The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has launched a website to help people, particularly the state’s farmers, gain a stronger understanding of climate- and weather-related factors and how these factors can help them better manage their lives and livelihoods.

The Website’s address is http://www.aces.edu/climate.

Farmers have the most to gain from acquiring an enriched understanding of climate- and weather-related factors, says Brenda Ortiz, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System specialist and assistant professor in the Department of Agronomy and Soils at Auburn University who led the efforts to develop the site.

“More people are becoming aware of the impact that variations in weather and climate conditions have on all human activities, which include our daily lifestyles as well as agriculture and even the economy in general,” Ortiz says.

“The purpose of this website is to provide climate and weather information from the basics all the way to broader scientific findings, especially in terms of how this relates to farming and resource management.

Ortiz hopes the website will complement other Extension-sponsored efforts to help the state’s farmers as well as Alabama cattle producers and forestland owners gain a clearer understanding of the role these factors can play in helping them make sound production decisions.

“This is part of a regional effort under development by universities through the Southeast Climate Consortium,” she says. “Our website will be one effort among many to disseminate this information.”

“I think all of us as Extension educators have the responsibility to educate the community and to increase climate literacy,” she says.

Will compliment other sources

Ortiz says many of the climate- and weather-related management tools on the Alabama website will complement tools and other materials available on http://www.agroclimate.org, which is operated through the Southeast Climate Consortium.

“People have grown more accustomed not only to the Internet in general but also to social media, and it’s obvious this is the place to start educating people about these issues, which will become an even more paramount concern within the next few decades as we gear up to feed an estimated 9 billion people by the middle of this century.”

Ortiz’s credits post-doctoral fellow, Reshmi Sarkar and other members of the Alabama Extension team, particularly John Hartley, with helping develop the site.

She says both a large and highly detailed picture is critical to ensuring all facets of U.S. agriculture are adequately equipped to compete in a global farming economy.

As research within the last few decades has revealed, long-term climate trends can exert just as much influence on yields, and ultimately profits, as other factors.

While part of the site remains under construction, Ortiz says it already provides links to long-term state and national weather forecasting.

Visitors to the site can also choose among a variety of climate-management tools.

The Website features a section dealing with basic questions about climate and why climate-related factors have become increasingly significant factors in decision-making, especially in the state’s farming economy.  

In addition to current news, the site also carries information about climate tools and climate variability as well as some the summaries of research currently under way to investigate climate-related factors.

Through her outreach efforts Ortiz also is working to instill producers with a deeper appreciation for environmental stewardship in an era when natural resources will be scarcer than ever.

“To stay in the farming business, we’re going to have to become more efficient in how we use farm inputs, which will better ensure that we minimize the impact on the environment,” Ortiz says.

(To see how some Southeast growers are already using climate data to help make farming decisions, see Growers look to climate forecasts for an edge).