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  • Writer's pictureWendell Koehn

Understanding Weather Forecasts Simply!

"Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get!" -Mark Twain

A summer storm approaches, minutes away!

As a disclaimer to this article; let's be clear that I am not a weather enthusiast nor a professional in this field. However; based upon experience as a farmer reading multiple weather reports and also thoughts given to me by meteorologists, particularly the team; here are a few thoughts on how to digest and look at weather forecasts in a simple, yet practical way.

A few points:

Long Term Seasonal Outlooks for Spring, Summer, Winter & Fall: Long term seasonal weather predicted on this broad of a scale gathers in meteorological drivers on a global scale. Thus, we have to think in terms of wetter/dryer and warmer/cooler phenomenons. Also, due to the great expanse of area needed to create these outlooks, we have to look at these weather patterns over a large areas. These forecasts are accurate over a large area. This might encompass 8-10 states; Midwest to Southern Plains for example. Thus, what is happening to your field may not reflect the general truth. That, the weather was drier than normal in 2018 in the area as your weather guy forecasted, even though the rainfall on that field in question was actually perfect for your crops, for example.

Long Term 3-4 Week Forecasts: Are you prepared for wetter than normal field conditions, like tillage, cover crop termination, fertilizer apps, etc? Does it change the risk of needing extra wind hail insurance due to the graphic storms that may happen? Plans and practices of the above actions may not be able to be acted upon in a several day or this week window. These forecasts help us have the proper equipment set & ready, the most critical fields spotted, and the necessary supplies to handle this event. This is the time to prepare mentally, and on paper; too. Communicate with your farming partners and work together to create the "if this, then we do that" plan. This costs nothing from a dollar stand point and can give us preparedness. When the sun shines we will act instead of reacting.

Shorter Term Forecasts: This is where weather can be forecasted very well. Especially, in the 24 hour periods of time. This is where risks are confirmed. Most of the time, we can go with the plan. On those few times that changes are needed, the decisions are simple and relatively minor. Remember, we have properly planned & prepared several weeks ago for this period of time.

In Summary: We know we can't eliminate risk from agriculture. However; we want to reduce risk when possible. If, for example; a long term forecast weeks ago said wetter than normal and 150 miles north they are getting that several inches of rain, but here the forecast over next week of wet weather has turned drier; that might be a green light to step up the intensity of getting crops planted as the worst of the storm passes to the north. Correctly identifying the risk of what could happen helps us have the plans in place to go or stop as needed. WIth our large equipment of today, a lot of progress can be made in a short time, but; a lot of damage, too if the weather is adverse.

Consultants on this report:

Meteorologist Michael Clark


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