The future of weather forecasting has arrived in Canada.

New forecasting technology on WeatherFarm™ will greatly improve weather predictions, reducing error in short-term forecasts by as much as 50 per cent. This will assist in everything from spring flooding forecasts to storm watches to monitoring wind conditions – all of high importance in agriculture. WeatherFarm is an online weather information centre designed exclusively for Prairie farmers by the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) and WeatherBug®, incorporating data from its own network of 800 weather stations and 200 government sites. It is the first in Canada to incorporate automated “nudging” techniques, using live local weather information from its Prairie-wide network, to fine-tune weather predictions.

“With all the potential for flooding this spring, everyone will be watching the weather very closely,” said CWB weather network manager and agro-meteorologist Guy Ash. “Farming is all about the weather, so producers need their weather information to be as accurate and localized as possible. This is really a case of Prairie farmers leading the way in creating a weather network that can benefit all Canadians.”

The new system integrates a weather-modelling system used by the U.S. National Weather Service and the U.S. military with “nudging” techniques that fine-tune computer forecasts against actual surface weather conditions to adjust predictions for better accuracy. It is commonly accepted in the scientific community that these adjustments improve accuracy by as much as 50 per cent in forecasts of up to 12 hours.

The new forecasting model is powered by WeatherBug, a brand of Earth Networks, integrating weather information from more than 8,000 weather stations around the world, including its stations in Canada. Forecasts predict hourly conditions for temperature, wind, relative humidity, a heat and wind-chill index, dew point, sky cover and chance of precipitation. A new set of forecasts for each local station is generated every six hours.

The enhanced forecasting, using a Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, is made possible by the density of the network of 800 monitoring stations located on farms and at grain elevators across the Prairies. Launched in 2007 by the CWB, WeatherBug and grain-industry partners, it has now grown to become the largest private weather network in Canada. Earth Networks is working to expand the network across the entire country, extending the benefits of its improved weather forecasting and monitoring applications to all Canadians.

Another valuable enhancement is the introduction of radar imaging to generate birds-eye map views of weather systems (static or animated) that can move and zoom to within one kilometer above a particular farm, allowing producers to visually pinpoint immediate weather threats. The map views can also distinguish between rain, freezing rain and snow.

“The radar imagery shows the exact locations, amounts and types of precipitation that are falling,” Ash said. “When producers zoom in, they can see exactly how close it is to their farm.”

The online WeatherFarm centre – which now serves over 10,000 users – has also been upgraded with colourful “visual gradient” temperature and precipitation maps, updated every 10 minutes, showing weather systems as they move across Canada, North America and the world. A handy scroll-down window enables users to choose between 10 different weather parameters for their maps.

The new features add to WeatherFarm’s unique agricultural maps and models, used by farmers to manage emergence of pests like fusarium head blight and wheat midge, monitor crop growth stages and assess freeze severity. An enhanced set of models for various crops will be rolled out this spring.

WeatherFarm is free to use, simply by registering at http://www.weatherfarm.com/ . Guests may also browse the site without registering. Producers who want to join the network can purchase a linked-in weather station through the CWB by contacting [email protected] . A high-speed Internet connection is required. Far surpassing original expectations for its growth, WeatherFarm is on track to revolutionize the way weather information is gathered, shared and used in Canada – by farmers, media, business, government and the public – enhancing services from Environment Canada.

Controlled by western Canadian farmers, the CWB is the largest wheat and barley marketer in the world. One of Canada’s biggest exporters, the Winnipeg-based organization sells grain to more than 70 countries and returns all revenue, less marketing costs, to farmers.

Earth Networks operates the largest weather observation and lightning networks in the world and is establishing a global environmental data network on an unprecedented scale. Earth Networks owns and operates the WeatherBug brand, which precisely monitors, organizes and distributes global weather information. The WeatherBug consumer brand (http://www.weatherbug.com/) reaches millions as a trusted source for live, local weather information, while the WeatherBug professional brand (http://www.weatherbugprofessional.com/) serves a variety of markets that include federal, state and local governments, education, agriculture, energy and utilities, sports and recreation, media and transportation. Each day, consumers and organizations, including the National Weather Service, turn to WeatherBug to plan daily activities, safeguard lives and improve business operations. Earth Networks is based in Germantown, Maryland and is online at http://www.earthnetworks.com/.

For more information, please contact:

Maureen Fitzhenry
CWB media relations manager
Tel: (204) 983-3101;
Cell: (204) 227-6927
[email protected]
Jennifer Gilmore
Senior Director of Marketing
WeatherBug Professional
301-250-4239
[email protected] 

Backgrounder

What is WeatherFarm?

It’s weather in a whole new vane! WeatherFarm is a free, online weather information centre designed exclusively for Prairie farmers. Its innovative agronomic tools make farm-management decisions easier. All users need is a computer with high-speed Internet access. Registration is easy at http://www.weatherfarm.com/. It is not necessary to own a weather station to use the online WeatherFarm centre.

Launched in December 2009, the site has grown to more than 10,000 registered users. Its forecasts are generated using the most advanced computer-modelling technology in Canada. Mobile alerts for severe weather will be added later this year. Information is sourced from more than 800 on-farm weather stations in the network, as well as about 200 government sites.

About WeatherFarm™ forecasting

  • Forecasts are generated every six hours. For the first few hours of this process, the forecasts are “nudged” by comparing them to actual surface observations from stations. This minimizes any difference between computer-modelled conditions and actual observations, which further improves forecasts.
  • Forecast skill is expressed by the RMSE (root mean square error) for each variable such as wind speed, temperature, precipitation and humidity. Nudging reduces this error by as much 50 per cent for forecasts up to 12 hours.
  • Seven-day forecasts are provided on WeatherFarm, broken down into hourly forecasts for a 24-hour period at each station location.
  • The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model is gridded on a 20-kilometre scale for regional applications, a significant improvement from the 120-kilometre grid previously used on WeatherFarm.
  • This complex model simulates land surface interactions, boundary layer conditions, boundary layer modeling, nested modeling (sub-regions within larger regions) and micro-physics (rain, snow, sublimation-radiation balances, etc.) and more. The WRF model allows options to be chosen for each of these parameters.

WeatherFarm offers:

  • Live weather information, harvested every five seconds and localized right to the farm field where each station is located.
  • Agronomic modelling tools and risk maps to help farmers determine spray days, prioritize field scouting and assess freeze severity. These include growth-stage development and disease models based on farmers’ own seeding dates and their localized weather conditions.
  • Hourly forecasts, weather watches and warnings, plus historical and monthly weather data.
  • Daily farm news, futures prices and CWB prices.
  • The opportunity to buy a monitoring station and customize online weather tools to the users’ location. Stations are solar-powered and wireless. They monitor wind, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, precipitation and rates of change. Additional sensors for factors like soil temperature and moisture, leaf wetness, UV and solar energy can be added. Commercial-grade stations are also available that can be combined with cameras and lightning detectors.