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How Are Snow Days Determined?

By Kathryn Ting and Jackie Orchard


Fingers crossed for that snow day? Get on your knees and pray to the Mesonet - a state-of-the-art weather system that lives in the podium basement at UAlbany.



Photo Credit: Habib Affinnih (Mesonet system displaying weather sites across NYS.)


The NYS Mesonet is comprised of 126 solar powered sites spread out over all New York on a mix of public and private land; it feeds information to school administrators who use the data to determine the answer to our most burning question- “Will I get a snow day?!”


Mesonet sites are scattered throughout the state, collecting real-time data on current weather conditions.


“There are some on schools, there are some on DEC land, farms, vineyards, and along the Thruway,” said Nick Bassill, a Center of Excellence scientist working on the NYS Mesonet.


The sites consist of cameras as well as special tools that track precipitation and wind speed.


In the basement office at UAlbany, you can see constant footage from every camera in the state running 24/7 on wall monitors.


The video feeds from Mesonet cameras are available on a public website, www.nysmesonet.com, while additional work is done by meteorologists like Bassill to create forecasting models. All of this determines WEATHER or not (get it?) you’ll get that snow day.


The tool interface used by school district superintendents features a map of the state, broken up by county.


One can see what is happening at that location through camera footage, and also check data tables for wind chill and precipitation- including snow, rain, sleet, and freezing rain.


“Ultimately what we are doing is packaging data in a way that [people] can read,” Bassill said.



Photo Credit: Habib Affinnih (Mesonet system displaying weather sites across NYS.)



UAlbany is partnering with BOCES in a trial period this year to see if the system makes the decision to cancel both easier, and more accurate (making the right call). The Center for Excellency is expecting feedback from the various districts about the system in light of the most recent storms.


Bassill and his team will work with BOCES for a time to see if there is anything that they can improve, and to see if the project will be green-lighted for future years.


The Center of Excellence in Weather & Climate Analytics will be moving to the Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurship Complex (ETEC) upon its completion in 2021, making it the new home of the Mesonet Headquarters.


If there’s an exam you didn’t study for, the miracle you’re looking for is from the holy Mesonet, nuzzled in the podium basement, ticking away.