Partnerships Mar. 23, 2022

The Wind at Our Backs: Changing Weather, Changing Weather Science

Weather’s not just a blue sky or a rainy day. It seeps into every aspect of life, from what you wear to what you eat to where you go. 

Weather forecasts play a critical role in many of the decisions we make, and doubly so for agriculture, where products of labor and investment are exposed to increasingly volatile and unpredictable patterns as our climate changes.

Today marks World Meteorological Day, a day first recognized by the United Nations back in 1950. As with many such days, it’s not so much about celebration, but to underline the importance of considering the ways weather is changing around the world.

Extreme conditions due to both natural variability and human-caused climate change – including those depicted above from the U.S. Drought Monitor – can be measured, anticipated, and ultimately mitigated through leading meteorological science. [The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC.]

Those of us in the weather science business estimate that our predictions are getting better by 1-2 days every ten years – so today’s 5-day forecast is about the same as a 3-day forecast 10 years ago.  We’re able to more accurately forecast weather effects earlier and earlier.  As accuracy and lead time increase, weather forecasts become more and more valuable.

And as touted on this World Meteorological Day, forecasts aren’t just about estimation and warning. They’re about earlier action. Action to mitigate disasters, but additionally action to plan farming operations, leading to reduced labor risk and more sustainable usage of farm investments (whether from planting seeds or application of crop protection due to the effects of weather).

I’ve been with Climate since the season we launched FieldView. In that time, I’ve not only seen the product evolve, but I’ve also been witness to how critical our weather capabilities are to helping farmers understand their operations. 

Imagine how farmers will be able to leverage those predictive gains in forecasting power in the next few years: more precisely scheduled early-season planting; better estimates of anticipated rainfall to plan for potential irrigation; better understanding of likely pest and disease emergence; and better opportunities to invest in – and target application of – crop protection products. These are all potential game-changers for farmers.

For years I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my passion for atmospheric science with the colleagues and teams across Bayer in order to better understand how weather science can help advance our efforts across the company. I’m glad to have had some small part in spreading my passion through outreach and partnership.

Personally, I’m just beginning to embark on a new chapter, sharing the love even more broadly. I am pleased to begin my term as President-Elect of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) this year. My hope is to support the meteorological science community the same way I’ve partnered across Bayer teams: by bringing folks together to discuss the ways we can improve our science, and in doing so help improve lives across the world. 

I am certainly fortunate to serve at this confluence of science and need – through the next few years of my term as president, I will help support thousands of atmospheric scientists around the country and beyond, help bring them together to share their knowledge, and help them advance the future of weather science.

As an atmospheric scientist, I’m excited to see which way the wind blows when it comes to future developments.  For over seven years I have had the great privilege to work side-by-side with our talented weather science team members and the overall science team as they tackle big problems for global agriculture.   With the kind of advanced techniques being leveraged in support of farming, I’m more sure than ever that farmers around the world have the wind at their backs.


About the Author

Brad Colman is the Director of Weather Strategy for Climate within its Science division. In this role, he coordinates across multiple business units to set weather priorities for both Climate and Bayer Crop Science, and works with vendors, engineers, and climate scientists to provide tailored decision-support information to Bayer’s global agricultural industry. Brad received his Sc.D. in atmospheric sciences from MIT, has served as AMS fellow for several decades, and is the 2022 president-elect of AMS.

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