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Nurturing Private-Sector Responsibility for Weather Data

The Northeast Weather Association gains financial independence

The Northeast Weather Association (NEWA), a nonprofit membership organization originally funded by the New York State IPM Program, had 67 new members in the 1997 growing season, representing a 56 percent increase in membership over 1996. NEWA continued to disseminate weather data, pest forecasts, and weather forecasts to its members, who include growers, food processors, private consultants, fieldmen, and extension personnel. Before NEWA was formed, state IPM dollars were the sole source of support for IPM weather efforts. Since the formation of NEWA, the IPM contributions supporting weather-related projects have decreased, being supplanted by NEWA contributions.

During the 1997 growing season NEWA was able to maintain an electronic weather network in which individual weather instruments are linked by four computers that act as "bulletin boards." The electronic bulletin board sites (BBS) are located in Geneva, Canandaigua, Fredonia, and Middletown. The BBS gathered weather data daily from 57 data loggers. The data were summarized and run through various pest forecast models for potatoes, onions, apples, grapes, sweet corn, and tomatoes. Degree-day accumulations and weekly sweet corn pheromone trap catch reports were made available to members. Information was transmitted either through a daily FAX or by members downloading it to their computers. The network was operational 100 percent of the days from April 1 to October 31.

NEWA contracted with Weather Track, a private meteorological firm, for customized agricultural forecasts updated once daily. These forecasts provided a synopsis, zone forecasts, extended forecasts, confidence level of forecast, and a chart for various forecast parameters for three days. NEWA also contracted with American Weather Concepts to supply forecast graphics.