A Weather Station Network in Teton County
Weather in Wyoming is a lesson in extremes: on any given day we can easily have 40° temperature swings, snow followed by thunderstorms, or winds in excess of 45mph. The fact that we can have all of these conditions occurring at the same time in different areas of the County doesn't make things any easier. Additionally, the mountains and buttes in our County act like rocks in a river; they divert air currents making forecasts more difficult than in flatter areas. This is why Teton County Emergency Management is working on creating a local network of weather stations, both privately and publicly owned, to help decipher changing weather conditions.
Our goal is to provide accurate weather information to the residents and visitors of Teton County, government, schools, and emergency services. Some applications of this data are:
- More accurate weather forecasts and severe weather warnings.
All weather stations that are part of the Teton County Weather Network upload their data to the Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP) and to the Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System (MADIS). CWOP and MADIS work together to both quality control weather station data and forward it to the National Weather Service (NWS). Our local NWS Forecast Office in Riverton (with only one official NWS weather station at JH Airport) uses this data to get a better overall picture of what is going on around Teton County. This data can also be used to help modify computerized forecast models used by the NWS when data gathered at these weather stations doesn't coincide with issued forecasts.
- Provide life-saving information for emergency responses.
During an event such as a chemical spill, knowing the exact windspeed, wind direction, humidity, and temperature are vital to keeping both the public and responders safe. Weather stations installed by Emergency Management have the ability to input this data directly into computer programs that will map out plume models for specific chemicals based on the current weather conditions. Emergency responders can then use this information to safely resolve the situation and to evacuate people as needed.
Weather data is also vital for wildland firefighting, structural firefighting, search & rescue missions, vehicular accident reconstruction, and other emergency responses.
- Provide weather data to the public.
Let's say you want to head out for a snowmobile trip in Moran, or are planning to go rafting down in Hoback: using the weather stations in our network you can see what the current conditions are across the County so that you can plan accordingly for your trip. As any resident of Teton County can tell you, even though these locations are less than 40 miles from town, the differences in weather can be surprising. Also, the CWOP and MADIS systems archive all of the weather data that is uploaded. So if you are planning a trip to Teton County and don't know what to pack, you can check and see what the weather was last year to give you a better idea.
- Help with Teton County and the Town of Jackson's 10x10 initiative.
Certain weather stations installed by Emergency Management will be equipped with solar radiation sensors allowing the stations to compute evapotranspiration rates. Evapotranspiration (ET) is essentially the opposite of precipitation: it is the combination of evaporation from free water surfaces and transpiration of water from plant surfaces to the atmosphere. Hence, if there is a very high ET rate, it doesn't make much sense to irrigate lawns since the water will only be lost to the atmosphere. Teton County Parks and Recreation will be using the ET data provided by some of these weather stations to help automatically regulate irrigation schedules for parks and schools around the County. By irrigating more efficiently, we will be saving water, electricity, and money.
- Archive local weather data for future use.
The possibilities here are endless, but one purpose Emergency Management has in mind is for local school projects. With both MADIS and CWOP archiving the data from each weather station, students can go online and see the weather on specific dates. This information can be used for research projects or other school activities.