September 6, 2006 | By: Carol Lea Spence
LEXINGTON, KY.

“Make hay while the sun shines” may be a good metaphor and a valuable life lesson, but for the people who really do “make” hay, it takes more than a forecast for sunny skies to make the proper plans. That’s where the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s weather service comes in.

Tom Priddy, UK meteorologist, says that there is a lot of weather information that farmers need, and “partly sunny with a 20 percent chance of showers just does not cut it.” So Priddy and his staff are devising new methods to get the right information out at the right time to the people who can use it. That information includes a county-by-county agricultural weather forecast.

“Farmers need to know how many hours the relative humidity is going to be above a certain number, below a certain number,” he said. “How many hours is it going to rain today, and what are the most likely rainfall amounts that are going to occur in (their county)? Can I spray today? How many hours will there be good spraying conditions? How much evaporative loss are we going to have today in our county? So there’s a whole array of questions that farmers have to address.”

Priddy says he and his staff at the UK Agricultural Weather Center work to answer those types of questions. They take products provided by the National Weather Service and develop new agricultural weather services that could make life on the farm a little more predictable and successful. When a farmer uses the information and tailors it to his own needs, it’s hoped that it will result in larger yields. 

All 120 county Extension offices have a link to a county-by-county forecast on their Web sites. Or access is available at http://wwwagwx.ca.uky.edu. Detailed forecasts and information concerning droughts, climate summaries, evaporative rates, precipitation reports, and precision agricultural, lawn and garden forecasts are presented as weather maps, charts, plain text, or MP3 files.

Recently a county-by-county severe weather alert has been added to the system. The idea was simple, said Priddy.

“Could we tie together the Storm Prediction Center’s severe weather products and the new National Weather Service Doppler radar severe weather capabilities, which include more than 130 radars?” he said. 

The new NWS radar images now have severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado warnings and flood warnings on the radar images. All of this is accessible nationwide via the Internet. Computer users should go tohttp://wwwagwx.ca.uky.edu/radar/Severeweather.html for severe weather information. PDA users can access the information by going to http://wwwagwx.ca.uky.edu/pda.shtml.

The county-by-county weather information is not restricted to Kentucky counties, but is available for all 3,350 counties in the United States.

Contact: 

Tom Priddy, 859-257-3000, ext. 245