Weather forecasting across the country will soon be even more accurate and timely, thanks to a university initiative with other academic institutions, businesses and local governments. FAU’s Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE) is partnering with SBA Communications, a Boca Raton company, to deploy FAU technology that collects and sends atmospheric data to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the National Weather Service.
SBA operates wireless communications infrastructure, leases antenna space on their towers and helps clients develop their own infrastructure. The company is partnering with I-SENSE on a pilot project that will equip five SBA tower sites with FAU sensing and communication technology.
The sensors will collect weather data — precipitation, wind velocity, barometric pressure, temperature and other parameters. Later, sensors will collect soil moisture and solar radiation data. It’s all part of a back-end system developed by I-SENSE with support from the National Science Foundation. The system integrates with NOAA’s system, which the weather service uses for analysis, forecasting and climate modeling.
SBA and I-SENSE’s collaboration is part of the national Mesonet program, created in 2010 when Congress directed NOAA to fund a network of non-federally owned automated weather stations to deliver data in real time for the weather service. The service had its own assets, but adding stations nationwide to improve the forecasting models would be expensive. To expand, NOAA turned to universities, the private sector and local municipalities to deploy weather stations across the country. In return, NOAA provides funds to institutions with robust atmospheric sensing programs.
“The ability to partner with a company like SBA to include FAU’s technology at their sites provides an enormous opportunity to significantly scale out the national Mesonet program,” said Jason Hallstrom, Ph.D., director of I-SENSE.
Both Mesonet and the I-SENSE/SBA collaboration provide benefits that go well beyond simple data collection. Besides ensuring public safety, the project’s value comes from its scientific contribution to climate science, as well as the bridges it builds across sectors.
"The Mesonet program is a worthy endeavor, and our company takes pride in playing a small part in advancing this valuable scientific research at FAU, as well as expanding the collaboration between our two organizations,” said Jeff Stoops, president and chief executive officer of SBA Communications.
Mesonet comprises many regional networks, too. Through its partnership with Coastal Carolina University, FAU is helping to build the southeastern Mesonet by deploying sensing assets in local municipalities, especially Martin County in Florida and Richland County in South Carolina. Sensors will provide a rich source of information for communities in local weather forecasting, emergency preparedness and management — services that are becoming increasingly important.
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