Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed two- year budget is planning to cut funding for the Kentucky Mesonet, found at Western Kentucky University. The Kentucky Mesonet is one of 70 programs in higher education that will be cut if the budget is passed. The Kentucky Mesonet is a tool that monitors weather and collects data for the National Weather Service Offices all across Kentucky. The National Weather Service then uses this information to decide when and if to issue severe weather warnings.
According to the Director of the Kentucky Mesonet Stuart Foster, the program is open to students from various disciplines across campus. Students use the tool for research data, quality assurance of the data, or even as a capstone project. But the Kentucky Mesonet does not only affect a wide variety of students; the program impacts any industry that is considered “weather- sensitive”. Foster says that the data provided by the Kentucky Mesonet allows “those weather- sensitive sectors of the economy to help decision- makers make better informed decisions.”
The proposed budget cuts will eliminate the funding for nearly 75% of the program. According to the College Heights Herald, the cuts amount to $750,000 that will be cut from the Kentucky Mesonet. Without this program, weather services across the state will be forced to rely on the data from other observation tools, which focus mostly on the atmosphere. The Mesonet provides data observed from the ground level, and without this it will be more difficult to determine when to issue the severe weather warnings.
Foster is working to get the funding restored before the budget passes. If the funding cannot be restored, Foster is planning on meeting with university administrators to find other ways to fund the program, or find new paths to move forward.