A partnership between the oil industry and the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network (NDAWN) has resulted in the mutually-beneficial outcome of new remote weather stations added to the network that will help monitor road conditions in western North Dakota.
The project, called Wise Roads (Weather Information System to Effectively Reduce Oilfield delays And Disruptions), aims to use the stations to gain immediate data when weather conditions require road restrictions to be placed on gravel roadways. Such restrictions are placed when weather conditions create a situation where moving large equipment on the roads would lead to expensive damage. In a Williston Herald newspaper article, a county official estimated the cost of repairing roads at $1.5 million per mile so counties often place the restrictions out of an overabundance of caution. However, the oil industry believes that restrictions are often placed on more roads than necessary.
“Not only do the oil industry and counties benefit from the data of these stations,” said NDAWN Director Daryl Ritchison, “but the new stations ensure additional accurate weather information is available to anyone who wants the data, including meteorologists, researchers, farmers, and the general public. Given that NDAWN previously didn’t have complete coverage in the western part of the state, the new stations will really help give us a more complete view of weather conditions.”
NDAWN was established in 1989 and originally consisted of six automatic weather stations located at North Dakota State University (NDSU) Branch Research Centers. NDAWN now consists of 128 stations North Dakota and the border regions of surrounding states. Each station records various weather readings throughout the day including wind speed, air temperature, and rainfall and some stations have a remote camera that allows visual inspection of nearby roads and weather conditions. Given they are part of a network, an individual station can fill in any gaps of a nearby station’s data. NDAWN is operated by Ritchison along with Research Specialists Barb Mullins and James Hyde from the NDSU AES School of Natural Resource Sciences and computer programmer Dallas Morlock.
The North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network is available at https://ndawn.ndsu.nodak.edu/
Each station costs approximately $10,000 and is commonly located on private land. The Wise Roads project stations are placed on oil land in Williams, Dunn, Montrail, and McKenzie counties. Plans are in place to add 25 additional stations. Since its inception in 1989, all NDAWN equipment has been funded through gifts and grants from various federal and state government agencies, commodity organizations, agricultural clubs, businesses, and individuals.
“This project is a great win-win for everyone,” added Ritchison. “The public gets value from the improved data NDAWN generates and the counties have additional tools to help them decide when travel on roads needs to be restricted.”
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