Agriculture Canada has unveiled a new online weather watching tool that will enable farmers to better track extreme weather conditions during the agricultural growing season.
Called ‘Extreme Weather Indices,’ the tool was developed in collaboration with Environment Canada’s weather service and should help farmers plan their planting and harvesting operations. Like weather forecasts, the indices will be continuously updated.
Patrick Cherneski, manager of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s National Agroclimate Information Service, said there are likely to be larger and more frequent extreme weather events in the future, causing more risk to agriculture producers.
“Forecast products such as these help provide insights into the future risks and this is highly desired by decision makers,” he said.
The department has been developing and providing timely weather and climate information that is relevant to the Canadian agriculture sector for more than 20 years, he said.
“We are pleased to now offer tools that will help farmers look into the future.”
The information will be available as short-term weekly forecasts for up to a month in advance and will include predictions on extreme weather factors such as temperature, heat, wind and precipitation, he said. Within each of the categories listed in the online version will be numerous easy-to-read maps that will allow farmers to see weather predictions across the country tailored to an agriculture context.
As an example, Cherneski said farmers will be able to see probability of drying day occurrence maps within the wind category, which will be particularly important during the planting and harvesting season.
During the growing season, farmers may be interested in the maximum wind speed and number of strong wind days to help predict the spread of pests and when to spray, he said.
Agriculture and Environment have been working on the indices since 2006 under an agreement to collaborate more closely together by sharing climate data, he said. Through working with high-performance computers, complex models and large datasets, the collaboration has resulted in these agriculture-specific extreme weather indices.
“This work is a good example of the positive results that can come from collaboration among scientists from different departments with common interests,” said Aston Chipanshi, analytical services manager at Agriculture Canada. “It was hard work as we faced some unique challenges including identifying appropriate agricultural thresholds for extreme weather, validating the results and extensive testing to ensure accuracy for the modelled results. Going forward, we will continue to work together to improve these products by adding more indices for agriculture while increasing the ability and skill to forecast further into the future.”
In addition to maps, a set of 12 extreme weather indices will be available to help producers anticipate future risks and prepare for adverse weather conditions, he said. The online maps allow users to see where the forecast is expected, the magnitude and the probability of the forecast. Like most online services, there is a learning curve to be able to make full use of all the information.