Valentine East Joins Statewide Effort to Monitor Weather and Water

This weather station at Valentine East will be part of the Pennsylvania Environmental Monitoring Network (PEMN). This project is led by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. — Dr. Mike Fidanza

A Pennsylvania Environmental Monitoring Network (PEMN) is being created to fill information gaps on current weather and water conditions across Pennsylvania and lead to more efficient agricultural producers, energy use, provide for public safety, improve water quality, and enhance education. Twenty standard surface weather stations, providing observations of temperature, relative humidity, pressure, wind speed and direction at 2 m above ground, and rainfall, will be augmented by sensors to measure solar radiation, soil moisture and soil temperature at multiple soil depths down to 50 cm, and a sky camera, and data collected every 1 min in real-time over a cellular network. Stations at Penn State Agricultural Research Centers will also have temperature and wind observations at 10 m above ground in order to estimate surface heat flux, which can be very beneficial to agricultural research. The geographic placement of stations is still under discussion, but the intent is to place PEMN stations at many commonwealth campuses as well as locations in between current National Weather Service observation sites to fill in coverage gaps.

The weather and water observations provided by the PEMN will benefit the agricultural community, leading to improved decisions regarding when to plant, irrigate, apply pesticides, and to improve animal health. Pennsylvania has a number of gauges to measure water flow in streams and rivers, but little information on water within the soil. The PEMN will lead to better definition of water storage and improved decisions regarding water resources. The PEMN will help improve public safety, providing real-time weather conditions for use by National Weather Service and Penn State weather forecasters, particularly related to precipitation amounts and areas where precipitation is frozen or liquid, thereby supporting safe transportation and decisions by roadway crews. Observations from the PEMN will lead to improved knowledge of potential wild fire conditions across the state and better forest management. Research opportunities can be enhanced by having a real-time weather and water observation network, which would support data mining activities and eventually the creation of a climate network for weather and water in Pennsylvania. The presence of PEMN stations at several Commonwealth Campuses and University Park will lead to inclusion of these real-time observations in Penn State courses and K12 STEM outreach activities.

The PEMN also will foster new collaborations among faculty and staff from across the University. The faculty members involved have interest in the use of weather and/or water observations to enhance student education, understand atmosphere/land/water interactions, and support decision makers across the state. The data also will be available to and used by the National Weather Service (NWS), the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), and other end users to support the citizens of the commonwealth. Both the NWS and PEMA are strong supporters of the PEMN.