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IRENE, ONE YEAR LATER: Some New Tools in Barnegat Bay Area Help Monitor Weather

Weather station collects information on temperatures, wind speeds, and more.

A high-tech piece of equipment sits perched atop the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Sciences (MATES) building, which could help meteorologists better understand climactic conditions along the Barnegat Bay.

Dr. John Wnek, of the MATES program, said he is working with meteorologist Michael Folmer, from the University of Maryland, to ensure that the weather station in Manahawkin, combined with ones placed on North Sedge Island on Island Beach State Park and the Ocean County Vocational Technical School's (OCVTS) Waretown Center, maintain a database of climate conditions in the area and better understand these conditions. Folmer is a graduate of OCVTS. 

Together, the wireless weather stations act as a weather hub, collecting information on temperatures, dew points, humidity, wind speeds, gusts, pressure, and precipitation, which is then fed directly into Wnek's office. 

Funded by the MATES Parent-Teacher-Student Organization, and other sources, the weather stations were successfully installed as of Aug. 9, 2012, almost a year after Wnek said the stations will provide invaluable information about weather patterns in and around the Barnegat Bay area, and will double as an educational tool for the students at MATES, particularly those involved in the school's oceanography classes.

Wnek noted that this information is particularly vital to track this year, as the warm weather patterns in the spring, coupled with shifting wind patterns along the bay, have led to very warm ocean temperatures. The warm weather patterns along the shoreline have proved a lure for shoregoers, but could prove a recipe for severe weather conditions as hurricane season looms. 

Although the stations will not help predict hurricanes, Folmer told Patch that they will really help serve as a monitoring system for how severe weather patterns change the surrounding ecoystem.

"These stations are going to provide real-time answers on where the most extreme rainfall amounts are hitting at particular times," Folmer said. "Then, using that data, the students can go back and research the barrier islands and other areas and research how the ecosystems have been changed or effected."

Folmer said he has "loved the weather" from the time he was a child, and credits his studies in Ocean County with Wnek with inspiring him to go into his field. He said he currently writes a blog, where he tracks weather patterns along the Eastern coast. His latest entry is about Isaac, and that storm's potential for this area. 

The weather information collected is displayed in a public forum on Weather Underground. People can visit the following websites for data from their area: Waretown Center,MATES, and Sedge Island.

"We would like to continue to network weather stations across coastal New Jersey to help us better understand of meso-climactic conditions and maintain a database of climatic conditions," Wnek said. 

In related news, the 2012 Barnegat Bay Student Grant Program’s (BBSGP) research presentations took place recently at the MATES school.  

There were a total of six undergraduate student grant recipients who are participating in research projects within Barnegat Bay and its watershed. As participants in the BBSGP, students can work on an independent research project, or be part of team that researches water quality aspects within the Barnegat Bay Watershed.  

Save Barnegat Bay administers the Barnegat Bay Student Grant Program, and MATES coordinates the water quality project and corresponds with students and mentors on the individual research projects.  Below are the 2012 projects, the students, affiliations, and mentors:

  • Human impacts on the nesting ecology of diamondback terrapins;  Lauren Cruz, Senior - University of Delaware; Mentor – John Wnek (MATES);
  • Finfish assessment of Barnegat Bay in “human impacted vs. less-impacted habitats”; Sean Martin, Senior – Richard Stockton College; Mentor – Mark Sullivan (Richard Stockton College);
  • Assessment of Island Beach State Park usage at Tice’s Shoal;  Ryan Sullivan, Freshman – University of Rhode Island;  Mentors – Bob MacMaster (Southern Regional High School & Sedge Island) and Ray Bukowski  (Superintendent – Island Beach State Park) (support for project by Friends of Island Beach)
  • Source tracking along the Mill Creek, Stafford Township, New Jersey;  Brian Carlsen, Senior – Monmouth University; Michael Oden, Freshman- Carnegie Mellon University; and Lucille Zipf, Senior –  Brown University (aided by Maggie Rice MATES Class of 2013);  Mentors – John Wnek (MATES) and Danielle Donkersloot (NJDEP).

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