State officials benefit from UD expertise on storms
Snow piles up outside the Lewes Post Office as crews clear the streets.

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11:07 a.m., Feb. 19, 2010----Many people have a favorite TV station, Web site or phone app that they consult for information as winter storms approach the area. But where does the state turn when it needs real-time, regional weather data to make critical decisions related to snow events?

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One source, especially for the recent storms that have hit the region, is the University of Delaware.

Through the Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS), a real-time regional monitoring system coordinated by UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, and the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS), emergency managers and decision makers receive 24/7 updates about developing weather conditions.

“The assistance we provide speeds up response to storms by allowing officials to make more proactive decisions,” said Delaware State Climatologist David R. Legates, who also is DEOS co-director and a UD associate professor of geography.

Both groups participate in the Technical Assistance Center of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, meaning they take part in statewide conference calls to determine action needed during severe weather. When events such as hurricanes, flooding events, and snowstorms move in, they stay at the state's Emergency Operations Center to provide continuous updates for a number of state agencies such as the Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Transportation.

In the case of the recent storms, the team worked around the clock at the emergency facility and was able to tell officials, for instance, whether they should plan for snow in New Castle County at a specific time while Sussex County should expect rain.

DEOS provides data on weather conditions, stream levels, tidal conditions, snow depth, and many other environmental variables, while DGS supplies information on stream flow and coastal flooding.

“Together with the State Climatologist's Office, we provide general weather information, and we expand the forecast that the National Weather Service provides for the local area and tell state officials how that's going to impact their areas,” said Dan Leathers, DEOS co-director and professor of geography.

Throughout the year, DEOS maintains 45 automated weather stations around the state and also collects land and water data from other networks.

The weather stations provide real-time and time-specific data on rainfall, snow depth, air temperature, dew-point temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, solar radiation, wind speed, wind gust, wind direction, soil moisture, and soil temperature.

The system also incorporates data from offshore ocean buoys, stream gauges, ground water level and water quality monitoring in conjunction with DGS and the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Not only does DEOS provide a centralized weather monitoring system for Delaware and the Delmarva Peninsula, it also archives the data for research use and provides weather information for use by citizens on its Web site.

The site displays current, daily, and monthly information along with graphics and network summaries. It also features Delaware Geological Survey well-water levels, water quality data and RSS feeds, as well as access to the raw data. The site provides links to related web services as well as DEOS news archives and monthly state of Delaware climate roundups.

Colleagues at DEOS who work with Leathers and Legates include Kevin Brinson, systems manager; and Linden Wolf, meteorological technician. DGS members include State Geologist John Talley and geologist Kelvin Ramsey.

Article by Elizabeth Boyle
Photo by Lisa Tossey

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