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Real-Time Weather Gets Better In WNC

Checking the weather today is as easy as checking your cell phone.  But did you know you can also monitor soil conditions and even levels of solar radiation plants use to grow?  It’s all thanks to a state network of climate stations.  BPR’s Helen Chickering takes us to the newest station in Asheville  that also doubles as a college classroom.

The buzz of weed whackers fills the air, as a small crew clears away brush under a tall aluminum tower that sits on a hill at the north end of the UNC Asheville campus. One of those weeders is UNCA Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Professor, Christopher Godfrey, Ph.D.

“We came here but found that the weeds were about 5-6 feet tall and that makes it a little bit difficult to install things into the ground”

Those ‘things’ that will go in the ground are sensors to measure soil temperature and moisture, one of the many gadgets attached to the recently completed weather research station.

“Well for the students, it’s a great experimental station.  They can put on new sensors if they want, or they can look at the sensors that are there and compare the temperatures, compare the wind observations,  humidity and much more” says Godfrey who says the tower was part of his start-up funds when he arrived at UNCA 10 years ago, but challenges to find the right location stalled the project.  Godfrey says students helped find the current location and with help from the university – the station became a reality last fall

But the station is much more than a classroom, it’s also the newest addition to The North Carolina Environment and Climate Observing Network ECONet based at NC State University, a network more than 40 towers across the state - 12 in Western North Carolina - that record and report real-time weather and climate observations. 

“We’re measuring weather data every minute at the station, and recording it every five minutes,” says Sean Heuser who manages the ECONet.  Heuser says the data is used by everyone from the National Weather Service  to the local gardener.

“We want anyone to pull this data for whatever application they want to use.  We’ve got a multitude of elevations and climates just in WNC from our stations alone.”

The data is displayed on the ECONet website -  helping students, residents and scientists keep a real time eye on the weather and tabs on the ever changing climate.

I’m Helen Chickering BPR News

A small bird called the hermit thrush, known as one of the most beautiful singers in nature, is changing its habitat. Over the past few decades it has begun breeding in the high-up peaks around Mount Mitchell. Luke Shealy joined a group of researchers from Raleigh who are studying why the bird is now nesting on the Blue Ridge.



Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.