Dr. Stuart Foster, state climatologist at PADD meeting.
Dr. Stuart Foster, Director of the Kentucky Climate Center located at Western Kentucky University, spoke with elected officials at the April Purchase Area Development District meeting. The state climatologist is on a mission to get more automated weather and climate stations funded in the area.
The system called the Kentucky Mesonet measures temperature, precipitation, humidity and wind speed and direction. Some stations also monitor soil moisture and temperature. Presently, there are 65 stations across the state. The data goes to the National Weather Service and is also available to the public online.
Foster called Kentucky's weather and climate both a blessing and a threat. The state experiences extremes in temperature and precipitation throughout the year. The extreme heat in recent years have rivaled the record setting temperatures of the 1930s. Winds as high as 101 miles per hour were measured at the Murray station on April 25, 2011. Foster said that he didn't believe the data showing a straight line wind that fast until he saw news reports of the damage around Murray.
Kentucky's diverse terrain creates vulnerabilities to weather. From the mountains in the east to the flat lands of the west, the state has a patchwork of weather patterns. While radar measures what's going on in the upper atmosphere, the Mesonet records what's happening on the ground.
Foster is seeking local partners to install Mesonet stations. Installation runs from $15,000- $20,000, he said. Maintaining a site costs around $5000 a year. He urged elected officials to consider a station as an economic development tool. Some stations are supported by local businesses. The partnering program is in its second year. Foster said that in the first year, 22 partners signed up. Funding has been a mix of county, city and privat business support.
Presently, there are four stations in the Purchase: Marshall, Calloway, Graves and Fulton County. Foster would like to see more monitoring along the Mississippi River. Fulton County has a station, so new ones could be located in Ballard, Carlisle or Hickman Counties.