New Website Puts Weather Data At Farmers’ Fingertips

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NOV. 2009

SPRING WHEAT SOIL MOISTURE RESERVES

Alberta producers now have free access to more than 270 weather stations across the province, with the launch of an upgraded website for the AgroClimatic Information Service (ACIS).

ACIS is an interactive tool designed to help producers and industry take advantage of the streams of valuable information flowing from the province’s network of weather stations. The network has expanded by more than 100 stations over the past few years, to the point where most Alberta farms are within 20 kilometres of a station.

ACIS offers information on local weather, updated continuously, along with a broad variety of mapping and analysis tools to support farm management decisions throughout the year as well as long-term planning.

“Because there is a weather station relatively close to every operation, ACIS is arguably the best place for producers to get year-round weather information,” says Ralph Wright of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s Agro-meteorological Applications and Modelling Unit.

Wright says the site includes many practical tools and applications to support farmers in their decision making, with a range of new features designed to improve ease of use and increase the ways to use the information.

Farmers can access ACIS on the web at anytime, with hourly data from most stations only a few hours old, at www.agric.gov.ab.ca/acis.Businesses, universities or other organizations can request to get access to ACIS automatic data feeds, allowing the development of a host of weather-related products and services.

Powerful management tool

Farmers can use ACIS for anything from checking the local weather forecast and current conditions, to analyzing longer-term trends and patterns in soil moisture, temperature and precipitation, and other key measurements.

Farmers can also use ACIS to track and analyze agronomically important trends, or to simply investigate interesting questions that may help fine-tune their farming approaches.

“There are many things that you can do that are practical, interesting or both,” says Wright. “Most of what comes to mind for first-time users just scratches the surface. It’s a case of, the more you use it, the more you see what you can do. There are many possibilities to support your management decisions or other components you’re interested in.”

ACIS gathers hourly data from a network of stations that includes 117 owned and operated by AARD. The remainder are owned or operated primarily by Alberta Environment, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Environment Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Plans are in development to add 50 more stations.

Collectively, these stations automatically feed in over 40,000 observations per day to ACIS.

Bridging past and present

ACIS also incorporates volumes of historical weather station information and currently houses over 5,000 maps dating back to 1961, with more than 30 added each week, which describe current conditions as they develop.

“We’re one of the largest near-real-time, year-round weather network operators in the province, and no one is quality controlling the data in near real time to the extent that we are,” says Wright. “We also wanted to go well beyond simply making the information easy to access, by also making it easy to customize, organize and analyze for a variety of uses.”

Though ACIS has been available online since 2005, the newly upgraded version features a number of enhancements from usability and presentation to depth and sophistication of the information and applications.

For one example, the new system is now Google map based, enhancing usability and offering a format more regular web map users are becoming familiar with.

“We believe we have one of the best systems of its kind for delivering this type of information in Canada right now,” says Wright. “We encourage farmers and others to try it out and see how they can take advantage of this resource.”

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