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ARS technicians prepare a flume for monitoring runoff from the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed

ARS technicians prepare a flume for monitoring runoff from the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed

Better Weather Forecasting To Help Agriculture

Weather prediction and modeling are fundamental to helping agriculture maintain its productivity under a changing climate. To this end, ARS researchers in Tucson, AZ, helped the United Kingdom improve the accuracy of its widely used weather-forecasting models. The United Kingdom’s Meteorological (Met) Office makes routine regional and global weather forecasts that are often used by the United States and many other countries. But the computer models had substantial errors in surface temperature, particularly over arid regions, which caused errors in the Met’s weather forecasts. To investigate why these errors occurred, ARS and the Met Office conducted a study at the ARS Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed, a 58-square-mile long-term research watershed in semi-arid southeastern Arizona.

The team made additional ground, airborne, and satellite measurements to complement ongoing measurements across the watershed during May—a time when temperatures are high and model errors are most substantial. They confirmed that the model temperatures were too cold in comparison with actual ground- based temperatures. This bias was related to the model’s underestimation of the amount of bare soil, because patchy, shrub-covered lands in Arizona and many other arid regions are poorly represented in the model. Improving the model’s representation of vegetation and soil demonstrated better simulation of the surface temperatures and moistures, which will improve weather forecasts.

Explore Other Discoveries

Manuresheds Combat Nutrient Pollution

Promoting “manuresheds” to combat nutrient pollution while taking advantage of manure’s productive uses.

Keep Carbon In Soil, Out Of Atmosphere

Intercropping perennial herbaceous crops with trees successfully increased organic soil carbon levels.

Livestock Fight Against Wildfires

Scientists are investigating the effects of land use management practices on wildfires as part of USDA’s Long-Term Agroecosystem Research program.

Better Grass For Cattle And Cars

Scientists are looking into how they can improve upon the grass cattle put in their bellies and you put in your tank.

Diesel Fuel Gets A Boost From Tung Oil

ARS scientists successfully used tung oil as the starting material for a new additive to improve the performance of diesel fuel.

Adjusting Cattle Grazing Schedules

Researchers discovered that sending cattle to feedlots earlier than the traditional timing of October may provide a two- fold benefit.

Cover Crops Shift The Carbon Balance

Planting cover crops and not tilling the soil improves the soil’s carbon balance with minimal impact on the water balance.