonet documentary producer and senior producer of OSU’s SUNUP agricultural television program broadcast weekly on OETA.
Following the documentary’s May 3 debut, OETA will rebroadcast the program at 6:30 a.m. on May 4 and at 7:30 p.m. on May 9.
The Oklahoma Mesonet is available for use by the public. Find it online at mesonet.org or by visiting the App Store at Google Play or iTunes. The Oklahoma Mesonet is funded by the State of Oklahoma, partnerships with federal agencies, private-sector user fees, and grants and contracts.