2.1 The Colorado Agricultural Meteorological Network (CoAgMet): A Tortoise Among State Mesonets, but Making Progress

Monday, 11 January 2016: 1:30 PM
Room 245 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Nolan J. Doesken, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO; and W. A. Ryan and Z. Schwalbe

The Colorado Agricultural Meteorological Network (CoAgMet) was envisioned in the late 1980s and began taking shape around 1990. Initially, the network was a partnership between the USDA Agricultural Research Service and Colorado State University's College of Agriculture, but more partners gradually joined. Its original purposes, insect, pest and crop disease modelling and forecasting as well as crop water use and irrigation scheduling did not require real time communications. Once daily phone-based updates were transmitted, users and uses expanded to broader applications with more demand for real-time data and analysis. By the mid-2000s, management of the network transitioned to the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University where it resides today. Part of the motivation for network consolidation came out of the Colorado vs. Kansas interstate compact Supreme Court lawsuit on the Arkansas River. The settlement (Kansas won the suit) included the requirement for much better, systematic tracking of crop consumptive use -- which can be estimated from well-sited weather stations collecting accurate readings of temperature, humidity, wind speed and solar radiation above the reference crop.

In 2015, fully 25 years after its initiation, the network grew to 75 stations and received its first significant state funding for operating and maintaining the network. A full-time weather network technician has recently been hired and an aggressive agenda of upgrades, outreach and data quality assurance is being planned. This is a major step up for a network with a long history of steady but tortoise-paced hard work, shared responsibilities, with few resources. We will review the history and motivation for the CoAgMet network and its current trajectory of expansion across irrigated agriculture in Colorado. The role Ken Crawford played in developing strategies for funding and partnership building will be described and the impact they had for the CoAgMet network. Examples of meteorological conditions observed by the network will also be presented.

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