When severe thunderstorms fire up around the Commonwealth, forecasters with the National Weather Service often make use of a network of automated weather observation stations around the state. The network, known as Kentucky Mesonet, has seen steady growth over the last eight years.
But the challenge now facing the network is long-term sustainability.
State climatologist and WKU professor Stu Foster says the automated reporting sites provide real-time data such as temperature, wind speed, wind direction and rainfall amounts. The data is collected and uploaded to the Kentucky Climate Center every five minutes and is available for anyone to see.
He says it can give the weather service a better idea of what’s actually going on on the ground in addition to what they can see on radar.
WKU Professor Stu Foster talks about his summer in the broadcast booth
The next time you listen to a baseball game on the radio, notice how many times the weather is referenced.
"The weather is certainly one part of trying to convey to the listener the scene of what's happening and the setting for the game and what might turn out to be an important component that affects the way the game turns out,” said Stu Foster, WKU professor, Kentucky state climatologist and part-time color commentator for the Bowling Green Hot Rods.
"Whether it's a clear, deep blue sky that might be a problem for outfielders, whether there's a strong breeze blowing in or out,” said Foster. “We had a game recently where there was a heavy dew that came on the field as the game went on that could've come on to affect the game."
Foster said a few conversations last winter led to the opportunity to sit in on a dozen games as color commentator for the Midwest League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. He says his weather expertise wasn’t the only part of his “day job” that helped ease his transition into the broadcast booth.
He says in both broadcasting and being a professor, the goal is the same: communicate a message with a large audience.