FARGO, N.D. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network a $6.4 million five-year contract to retrofit existing weather stations and build new stations across North Dakota.

NDAWN, which is part of North Dakota State University’s North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station, consists of 159 stations distributed across North Dakota and border regions of surrounding states. The network, which was established in 1989, includes stations across North Dakota and into Minnesota and Montana. The stations provide detailed weather information available at https://ndawn.ndsu.nodak.edu.

However, the system has some holes in western North Dakota, and the contract will help with that situation.

“Western North Dakota will literally go from having very few data points to having some of the best weather data network on the planet when this project is done. So it’s just going to be this complete flip over from not having very much data to having an overabundance of fantastic date,” said Daryl Ritchison, director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network. “So again, it will be a big boon for agriculture.”

The contract is part of a larger, five-state project focused on weather monitoring in the Upper Missouri River Basin that will improve the data available for water management by the Corps of Engineers.

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“The one climate element that we have the least amount of data on is the moisture content in snow,” Ritchison said. “Every storm, you will hear about the total depth from numerous sites, but it’s not the depth but the amount of water in the snow that is the most important in spring flood forecasts.”

The upgrade, which will begin in the spring, will mean the moisture content in snow and the amount of moisture present in the soil will be measured.

“These variables impact not only flooding, but also drought,” Ritchison said.