Whoever said all weather is local had it right. Whatever causes climates, and weather, to change, what’s important for your aging-in-place garden is deep understanding of your microclimate.
Thanks to the National Weather Service, tremendous quantities of data about weather are available. What this means for you is a fabulous opportunity to learn more about what’s going on and what is likely to happen in your garden, on your block, on your street.
Here are four ways to get started learning about, and contributing to, weather data that affects your landscape and affects the decisions you make to keep your yard surviving well throughout the year.
1. Precipitation. Rain, snow, sleet, hail – all of these are forms of moisture returning to the earth. Your local meteorologist uses past data and computer modeling to predict where it will rain and how much water will fall. But the data for prediction is only as good as the rain and stream gauges in locations across the continent. The more gauges, the more data, the better the predictions. So, yes, you can buy and put up a rain gauge in your yard, so you’ll know the quantity of rain or snow that fell.
But what if there’s a way to do more? What if you are part of a rain gauge community, collecting – and reporting – daily precipitation right where you live?
Check out CoCoRaHS – the Community Collaborative Rain Hail & Snow Network. http://www.cocorahs.org/ Not only can you get a really spiffy rain gauge that lets you measure using the same criteria as everyone else in the network, you’re actually contributing to a richer data set to improve predictions. CoCoRaHS is a nationwide community of volunteers with a website, blog, and even local chapters in some areas.
2. Skywarn®. Skywarn (http://www.skywarn.org) is another volunteer group, in this case a group trained by local offices of the National Weather Service to be storm spotters. Recognizing that predictive models and carefully placed gauges can’t always provide enough precise, fast information about severe storms, Skywarn volunteers are responsible for identifying and describing severs weather hazards including thunderstorms, floods and tornadoes.
Like CoCoRaHS, Skywarn volunteers receive training in order to report accurately. In addition, if you join this group, you’ll be part of the first line of defense to protect lives and property from severe weather – quite a responsibility and a challenge. You’ll get immersed in weather with this group!
3. Weather apps. Once you start collecting your own weather data, you may find the next step to being truly weatherwise is to recognize and understand more weather data. Beyond the basic information provided by local television meteorologists, you may want a calm display of weather facts that you can interpret and successfully use for your garden as well as travel.
Several great apps for your phone or tablet are available in Android and iOS versions. These can provide hour-by-hour predictions of precipitation, temperature, and wind speed and direction. A good starting point is The Weather Channel’s app. If you like being part of a community, Weather Underground not only provides data, their app also lets you contribute data from your own location, helping make the data more accurate in your locale. And my favorite is Radarscope, which specializes in detailed radar maps delivered fast and clearly.
4. Your own weather station. When you’ve got your rain gauges and outdoor thermometer in place and are hungry to know more about exactly what’s happening weatherwise in your garden, look into your own personal weather station, such as the solar powered weather station from BloomSky, which updates every 5 minutes. You can find out humidity, barometric pressure and other useful information to help you understand your microclimate and make great decisions about plants and design of your garden to make it tough and sustainable throughout the seasons.
Get started now, and let me know how the weather bug affects you!