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University of Hawaiʻi climate tracking project gets federal support

University of Hawaii
UH Lyon Arboretum weather station

The National Science Foundation awarded the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa a grant of $1.3 million over the next three years to support the Hawaiʻi Mesonet Project.

The project will help researchers, weather forecasters, farmers, conservation organizations and more collect high-quality, real-time climate data for the entire state.

The federal grant allows the project to purchase and install 84 state-of-the-art climate stations, along with replacement parts, to create a statewide network.

"This project has been in the works for decades," said Thomas Giambelluca, director of UH's Water Resources Research Center.

The stations will be able to collect and track real-time data, including rainfall, air temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, solar and net radiation, and soil moisture.

Giambelluca says there's no long-term weather data for many locations in the state. He adds the absence of many measurements hinders weather research and the impact of extreme weather events — which may be influenced by climate change.

Giambelluca notes the stations will not only track measurements over a long period of time, but also enhance our current understanding of weather in the islands.

"I do think it will contribute to better understanding, better awareness of current and near-term weather, including extreme weather," he said. "It will be something that has a potential to improve warnings and lead to better protection of lives and property."

Researchers have several goals for the project, such as identifying water basin storage thresholds to better estimate the risk of flooding to low-lying areas, and discovering the effects of temperature, moisture and solar radiation on ecosystems.

Giambelluca says the project hopes to launch the Hawaiʻi Climate Data Portal online for the general public soon.

The research team is seeking landowners willing to offer their area to host a weather station, and landowners or other community members willing to help the team maintain the stations over time. If you are interested in assisting with the project, you can contact Thomas Giambelluca at hcdp@hawaii.edu.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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