SD Mesonet works to improve snow and soil moisture data availability for flood risk assessment

A newly updated weather station near Brookings, SD, is the first of over 500 stations across South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming to be upgraded or installed to conduct enhanced soil moisture and snow monitoring for the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The station gives the South Dakota Mesonet at South Dakota State University, a network of automated weather stations that provide high-definition weather coverage, the ability to provide crucial data about Upper Missouri River Basin plains snowpack and soil moisture to those who may be facing a flood risk.

South Dakota Mesonet Director Nathan Edwards says stations like this will address the need for soil moisture monitoring and will provide snow modelers and river forecasters what they need to make improved products to inform about better reservoir management.

Edwards has helped spearhead efforts since 2012, starting with a review of what data was missing and needed. He says while mountain snowpack is well-monitored, the lack of plains data related to soil moisture and snowpack contributed to the inability to get an accurate runoff forecast.

According to Edwards, the Mesonet station’s precipitation, snow, wind, temperature, humidity, solar radiation and snow depth data will improve their snow modeling capabilities. Soil monitoring capabilities will include soil moisture and soil temperatures at five different depths and will improve river forecasts.

Frozen and saturated soil and significant snowpack on the Upper Missouri River Basin plains were major contributors to flooding in 2011 and 2019. The South Dakota Mesonet is making the updated station’s data available via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ingest system to their river forecasters and snow modelers.

All Mesonet information is available at http://mesonet.sdstate.edu/.