92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Sunday, 22 January 2012
An Initial Inquiry on Quantifying Heat Indices and Stress on Corn in Midwestern Corn Fields
Hall E (New Orleans Convention Center )
Paul Carlone, Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL

This research is a preliminary study examining corn's effects on localized heat indexes. The study attempts to determine the factors that may lead to increased heat indices, and the variables that contribute to an increased heat index, within Midwestern corn fields. This project's purpose is to determine a new heat index calculation, for agricultural companies and interested parties, to ascertain the stress on human workers within the corn and the stress experienced by the corn itself.

Stress on humans is the measure of how the environment interferes with the body's natural method of cooling. The standard heat index is a function of temperature and dew point whereas this research looks into adding additional factors produced by corn in order to obtain an agricultural heat index. Corn affects local environment through evapotranspiration, along with moisture and heat trapping which is produced by the corn limiting thermals and wind from mixing the surface air mass and layers above. This trapping effect leads to a reduced mixing layer on the microscale level which can result in increased surface temperatures and dew points within the field. These small scale interactions are poorly accounted for in weather models and forecasts, which leads to an increased likelihood of heat related illnesses and deaths. The aforementioned agricultural heat index derived in this study and advanced in future research will allow for microscale forecasts for dangerous heat conditions affecting agricultural workers to be issued using currently available synoptic data.

The second purpose of the research is to ascertain more accurate forecast methods for determining meteorological stress on corn. Corn is of tropical origin requiring large volumes of water and temperatures conducive to growing throughout its life span to obtain peak yields. The term stress as it relates to corn is a measure of the environment's effect on the corn's potential to reach premium yield. Two of the premiere stressors that this study focuses on, excessive temperature and water loss, are often measured errantly when standard meteorological and agricultural methods are used. The goal of the second portion of the project is to reevaluate the accuracy of the current method of stress analysis and offer a more accurate method by increasing the accuracy of the data used to currently determine the level of stress on the corn. The current method uses data from outside the field to analyze stress on corn located within a field. As was previously stated corn alters the surface layer of its environment. This modification to the environment where the corn resides requires a revision in the currently accepted method of measuring stress. This project will ultimately allow for increasingly accurate forecasts for environmental stress experienced by the corn.

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