Georgia Weather Net is under threat - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Georgia Weather Net is under threat

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A look at the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network site at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany.  There are a total of 81 sites like this one around the state. A look at the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network site at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany. There are a total of 81 sites like this one around the state.
A tractor kicks up dust in a field near the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany.  Rainfall has been lacking this year. A tractor kicks up dust in a field near the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany. Rainfall has been lacking this year.
The cup anemometer at a Georgia Weather Net site.  It also measures temperatures and rainfall among other things. The cup anemometer at a Georgia Weather Net site. It also measures temperatures and rainfall among other things.
A center pivot in Mitchell County runs on a sunny afternoon.  Center pivots have been running a lot this Spring. A center pivot in Mitchell County runs on a sunny afternoon. Center pivots have been running a lot this Spring.
Dark clouds gather above the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network site in Mitchell County.  The network only has enough funding for another couple of months. Dark clouds gather above the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network site in Mitchell County. The network only has enough funding for another couple of months.
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Agriculture is a large source of income throughout Georgia, but one of the tools that farmers use to help them make good planting decisions might not be available to them in the next few months.

It's that time of the year.  Rad Yager, a University of Georgia Extension Agent from Mitchell County tells us what time it is.  He said, "we are really starting our peanut planting season and cotton."

Determining when to plant is a big decision.  A wrong decision could cost the farmer thousands of dollars.

Peanuts and cotton are fairly tough and can handle some adverse weather, but at planting time they need the right conditions to take hold.

"We have to pay particular attention to the soil temperature," said Yager.

But how can the farmer determine exactly what the soil temperature is?  Here's one way.  This probe measures the temperature at 2 and 4 inch levels below the ground.

Another probe measures the amount of moisture in the soil, which determines whether center pivots will spend their day running - or sitting idle.

Yager said that farmers can..."look at trends in soil moisture to help dictate when to turn that irrigation system on."

Soil temperature and moisture probes are standard equipment on sites that are part of the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network...or A-E-M-N for short.

Most of the 81 sites around the state are in rural areas, but there are exceptions, like the one at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany.

Stacey Williams, a Safety Specialist at the base said, "we use it for environmental monitoring, storm water permitting..where we measure the rain gauge...they use that to determine whether to issue a permit.  Also for controlled burning."

With some of the work force exposed to the elements, using the instruments here can help officials at the base make quicker decisions in regards to the safety of it's employees during the hot summer months.

Williams said, "the information is there available so they can get real time weather information and the heat stress conditions."

But soon this information source may not be there.  The funding to run the A-E-M-N will dry up in early July.  After that point, the process of shutting down these instruments will begin, and the data gathered here will be lost.   While many people complain about information overload, the people who use that data  say that's not the case for them. 

"They want as much information as they can get to do a good job and grow as good a crop as they can," said Yager.

The University of Georgia runs the network, and officials there say that they're looking for a more permanent funding source. The Georgia Weather Net costs about $300,000 per year to run. That comes out to about 3 cents per person.

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