NOAA maintains a Cooperative Observer Program, which is an important part of the climate record and therefore important to a NoN. It is dense enough to contain significant information at the mesoscale. However, most data have not been available in real time, and the observations are taken only daily, thus minimizing their utility in operational meteorology. This contrasts with the thousands of weather hobbyists and enthusiasts who operate their own professional-grade surface weather stations, often to a reasonably high standard, and report these data in real time or near real time. As reported in Chapter 2, citizen participation at group and individual levels is rapidly expanding with regional and quasi-national network coverage, and is usually provided free in exchange for nothing more than the ability to see their observations included in a larger program. Historically such data have been dismissed or viewed with skepticism. However, with the advent of inexpensive digital electronics, solid state sensors, and Internet communications, such observations are known to have real value in limited applications, especially where organized professional observations are sparse, applications can accept large uncertainty, or where especially fine spatial resolution is desired, such as urbanized areas.
In an environment of nationally defined standards and accurate and complete metadata, observations of many hobbyists and enthusiasts can play an important role in serving multiple national needs at the mesoscale. Recreational activity may benefit most given the exceptional spatial density, a good frequency of such observations, and the less stringent requirements for accuracy and precision. Such observations can also serve a confirmatory role for quantitative analyses and likely would contribute to data numerically assimilated for surface analyses of broader utility. Therefore, incorporation of Tier IV data should be beneficial for limited network applications, provided that appropriate quality-checking is performed.
The preceding sections of this chapter present a somewhat abstract view of the organizational requirements for a successful new national mesoscale network. In the Committee’s judgment, none of the existing networks or their organizational models were envisioned to meet the needs of a multitude of national providers and users having diverse interests and requirements. Below we discuss some desired organizational characteristics that could facilitate the functions previously described in Chapter 6 and the preceding sections. Subsequently we examine a spectrum of potentially applicable models and offer some qualitative judgments on them.