Wednesday, 13 January 2016
Meaningful application of weather-related information is a critical component of successful decision-making within Florida's agriculture industry. Agricultural commodities managers routinely interpret and evaluate both current and forecasted weather conditions in support of irrigation scheduling, cold protection, and application of chemicals. The most widely used method of cold protection in Florida is application of water, and, while highly effective, the environmental and financial impacts can be substantial. Even within Florida's relatively warm climate, certain crops are highly susceptible to cold air damage during the winter months. Therefore, on nights when temperatures are forecasted to decrease to levels that can damage unprotected plants, the decision to use water must be an informed one. The Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN), a program of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), applies data collected from its network of 41 automated weather stations to products and tools that can aid in these decisions. In particular, the FAWN Forecast Tracker provides real-time comparison of the National Weather Service (NWS) forecasted temperature and the current 2m air temperature at each FAWN station location. This unique method of forecast evaluation allows managers to estimate the probability of occurrence of the forecasted minimum temperature by comparing the trends of both temperatures. In a warmer than expected event, i.e., when the observed temperature is consistently warmer than the forecasted temperature, water may not be needed, and a reduction of even several hours of water use per winter can generate substantial savings. The FAWN Forecast Tracker can be found at http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/tools/coldp/forecast_tracker.php.
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