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Portageville weather station now offering real-time data

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

PORTAGEVILLE -- So just how cold is it, wind chill and all? Those around Portageville can answer that question and more with up-to-the-minute weather data now available from the University of Missouri's Delta Center.

"We've recently upgraded our weather station at the MU Delta Research Center outside Portageville in Pemiscot County to real-time status," said Pat Guinan, a climatologist for the University of Missouri's commercial agriculture program.

With wireless technology advances and the spread of Internet accessibility, Guinan saw an opportunity to improve the quality of weather data provided.

"The data we always provided was historical data, from the day before," he said. "We're now able to provide updated weather data every five minutes instead of only a summary of the day before. ... The value of the weather station rises exponentially with the availability of the most current data."

Real-time values for air temperature, dew point, humidity, wind speed and direction, peak wind gust speed, soil temperature at two depths, and soil moisture under bare soil and under sod are all available for free by visiting MU's Web site at http://agebb.missouri.edu/weather/statio....

Summary information for the day, such as maximum and minimum temperature, total precipitation, and sunrise and sunset times, is displayed as well. "We've also incorporated real-time radar on the site, so it's really a one-

stop shop for weather information in the region," Guinan said.

The Delta Center station is the 11th in the university's 24-station network to offer real-time information, according to Guinan.

A grant from the MU Integrated Pest Management program and support of area partners is enabling Guinan and John Travlos, the system administrator for MU's Agriculture Electronic Bulletin Board who coordinates Internet uploads, to bring the statewide total of real-time weather stations up to 14.

The goal is to eventually upgrade all MU's existing weather stations to real-

time capability. "It's an issue of resources," he said.

The start-up cost to upgrade existing weather stations to real-time capability is $4,000 each. "That includes one year sustainability," Guinan said.

After the initial year, the annual cost to sustain a real-time weather station including regular maintenance and calibration, replacing sensors and Web site development, works out to $3,000.

Prior to being approved for the IPM grant in the fall of 2004, Guinan used various other smaller grants to get the first four weather stations online with real-time data at Sanborn Field at the University of Missouri's Columbia campus, Versailles, Green Ridge and Clarkton.

"The first ones started in the summer of 2003," Guinan recalled. "Then I acquired the IPM grant which is providing funding to put 10 more stations online. That really got the ball rolling."

Guinan has seven of these additional 10 stations up and running so far and has selected the St. Joseph station for the next upgrade.

A local sponsorship is likely to be a determining factor in selecting the last two funded upgrades, Guinan said, as that ensures the stations will be maintained and providing quality data into the foreseeable future.

A support sponsor for the Portageville station is still being sought as well.

"While the grant has allowed us to make the initial upgrade at the Delta Center, we still are seeking a community partner to help with site support over time," he said.

In addition to upgrading all of MU's weather stations, Guinan hopes to also keep improving the real-time stations.

"We're going to add a lot more products to these Web sites because my vision is to make it a one-stop weather shop," Guinan said.

Guinan said there is a long list of useful applications for this data.

Those working in agriculture are sure to see the benefits, he said. For example, chemical sprayers can use the real-time wind data to determine if it is a good time to apply chemicals or not. Soil temperature data is valuable for farmers during their growing seasons. "During spring time producers could use it to aid in their planting decisions," Guinan said.

The National Weather Service will also find the data useful in assisting them with flood forecasting, he said.

"Pilots could be informed of the latest weather conditions during takeoffs and landings," Guinan said. "Utility companies could stay abreast of the latest conditions, use the information to adjust their power loads as well as to monitor icing conditions."

Those who have no professional interest may find it useful just to have more accurate weather information than current temperature.

Presently the real-time Web sites include the wind chill factor. In summer, this is replaced with the heat index.

These figures "provide immediate awareness" to both the public and health officials of weather-related health hazards, Guinan said.

Guinan said it is hoped that local media outlets will disseminate the data for those who don't have Internet access.