Expert Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Detailed weather observations on local and regional levels are essential to a range of needs from forecasting tornadoes to making decisions that affect energy security, public health and safety, transportation, agriculture and all of our economic interests. The ability to get detailed observations of weather at the mesoscale -- ranging in size from a city to a state such as Oklahoma requires networks of local weather observing systems called mesonets. As weather technology has become increasingly affordable, businesses, state and local governments, and individual weather enthusiasts have set up observing systems throughout the United States. However, because there is no national network tying many of these systems together, data collection methods are inconsistent and public accessibility is limited. This report identifies short-term and long-term goals for federal government sponsors and other public and private partners in establishing a coordinated nationwide network of networks & of weather and climate observations. This report was requested by the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Transportation, and Homeland Security, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Key Messages

  • The Committee envisions a distributed adaptive network of networks (NoN) serving multiple environmental applications near the Earth's surface. Jointly provided and used by government, industry, and the public, such observations are essential to enable the vital services and facilities associated with health, safety, and the economic well-being of our nation.
  • 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.