Mesonet Essentials is a resource created in collaboration with members of the American Association of State Climatologists (AASC) and the national mesonet community. To learn more about the AASC vision, mission, goals, and membership opportunities, visit their website at www.stateclimate.org.
When it comes to planning for your mesonet, it is important to consider how much it will cost to do the following:
The issue of mesonet cost is closely tied to the issue of funding for your mesonet. You will need to identify appropriate funding resources and acquire financial commitments from them.
Note: Dr. Jerald Brotzge, Program Manager of the New York State Mesonet, provided significant assistance with the information conveyed in this section.
When you develop your mesonet from the ground up, planning a realistic budget is a critical step. In some instances, you may have a total cost figure from which you design your mesonet to fit your budget. In other instances, you may begin with a specific problem or idea and then develop a budget to meet the need.
Ultimately, your budget planning will be the major determining factor in how well your mesonet network performs and will be crucial to its long-term sustainability. To be successful, your budget planning should include both the startup cost and the cost to continue the operation and maintenance of the mesonet.
The overall design of your mesonet requires answering some major infrastructure questions that will drive the overall costs of installation and long-term maintenance. Carefully consider your answers to these questions:
There are also some important questions related to the equipment components of your stations that should be considered, as they affect your budget:
You’ll also need to consider your staffing needs in relation to the size of your mesonet and your budget. You may discover that staffing constitutes a large portion of both your startup cost and your annual operation and maintenance cost. Review your answers to these questions:
It may be helpful to develop a list of needed staff members to meet your mesonet objectives. Prioritize those positions based on your level of funding. Bear in mind that some of your staff members may be university personnel with dual jobs who are paid by the university, whereas other members of your staff may be dedicated mesonet employees paid under mesonet-related funding.
There are a surprising number of expenses that might fall into the miscellaneous category. These expenses can add significant cost to your mesonet budget. When planning your budget, remember to include items such as these:
Resource: For more information about important considerations that affect your O&M costs, review the Operation and Maintenance section.
Budgeting for O&M expenses involves educated guesswork, as you can't foresee unexpected, non-routine expenses. There are, however, some guidelines for estimating the routine expenses. For example, one guideline is that your annual sensor replacement costs will be approximately 10 percent of your initial deployment cost. Another guideline is to assume an annual 15 percent replacement rate for your hardware expenses.
In addition, consider your sensor repair and calibration costs. If you choose to do some or all your calibration in-house, carefully consider the staffing and hardware needed to set up and operate your own calibration facility.
The following are some tips for planning your mesonet budget:
Funding is needed not only for the initial deployment of your mesonet, but also for the long term to cover daily operation and maintenance (O&M) costs. Mesonet operators may find it more challenging to obtain adequate O&M funding as compared with obtaining startup funding.
Resource: You can explore federal projects via GovTribe: https://govtribe.com/project.
Because mesonets are funded by a variety of sources, each funding source may have a different set of obligations that need to be satisfied. That being said, most mesonets have an obligation to report real-time data, and the availability and access to that data stream are critical for many sectors, including agriculture, energy, emergency management, and transportation. Indeed, any downtime in the distribution of your deliverables could have serious consequences for these stakeholders. Adequate site communications and processing are key to maintaining a real-time data feed.
Similarly, maintaining a high-quality network of weather stations can be critical for other sectors. Regular maintenance and calibration are key for maintaining quality mesonet equipment for quality data acquisition, which is important for research and some partnering sectors. For example, forensic meteorologists require a high-quality standard for presenting their data in court.
Jadwiga R. Ziolkowska, Christopher A. Fiebrich, J. D. Carlson, Andrea D. Melvin, Albert J. Sutherland, Kevin A. Kloesel, Gary D. McManus, Bradley G. Illston, James E. Hocker, and Reuben Reyes, "Benefits and Beneficiaries of the Oklahoma Mesonet: A Multisectoral Ripple Effect Analysis," Weather, Climate, and Society 9, no. 3 (2017): 499-519. http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/WCAS-D-16-0139.1.
Stuart Foster, "Mesonets in the Midwest Region," NIDIS Regional Workshop Series. November 7-10 and December 5-8, 2016. https://www.drought.gov/drought/sites/drought.gov.drought/files/media/regions/rdews/Midwest/pre-20161207-MidwestDEWS-OHKY-Foster-mesonets.pdf.
If you would like to continue your mesonet operations but are unable to procure short-term funds, explore multiple funding options through academic, government, and private-sector channels.
It is not uncommon for some mesonets to be abandoned, fall into disrepair, or both. Nevertheless, the station equipment can still be valuable and adopted for use by others. If one or more of your station sites is being decommissioned, consider alerting your stakeholders of your plans. There may be a stakeholder who is interested in taking over the operation of those stations. In addition, schools or local media may have an interest in adopting one or more stations.