ponent of U.S. mesoscale observations—the ability to measure atmospheric conditions at various heights—is particularly inadequate.
National priorities demand ever more detailed meteorological observations at much finer spatial and temporal resolutions than are widely available today. These priorities include tracking atmospheric dispersion of chemical, biological, and nuclear contaminants from industrial accidents and terrorist activities, as well as smoke dispersion monitoring and prediction for wildfires, prescribed burns, and seasonal agricultural fires; more extensive air quality forecasting, high-resolution “nowcasting,” and short-range forecasting of high-impact weather; high-resolution weather information for aviation, surface transportation, and coastal waterways; and support to regional climate monitoring.
The agency sponsors1 of this study, recognizing numerous national vulnerabilities and unmet needs related to their missions, asked the National Research Council to convene a committee to help define affordable and effective solutions. The Committee on Developing Mesoscale Meteorological Observational Capabilities to Meet Multiple National Needs was appointed to develop an overarching vision for an integrated, flexible, adaptive, and multi-purpose mesoscale meteorological observation network.
This report offers steps that can be taken to affect near-term improvements in U.S. mesoscale observations and the investments that could be made to strengthen capability over the longer term. Although many of the recommendations specify actions to be taken by the federal sponsors of the report, federal agencies alone are unlikely to satisfy the breadth of national needs for mesoscale data. Therefore, the recommendations specifically address the broader community of private, public, and academic partners.
The committee finds that, overall, the status of U.S. surface meteorological observation capabilities is energetic and chaotic, driven mainly by local needs without adequate coordination. While other providers act locally to satisfy particular regional monitoring needs, the federal government is unique in its capacity to act strategically and globally in the national interest. An overarching national strategy is needed to integrate disparate systems from which far greater benefit could be derived and to define the additional observations required to achieve a true multi-purpose network that is national in scope, thereby fully enabling mesoscale numerical weather prediction and other applications.