Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Launches New Weather Station

Weather station at the Mashpee Neck boat ramp.GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Weather station at the Mashpee Neck boat ramp.

The potential impact of approaching storms will no longer be a surprise to the Town of Mashpee, thanks to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s new tidal gauge and online weather station that were launched last week through a collaboration of the tribe’s Natural Resources Department, the Town of Mashpee, and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The weather station, installed and activated Thursday last week at the boat ramp at the end of Mashpee Neck Road, was made possible by the USGS Hurricane Sandy Coordination Team and paid for using supplemental funding from the hurricane through the US Department of the Interior. It is now the second station in town, in addition to real-time data collection devices that were installed at Mashpee High School earlier this month through a contract with WeatherBug, an online weather monitoring system affiliated with WBZ News.

Since last August, the USGS and the tribe have been discussing potential damage from hurricanes and related science needs, planning the details of their partnership.

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“When we have a storm we have a storm surge,” Natural Resources Department assistant director George “Chuckie” Green said. “The main feature on this unit tells us how high the tide gets, which is information that we didn’t have at the time [of Hurricane Sandy].”

The gauge reports seven different parameters in near real-time: water level, rainfall, wind speed, wind direction, barometric pressure, relative humidity, and temperature. The data is recorded in 15-minute intervals and transmitted to the geostationary (GOES) satellite, then uploaded to the station’s website in a matter of minutes.

In addition, the USGS has offered the tribe Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and elevation data products and will incorporate tribal storm surge monitoring and coastal inundation needs into a regional design scheme for data collection and delivery. The USGS has also promised to produce maps and data products for the tribe that delineate coastal vulnerability in hurricane washover spots, Mr. Green said.

The weather data will be useful not only to the tribe, but to the community of Mashpee, he added, especially for shellfishermen and residents who boat and fish recreationally.

“The shellfish constable [Richard York] is also ecstatic because he has data online that he can use in his work,” he said.

When compared to Cotuit or Waquoit Bays, Mr. Green said that the data shows “really big discrepancies.” While on the phone, Mr. Green checked the tide levels in Mashpee and the Cotuit Highlands at 11:42—in Cotuit, the tide was over a foot higher.

“It’s a really nice thing to have because we can access accurate [near] real time data,” he said.

Although the weather station is currently being managed by the USGS, the agency will hold workshops to train members of the Natural Resources Department to operate it independently. The USGS is also considering using existing funds to examine potential contaminants released during Hurricane Sandy on Popponesset Bay’s sediments and oyster tissue, in collaboration with the tribe.

Residents can access the data at waterdata.usgs.gov/ma/nwis/uv?site_no=413601070275801.

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