A video of snow drifting across an open field near Penn Yan took the internet by storm last week, appearing on news sites around the world, including Daily Mail.com in Great Britain.

The video, provided by the NYS Mesonet, shows a time lapse of snow waves created by wind gusts of 30 to 40 mph on Jan. 21. It can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHqISgdIeWY.

“That (video) really took off,” said Jerald Brotzge Ph D, New York State Mesonet program manager last week. “We’ve seen a few other things really take off, but that was the best example,” he added.

The video was captured by equipment that is part of a statewide network of 126 sites equipped with high tech data collection instruments that measure dozens of weather details. The data from the network— half a million observations per day — is collected live and curated at the University of Albany before being shared with emergency managers, the National Weather Service, utilities, ground and air transportation facilities, farms, and other weather-sensitive businesses across the state.

Before 2014, New York had a network of 27 sites that were reporting every 15 minutes.

Now, each of the 126 sites continuously reports data on air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, direction, pressure, soil temperature, soil moisture, solar radiation, and more.

Brotzge says New York joined about half of the states in the U.S. that have networks when $30 million in federal funds for three years flowed to the state following Superstorm Sandy. Since then, the program has been funded by a combination of federal, state and some private sources.

Brotzge says to plan the network, scientists at the University of Albany laid a grid over a map of the state and attempted to place at least one site in each county and borough of New York City. They then advertised for property owners in publications that would reach one of the groups that understands weather data — farmers. The Mesonet team evaluated the sites that were selected, and chose one without a lot of slope, and with an open area at least 300 feet away from trees.

The resulting 126-site network is the biggest and most sophisticated network in the county, and the only network with cameras.

The Penn Yan site was installed in a field about 3.5 miles east of Penn Yan on May 24, 2016. Other sites are located in South Bristol, Cohocton, Tyrone, Clifton Springs, and Waterloo. 

All of the network sites are visited regularly by field technicians who repair and replace sensors, calibrate and maintain equipment. Those technicians travel about 100,000 miles annually as they maintain the 1,500 sensors in the network, says Brotzge

A video on the NY Mesonet website says an American Meteorological Society study showed in 2011 that New York state is the most vulnerable of the 50 states to the negative economic effects of weather variability.